In Brief Issue #975

Wendy Harris QC

When the ‘laptop lifestyle’ becomes compulsory

I have found this message one of the hardest to compose in my time as President.  There is little I can say to lessen the impact of the latest blow of Stage 4 restrictions on members of our college.  I have been inundated with messages from members who are struggling with the implications of this latest public health response.

Until recently, the ‘laptop lifestyle’ has been touted by freelancers as their ideal working environment: work from anywhere, anytime. But the tightening of restrictions imposed on us this week has meant that moving to a virtual office setup is no longer a choice but an urgent imperative. While we can work anytime, we certainly can’t work anywhere. Except for very limited circumstances, we must work from home – as inconvenient, or indeed as impossible, as that might seem.

The news is full of stories of individuals and families across the city grappling with organising work and life at home in Stage 4 lockdown. It affects us all – the same measures apply to our clients, our instructing solicitors, and most in the community. We are in this together. But it will not affect us all equally. We all need to be cognisant of the personal circumstances under which we, our colleagues, our instructing solicitors and clients, are working – some will have more distractions than others; we may work more slowly; familiar resources may be more difficult to find; we will get tired, Zoom eyes; everything will just take that bit longer or be that bit harder.

So please be patient. Be kind. Be respectful. Be empathetic – even when your own circumstances are difficult.  These are the things we can still control when so much currently is beyond us.

I want to assure members again that my discussions with heads of jurisdiction over the past few days, and in particular with Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Anne Ferguson, have confirmed that they are acutely conscious of the fact that the latest restrictions will make the ‘business as unusual’ practices that we have come to manage over the past few months all the more difficult, and that mutual latitude and tolerance are going to be key as we navigate the current restrictions as best we can.

Technology and e-briefs

I know that for a number of members, these past few days are the first on which they have been working in true lockdown at home. The change is disruptive, but it’s important to be prepared, and to access the support that is available to us.

Since April 2020, VicBar has hosted more than a dozen CPDs specifically dedicated to training on the various online technology platforms used by the courts, solicitors and clients. Presenters have included industry professionals and senior judiciary, and have spanned many topics such as webcam advocacy, virtual hearings, court responses to COVID-19, e-briefs and the Online Magistrates’ Court. With law firms closed to on-site work, sending and receiving hardcopy briefs is now virtually impossible. E-briefs are becoming the norm, and the CPD catalogue includes training on everything from how to organise your folders through to the eBrief Ready platform that a number of lists, and instructing law firms, have embraced.  Members can view the entire suite of VicBar CPDs here.

Resources and training from the Law Library of Victoria

While the Richard Griffiths Library in Owen Dixon East is closed, the Law Library of Victoria has done a terrific job of providing help and training to barristers transitioning to using online legal resources. The library provides legal resources via the Digital Bar Library for barristers working remotely here. The library also offers an excellent series of webinars on legal research, which you can access here, and see the notice below about the upcoming Legal Research eLearning Focus on UK judgments and Australian treatment.

September 2020 Readers

In such strange times, it’s important to remember that we will come out the other side.  My confidence that the Bar will remain a friendly, supportive, collegiate place in which to find a professional home is, I hope, shared by the new September 2020 cohort of 33 Readers, who we welcomed for their orientation last Friday. For the first time, this was conducted remotely, as the entire Readers’ course will be ­– another surprising milestone for 2020.

Talk to others and seek help

It’s a really tough time. Reach out to your networks. Stay in touch.

The Victorian Bar’s health and wellbeing page has a wealth of resources for those members who are feeling overwhelmed by the Stage 4 Restrictions and trying to navigate the challenges of managing the collision of work and domestic priorities.

The Bar funds two independent counselling services for members and their families for professional and personal issues. The services include 24-hour crisis helplines: Re-Vision Group on 9650 5540 and Converge International on 1300 687 327.

For IT matters, contact the BCL Service Desk on 9225 8888. Although BCL staff are no longer working in chambers, they are available to assist members remotely.

As you settle in each night for curfew, I hope you are able to enjoy some quality time with your family and loved ones, away from your desk, or “Garage Chambers” as one member refers to his work-from-home setup – especially now as the chill factor in Melbourne’s weather seems to have dialled up a notch. Stay warm, and stay safe.

Vicbar News & Events
New Barristers’ Committee: Work opportunity referral system

In the current circumstances, many of the usual ways in which barristers interact with each other have been greatly restricted or even made impossible.  One of the effects of this is that work opportunities have not been able to flow to new barristers in the same way as previously.  

To that end, the New Barristers’ Committee (NBC) is instituting a system for the advertising of work opportunities by barristers to new barristers.  These advertisements will be placed on the New Barristers’ Slack channel - a virtual bulletin board accessible to new barristers.  The referring barrister will be contacted directly by the new barrister(s) responding to the advertisement.

If you would like to advertise a work opportunity to new barristers, please contact Tim Glass of the NBC at and provide the following information:

  • A summary of the work to be done
  • The area of law the work relates to
  • The expected scope and time requirements of the work to be done
  • The expected fee structure for the work, and
  • Your contact details.  

The NBC will not make any recommendations to the referring barrister as to appropriate counsel for the work opportunity, nor will the NBC make any recommendation to new barristers as to appropriate work opportunities, aside from advertising the work opportunity on the NBC Slack Channel.

Victorian Bar member CPD and events

Association of Corporate Counsel and VicBar Trivia Night

First, break the boredom of isolation and join Melbourne and Canberra ACC in-house counsel in a virtual battle of your trivia minds on Wednesday 19 August 2020 at 5 – 6.00pm, sponsored by CommBar and the Victorian Bar and hosted by barrister Kat Brazenor. ACC members and barristers will placed in small teams, so this is a great opportunity to connect or reconnect with your ACC network and colleagues, meet some new people, and test your general knowledge from the comfort of your own home. Places are limited, so register today and BYO your drink of choice and cheese on the night! This is a free event - register your interest by emailing

The following are highlights of upcoming CPD events for Victorian Bar members. You must be a member of the Victorian Bar and logged into the VicBar website to view these events.

  • Advocacy from Mars – tips and hints in running hearings remotely in the COVID era is on Thursday 13 August 2020, 5:00 – 6.00pm and is a practical discussion on appearing and advocating remotely. The panel will discuss their experience in this brave new world – what has worked, what has not worked and what can be improved upon. Click here to register.
  • A guide to recent significant changes in Commonwealth sentencing is on Thursday 27 August 2020, 4:00 – 5:00pm. The webinar will cover some significant recent changes to Commonwealth sentencing, in particular, changes to parole, the general factors to be considered in sentencing, the vulnerable witness provisions and sentencing options for intellectually disabled offenders. Click here to register.

For more upcoming CPD events, please visit our listings here.

ABA protocols - conduct of judges in Commonwealth courts and AAT

The following documents outline the Australian Bar Association's protocols for barristers to raise any concern about the conduct of judges and members of Commonwealth courts and the AAT:

  • Administrative Appeals Tribunal protocols are here, and
  • Federal Court and Family Court protocols are here.
COVID-19 Resources Weekly Update

We understand that members are worried about the risks of COVID-19. Please see the new section on our member website designed to answer some questions you may have, point you to government information websites, and let you know what VicBar and BCL are doing to assist members.

The following are two key points relating to Stage 4 Restrictions sent to members in the past week:

  • Barristers must work from home and are only able to attend on-site to the extent necessary to support the functioning of court, tribunal or dispute services in urgent or priority work as determined by the relevant head of jurisdiction, including for bail, family violence, remand, child protection, warrants and urgent guardianships, human rights or residential tenancy issues. For lawyers engaged in these urgent or priority matters as determined by heads of jurisdiction, permitted on-site work of that kind includes attendance in chambers, but as you will see from the Permitted Work Premises list, on-site attendance even in those circumstances is only permitted if it is not “reasonably practicable … to work from home”.
  • WorkSafe Victoria has introduced temporary Occupational Health and Safety (COVID-19 Incident Notification) Regulations that stipulate that WorkSafe must be informed if:
    • an employer becomes aware that an employee or independent contractor engaged by the employer, and any employees of the independent contractor, has received a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and has attended the workplace within the infectious period (being 14 days prior to receiving the confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and until clearance from isolation has been received); or
    • a self-employed person has received a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and has attended the workplace within the infectious period (being 14 days prior to receiving the confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and until clearance from isolation has been received).

A penalty will apply for failing to notify WorkSafe under section 38 of the OHS Act – up to $39,652 (240 penalty units) for an individual or $198,264 (1200 penalty units) for a body corporate. There is more information on the new regulations on WorkSafe’s website here.

To access the updates relating to COVID-19 that VicBar has sent members, please click here.

VicBar Social Groups

Sally Flynn QC, Chair of the Health & Wellbeing Committee, has had many encouraging responses about floors and practice groups that have organised get-togethers over Zoom and in private Facebook groups, as part of the initiative to remain socially connected and check on the emotional well-being of our colleagues when we are not working from chambers. 

The Committee is seeking expressions of interest from barristers interested in setting up a WhatsApp group to connect those barristers who are carers. The group is for barristers who care for elderly or disabled parents or relatives and will allow members to offer each other support by sharing information or resources for various issues, including finding alternative living arrangements or home assistance. Please contact Sally Flynn by email if you’re interested.

Other groups you may wish to join:

We want to make sure no barrister is left behind, so please contact Sally at to let her know what your group is doing, or if you need a hand starting a new group or finding one to join.

BCL Property & Technology Services: Updated services and cyber security awareness

To ensure the safety and security of all chambers during this challenging time, BCL Property and Technology Services will update their service delivery as of Friday 17 April 2020 until further notice. For information about this update, please see here or contact the BCL Service Desk on 9225 8888.

Cyber Security Awareness: What you need to do to keep your practice safe 

In these current uncertain times, the increased use of video conferencing, reliance on email, the use of home internet services, SMS’s from our governments, and the sudden shift into paperless practices all make it easier to fall victim to a costly scam.
In recent months we are aware of successful scams within the community, leading to significant financial and operations impact. There are some simple things you can do to help protect your practice:

  • Using BCL corporate-grade technology and network services (Internet & email) provides you with a managed enterprise environment with corporate-grade security platforms and sophisticated network practices.
  • SMS verification for passwords is NOW available. To enhance the security of barrister passwords, we have introduced SMS verification for password resets. Login to, select the “Profile” tab and click “Edit” to enter your mobile number. All password reset requests will now require this information.
  • Always check the “From” address in emails, particularly those from external parties. A difference in the Senders name compared to the From address is a clear indication of a scam email.
  • Look for suspicious characteristics in an email such as unprofessional emails with typos and spelling mistakes, or requests for ‘click here’, pay now, requests for funds, bank account details or an unnecessary sense of urgency.
  • Always use an up to date and valid anti-virus product and backup your data as outlined in the Victorian Bar Technology Minimum Standards.
  • If you are ever unsure, DO NOT open it and contact the BCL Service Desk.
  • Improve your cyber security awareness by taking a short 5-minute quiz provided by the Australian Government here.
Vicbar Life
eBrief Ready – Paperless solution for receiving briefs

If you want an easy, secure way to receive and work on your briefs electronically, then you should watch the recent Victorian Bar CPD session co-hosted with Martin Bartfeld QC, explaining the benefits of the eBrief Ready product. You can view this here.

Over 700 members from the Victorian Bar and 3500 solicitors are now using TA Law’s eBrief Ready platform to both receive and work on their briefs. 

Stephen Foley MD of TA Law said that there is no charge for using the platform during these difficult times.The Victorian Bar is also introducing a new member benefit to ensure affordable access for all its members in the future. 

If you would like to know more about eBrief Ready, you can book a consultation with the Managing Director, Stephen Foley here.

The Essoign Club

The Essoign Club is open daily from 7:00am for takeaway and delivery only while COVID-19 restrictions are in place.

Lunch can be Pre Ordered for Delivery or Pick-Up

Lunch delivery and pick-up available daily. The minimum order for delivery is only $10. Order via email to

In addition we have coffee, juices, soft drinks, beer or wine.

The Essoign would like to thank you for your ongoing support during this time and look forward to having you all back in the club to continue sharing stories, laughs and giving support to all fellow members.

Please continue to support the Club by renewing your Essoign Club Membership.

Email if you have any questions or special requests.

Practice & Profession News
International Bar Association - Lawyer Wellbeing Survey

The International Bar Association (IBA) has embarked on a global project aimed at addressing the mental wellbeing of legal professionals as COVID-19 exacerbates tensions in professional and personal lives. The key initial phase of the project consists of two global surveys – one for individual lawyers, the other for law firms and other legal institutions, including bar associations, law societies and in-house legal departments. Available in both English and Spanish, the surveys are anonymous and take approximately ten minutes to complete. For more information, please visit the project website here.

The IBA Individual Lawyer Wellbeing Survey can be accessed here.

The IBA Institutional Wellbeing Survey is available here.

The data gathered from the completed surveys will provide insight into:

  • the pressing mental health concerns of legal professionals 
  • the support they can expect to receive from their workplaces
  • how the wellbeing of lawyers and other stakeholders in the legal profession are affected by their work and working environments
  • identifying problems that each might have faced in getting the help they needed, and 
  • what law firms, bars and law societies should be doing to support those in distress. 

Data gathered from the surveys will be discussed in detail by the IBA’s Wellbeing Taskforce in a showcase session at the IBA 2020 – Virtually Together Conference in November. The session will feature representatives from across the IBA, alongside mental health experts.

Digital Bar Library

The Law Library of Victoria improves access to justice by providing legal information to all eligible Victorian legal practitioners online. Barristers also have access to a range of legal resources on their own computers and devices, via the Digital Bar Library on the Law Library website. You must be a registered user to access this page which provides:

  • Guides to improve your research skills (finding information, using research tools and on specific topics)
  • Subscriber-only publications and databases, and
  • Current and authorised Victorian legislation sets used in Victorian jurisdictions.

All Barristers are eligible to register for access. If you have not already registered, the Library will be in touch with you shortly by email.

The Law Library of Victoria Bulletin is produced fortnightly and summarises the latest legislation and cases for the Victorian jurisdiction, as well as High Court of Australia cases. The bulletin also includes the latest new books added to the Library collection and a selected index of articles from journals received in the Library. To subscribe visit here.

If you are on twitter, follow the library on @lawlibraryvic to be alerted to recent decisions of the Court of Appeal.

Profession CPD & Events
ALRC Future of Law Reform Webinar Series

In 2019, the Australian Law Reform Commission undertook research and broad public consultation to address the future of law reform.

Join expert panels including judges, legal scholars and industry leaders in a series of online conversations to unpack some of the key areas identified by the ALRC, including defamation, automated decision making, legal structures for social enterprises and press freedom. The Future of Law Reform: A Suggested Program of Work 2020-25 report is available here.

These interactive webinars present an opportunity to elicit new perspectives and ideas, enabling individuals with diverse views to contribute to potential law reform. You can view the leaflet here.

You can register to attend these webinars here.

Upcoming webinars:

  • Automated Decision Making and Administrative Law on Monday 10 August 2020, 1:00-2:00pm. Join an expert panel comprising thought leaders on automated decision making and administrative law addressing questions such as: Should administrative law reform be a priority in light of increasing automation in decision making by government agencies? What are the particular problems that any future law reform inquiry should seek to solve? What benefits might be expected from reform? Register here.
  • Legal Structure for Social Enterprises on Monday 17 August 2020, 1:00-2:00pm. Social enterprises are businesses that seek to make a profit while also pursuing social and/or environmental goals. Join an expert panel comprising thought leaders on social enterprise addressing questions such as: Should an inquiry into legal structures for social enterprises be a priority? What are the particular problems that any future law reform inquiry should seek to solve? What benefits might be expected from any future reform? Register here.
  • Press Freedom on Monday 24 August 2020, 1:00-2:30pm. Join an expert panel comprising thought leaders on press freedom and national security addressing questions such as: Should an inquiry into press freedom be a priority? What are the particular problems that any future law reform inquiry should seek to solve? What benefits might be expected from any future reform? Register here.
Law Library: eLearning Focus On...UK judgments and Australian treatment

The Law Library of Victoria will present Legal Research eLearning Focus On...UK judgments and Australian treatment on Tuesday 11 August 2020, 1:15-1:45pm. This 30-minute online Zoom webinar will familiarise users with the digital research support available through the Law Library of Victoria website. This includes curated collections, research guides, exclusive content, and Legal Research eLearning. The session includes a research focus on UK case law. Based on one of the Legal Research eLearning modules, this short refresher demonstrates how to locate reported and unreported UK judgments, and their treatment in Australian courts. Click here to register.

Monash University free webinars: The Lucinda Lecture 2020 and ASIC v the SEC

Monash University is offering the following upcoming free webinars:

  • 2020 Lucinda Lecture: Whither the Implied Freedom of Political Communication?

Monash Law is honoured to present the 2020 Lucinda Lecture, to be delivered by The Hon Justice Geoffrey Nettle AC, High Court of Australia. The topic will be Whither the Implied Freedom of Political Communication? The free webinar is scheduled for Thursday 27 August 2020, 6:00 – 7:00 PM. The flyer for this webinar is here. You can register to attend this webinar here.

  • The Role & Effectiveness of ASIC v the SEC

This free Zoom webinar hosted by the Centre for Commercial Law and Regulatory Studies on Monday 31 August 2020, 4:30 – 5:45pm, The session will compare ASIC with the world’s biggest capital market regulator, the SEC. Does ASIC Stack up? By comparing ASIC with the world’s biggest capital market regulator, the SEC, this session analyses the viability of further reform of ASIC, and argues that ASIC is woefully under-resourced to engage in increased enforcement action. You can register to attend this webinar here.

LAWASIA Online Conference 10 September - 8 October 2020

LAWASIA is excited to announce the upcoming LAWASIA 2020 Conference Online. For the first time in LAWASIA's 54-year history, its flagship event is heading online and is specifically designed to provide its members with a platform for continued collaboration and the cross-jurisdictional sharing of information despite the current challenges.

This Annual Conference webinar series - featuring a distinguished lineup of panellists from across the region and beyond - will be free to attend, serving as an essential online forum for sharing ideas, reinforcing shared professional values, and advancing the status of the legal profession in the Asia Pacific region.

The series will run over five consecutive weeks, every Tuesday and Thursday, from 10 September to 8 October 2020 (none webinars in total). 

Registration is complimentary and all LAWASIA members, friends and supporters are encouraged to attend one, or all of the webinars on offer. Registrations will open soon; in the meantime, you can register your interest via email.

LAWASIA President Mr Chunghwan Choi has invited President of the Victorian Bar, Wendy Harris QC, to recommend speakers from among members of the Bar by 3 August 2020. If you wish to be nominated, please email Executive Assistant to the President and Bar Council, Denise Bennett here.

LAWASIA looks forward to seeing you online soon!

Careers & Opportunities
The Australian Academy of Law Annual Essay Prize

The Australian Academy of Law is pleased to announce its Annual Essay Prize for 2020The essay topic for the Prize is “The impact of a new and widespread contagious disease on pre-existing contractual obligations.” Note that previous ‘new’ outbreaks of infectious diseases may be taken into account. The Prize amount is $10,000 and the submission deadline is strictly 31 August 2020.  Rules for eligibility and submission can be found here.

Deadline for the next issue:5pm, 13th August 2020