Defending the rights of all in 2019
Safeguarding the rights of the community, defending the rule of law, promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and advocating for key law and order reforms in a double election year will be key priorities in 2019 for Law Society of NSW President, Elizabeth Espinosa.
Ms Espinosa said this year’s state and federal election campaigns will be an important opportunity for all political parties and candidates to re-articulate their vision for the people and communities that they seek to serve in NSW and meaningfully prioritise access to justice and upholding the rule of law.
“We are calling on all major political parties and independents contesting the 23 March election to respond to the key law and justice priorities that are set out in the Law Society’s 2019 State Election Platform,” she said.
“These include the expansion of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities and the Drug Court in rural, remote and regional NSW, increased funding for Legal Aid, a new justice precinct in Sydney’s south west and more early intervention services for indigenous justice,” Ms Espinosa said.
Speaking at the Opening of Law Term dinner, Ms Espinosa said she wanted to see more people of diverse backgrounds thriving and succeeding in the legal profession.
“The concepts of socio-demographic and cultural diversity are crucial to genuine equality in the law,” she said.
“Class, racial and economic lines can be just as difficult to traverse as gender-based lines.
‘I am proud of my Spanish heritage and I want to ensure diversity is a help, not a hindrance, in achieving at the highest levels of the law.”
In 2019, Ms Espinosa also plans to highlight the valuable role of solicitors in the profession and in the community and advocate for the appointment of more solicitors to the bench.
“Part of preparing for our future, I believe, is investing in solicitors as advocates,” Ms Espinosa said.
“We want to help solicitors be seen; to show that solicitors are at the forefront of advocacy – including in the higher courts – and are equipped to serve as future judges.”
“In 2019, we will roll out a tiered advocacy education program for solicitors, ranging from sessions in regional areas all the way up to an advocacy masterclass in a central location.”
The NSW Law Society will provide additional initiatives to help solicitors embrace the technological changes that are sweeping through the legal profession.
“Solicitors are hungry for information about innovation and technology so this year we will power ahead with Future of Law & Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) initiatives to help them meet the challenges that come with such rapid transformation and to understand how it will affect the way they practice today, and into the future,” Ms Espinosa said.
Ms Espinosa has chosen the national domestic violence charity Our Watch as her President’s Charity for 2019.
“As members of the legal profession, many of us are confronted with difficult cases and dire circumstances on a regular basis,” she said.
“Too often we are reminded of the real, lasting and often tragic consequences of violence against women and children and the statistics are horrendous.
“Our Watch is dedicated to ending violence against women and children – they work across the community to drive nationwide change in the culture, behaviours and power imbalances that lead to violence against women and their children.
“I have never understood or accepted that society will standby and tolerate what happens behind closed doors.
“To do nothing is to do harm.”
Ms Espinosa said the Law Society will also work to gain White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation in 2019.
“We will encourage all firms and in-house legal teams to seek this accreditation, which engenders a whole-of-organisation commitment to creating a safe and respectful workplace,” she said.