Contemporary challenges (Mar 2010)
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will guard the guards themselves?)
The 2010 Opening of Law Term provided a powerful opportunity for the solicitors' arm of the profession to reflect on its values and traditions, as well as to cast its mind to the challenges which lie in the year ahead. The coming year represents historic opportunities to lay a foundation for the benefit of the profession and the community which it serves.
The Chief Justice of NSW, in his Opening of Law Term address provided powerful insights into the challenges which face contemporary Australia due to the dilemmas posed by it being "a middle-ranking power". The legal profession must always strive for excellence, and the Chief Justice's thought-provoking speech about the role of a national judiciary touched on many of the issues which impact upon the future governance and regulation of the legal profession. These issues, throughout the course of 2010, are being covered by the Council of Australian Governments as it completes a review of national regulation. We currently await a draft bill. It is to be hoped that that piece of legislation will strike a balance which looks to the needs of the entire legal profession.
Just as we need uniformity, efficiency and a streamlined regulatory framework for the profession, it is vital that the independence of the profession is protected. We also should not lose sight of the need for sensitivity regarding the diverse geography of Australia, since we are a nation whose legal profession has a special diversity, in part related to the topographical, jurisdictional and regional differences evident in Australia.
These challenges are to a large extent shared with us by the Law Council of Australia, with which the Law Society of NSW must increasingly collaborate in order to ensure that high-order representational and policy outcomes are achieved to the benefit of the Australian profession.
At a more local level, this year sees the lead-up to the next state election, likely to be held in March 2011. The Law Society's Council has convened a group which is undertaking preparatory work to ensure that the Society develops a comprehensive election strategy platform, consistent with the needs and issues identified in concert with the broader profession. It is imperative that we use the forthcoming period for public scrutiny of the policies and promises put forward by the various political parties. It is equally important that the Law Society closely watches the NSW Government's performance in areas of particular interest to the Law Society, in its role as a custodian of the rule of law and protector of access to justice.
There will be opportunities in the months ahead for both regional societies, and for members generally, to identify areas of concern and to raise policy issues and ideas via the website so that such input can feed into an election platform which both enlightens and educates the community about critical issues and where the Law Society stands on them.
The Law Society's role needs to be apolitical. Nevertheless, the profession can rightly expect that the Law Society will never acquiesce to the contraction of rights or of access to justice.
Similarly, lawyers are entitled to be fairly recompensed for the work that they do, and all too often, the contribution made by lawyers to the national economy is understated. This is particularly the case in regional and rural areas.
At a practical level, I look forward in my presidency to ensuring that the Law Society increases its services in those areas of the state where practitioners need greater support. Throughout the coming year the Society will continue to roll out special CPD on ethics, as we are keen to assist with the introduction of the new Rule 42. Similarly, we will continue our work providing mental health seminars as well as financial planning workshops.
I also intend to continue to work closely with the regions. In regional areas, and generally, I will be meeting and speaking with as many practitioners as I possibly can.
President, Law Society of NSW