Joint message from the President and CEO
We are both writing to you today because this has been an exceptional week. Although we are only three months in, this year has already been one of the most devastating Australians have faced. Yet, as we meet our shared challenges, we continue to be impressed by the resilience displayed by our members.
Resilience is a trait you all honed during your journey to becoming a barrister — the late nights, time spent away from friends and family, and questions about how your careers would progress. We learnt to live with uncertainty and persevered to sign the Bar roll, to establish our practices and, finally, to get briefs. Even in ordinary times, many of us have learned to live with the barristers’ curse – the little voice in the back of your head that says “where’s the next brief coming from?” Resilience is central to our professional existence.
We provide strong, independent legal representation and advice to all in the community, which is why our Bar is an integral part of our system of law and justice. It will remain that way – no matter what challenges our country faces.
As you will have seen in our recent communications, there are many changes being made to practice in the courts and across the profession in response to COVID-19. We now need to draw on our reserves of resilience and work cooperatively with the courts and other members of the profession to help ensure these new, technology-enabled ways of administering justice work effectively.
In the face of these issues, we remain optimistic because of the galvanising effect of significant adversity. History demonstrates that it gives people the opportunity to show what they are truly made of and can bring out the best human qualities in all of us.
Bushfire relief volunteers
It’s important to remember that the difficulties many Victorians face following the bushfires have not disappeared. Disaster Legal Help Victoria is looking for volunteers who are local to either East Gippsland or North East Victoria and can provide advice, information and referrals to people directly impacted by the bushfires. If so, please register here.
If you are interested in providing other pro bono assistance, please register your interest in the Victorian Bar Pro Bono Scheme administered by Justice Connect.
Applications open soon for Senior Counsel
The Supreme Court has announced that applications for Senior Counsel for 2020 will open on Monday 30 March 2020 and close on Friday 1 May 2020. This timeframe is earlier than in previous years and incorporates the Easter break, so please bring it to the attention of anyone you think should apply. Please bear in mind in completing the forms that you should provide remote-from-chambers contact details (mobile phone, email) where possible, for non-judicial referees. As in previous years, we will be providing guidance to potential candidates for silk in the coming weeks.
You may have seen the announcement this week by the Legal Services Board + Commissioner that exempts solicitors from their face-to-face CPD requirements. These exemptions do not apply to barristers, as the Bar is governed by different CPD requirements. There are, however, special exceptions for those living and working in bushfire-affected areas. We remind members that they need to complete 10 CPD points by 31 March.
Ongoing updates about operations and practices in courts, tribunals and across the profession
Given the volume of changes being made to the working of the courts, we will continue to provide members with regular updates from the CEO. Visit the member health and wellbeing page for up-to-date news about COVID-19.
As we end a week of significant change and challenge, we hope you also look forward with optimism. We encourage you to enjoy some of life’s pleasures over the weekend.
Wendy Harris QC Katherine Lorenz
President of the Victorian Bar CEO of the Victorian Bar