‘Trust me, ‘I’m a lawyer’

New Law Society Conference addresses profession’s trust issues


Fresh data to be presented before the inaugural Law Society of NSW 2022 Conference today will reveal a concerning level of public trust in lawyers, judges and the justice system.

President of the Law Society of NSW Joanne van der Plaat said the data shows while most people trust lawyers, judges and the legal system, there’s a significant minority that is either distrustful or neutral in their attitudes.

“While the data showed around 60 percent of respondents trusted lawyers, judges and the legal system as an institution, it's obvious there remains room for improvement,” Ms van der Plaat said.

“Any political party or aspiring Prime Minister would be over the moon with polls showing 60 percent support in the lead up to an election. But these figures reflect attitudes to a system that is crucial to the proper, orderly and fair functioning of a nation under the rule of law,” Ms van der Plaat said.

“Lawyers, who are Parliamentary Counsel, draft the laws debated by parliaments that result in legislation governing the entire community. Lawyers, who are judges, apply the law in their judgments. Solicitors and barristers work to resolve disputes arising under those laws and advise government, business and individuals how to operate within those laws,” Ms van der Plaat said.

The Law Society commissioned a survey of more than a thousand NSW citizens to gauge their opinions on the trustworthiness of lawyers and how respondents decide to seek legal advice and from whom.

“The data should give pause, not only to lawyers, but also to leaders in politics and the media, to examine how their words and actions might be affecting public confidence in the administration of justice.

“Unjustified media and political criticism of judicial officers’ can only erode this confidence, particularly when propriety demands that judges and magistrates do not defend themselves in the public arena but must let their judgments speak for themselves.” 

Ms van der Plaat said lawyers’ ethical obligations are enforceable at law, and a serious breach has the potential to be career ending. The overwhelming majority of practitioners adhere faithfully to these ethical obligations.

“The survey underscores the timeliness of this week’s inaugural Law Society of NSW 2022 Conference where the Chief Justice of NSW Dr Andrew Bell will discuss the implications of the research. The conference will feature several sessions on the importance of building trust, both with clients and within the profession.”

The Law Society of NSW 2022 Conference is the first of its type. In this, its first year, attendees will take part online.