Law Society of NSW President outlines her 2022 priorities


Supporting the legal profession, with a particular focus on regional NSW, and ensuring access to justice for all, as we continue to live with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be major priorities in 2022 for the new President of the Law Society of NSW, Joanne van der Plaat.

While this week marks the traditional Opening of Law Term in NSW, many official events, religious services and ceremonies, including the Law Society’s annual Opening of Law Term Dinner, have been postponed due to the current Omicron outbreak.

Ms van der Plaat will now deliver her Opening of Law Term Presidential Address at the 2022 Law Term Dinner on Monday 28 March 2022.

In the meantime, Ms van der Plaat, a regional solicitor from Cooma in the state’s Snowy Mountains region, has outlined her five main priorities for 2022:

  • supporting the legal profession’s health and wellbeing
  • finding ways to better support the profession, courts and clients in rural and regional NSW
  • human rights in NSW
  • responding to the impacts of COVID on the justice system
  • judicial resourcing.

Ms van der Plaat said that, as the state continues to adjust to living with the pandemic, she will work hard to actively champion a legal profession of more than 37,000 NSW solicitors, to government and the wider community.

“My experience, starting out as a legal secretary in a small Sydney firm, to working as a paralegal and licensed conveyancer in a large international firm, to the last 13 years as a lawyer in rural NSW, has given me an invaluable insight into the joys, challenges and opportunities we each face in the profession,” Ms van der Plaat said.

“We have learned some valuable lessons during COVID-19 and there are more lessons to be learned and opportunities to be taken.

“I want to ensure all solicitors continue to have access to practical, applicable information and services that will help them run their practices or move forward in their careers – as has been the Law Society’s mission since its inception 180 years ago.

“I am looking forward to engaging with the legal profession, the government and the courts in navigating the ongoing challenges of COVID to ensure we continue to thrive and succeed in our professional and personal lives and provide the best service possible to our clients,” she said.

“This includes advocating for ongoing investment in the justice system (as is regularly seen in the health, education and transport sectors), which will provide long term economic benefit for our state and ensure the rights of civil society are met.

“Through the Law Society’s Thought Leadership program, I want to explore a number of issues relating to human rights in NSW.

“As our profession grapples with a fast changing legal landscape, we have an opportunity to participate in a meaningful debate about the role that human rights can play in a modern society, and the impact that the pandemic has had on human rights awareness and expectations.

“I also believe there is an appetite to look positively towards our future and for the Law Society to lead the profession in supporting mental health and wellbeing.

“Our individual and collective wellbeing, in terms of what brings us joy, keeps us connected and allows us to remain engaged and thrive professionally and personally is something we now talk about in the workplace.

“The three values that guide me each day are being kind, being humble, and having a sense of humour.

“Having that direction and motivation keeps me feeling positive and purposeful,” she said.

Improving awareness and perceptions of legal career opportunities in regional NSW is another priority Ms van der Plaat’s plans to focus on this year.

“As a country lawyer, I am keen to promote and raise awareness of rural practice, not as an alternative career, but as a challenging and rewarding career,” she said.

Ms van der Plaat nominated President’s Charity for 2022 is Sober in the Country, a grassroots rural charity leading social impact and change across rural Australia.

“Like many Australians, I have witnessed the devastating impact excessive consumption of alcohol has on individuals and their relationships with family and work,” Ms van der Plaat said.

“It can be difficult to reach out for assistance with everyone knowing who you are, more so in the country.

“I hope to use my time as President to raise awareness for the incredible support Sober in the Country provides and raise vital funds for them to continue their work.”

Ms van der Plaat said she is humbled to be representing the state’s solicitors as President in 2022.

“I look forward to leading, supporting and growing a legal profession which has given so much to me over the years,” she concluded.

View Ms van der Plaat’s biography here. Image of Ms van der Plaat available on request.