May’s President’s Report – Law Week
May means Law Week, which this year runs from 11 to 15 May. The national theme for Law Week in 2015 is ‘law and justice in your community’.
Law Week is a celebration of our law and justice system, the rule of law and lawyers. We should not be ashamed of this. Law is a noble profession, one of the oldest, and we should all be proud to be lawyers. Indeed, we are very privileged to become lawyers, struggling through school and university, some as youngsters, others while holding down other jobs and supporting families in later life. As lawyers, we have a monopoly on appearing in court for others and, in general, providing legal advice. While some are critical of this perceived closed shop privilege, it must be seen for what it is – a public protection measure.
The Australian Institute of Architects is currently running an advertising campaign that I think the legal profession can learn from. The advertisement reads: “You wouldn’t ask a butcher about broccoli, so when it comes to building and renovating, ask an architect…”. A similar advertisement from a few years ago read: “Would you ask a mechanic to remove your wisdom teeth? Hire an architect to design your house.”
Letting those unqualified in the law loose on the public would cause more harm than good. We are all very well aware of the problems many of us have had to fix for clients that have been caused by accountants, commercial advisors, financial planners, self-help will kits and other well-meaning but unqualified legal assistance. As such, we should all stand tall as the proper purveyors of legal assistance to our community.
Of course, with such great power comes great responsibility to help those who require legal assistance but, are not in a position to be able to afford it. Alas, this is an increasing proportion of the population. What is great, however, is the large number of Western Australian lawyers who provide this assistance through workplace pro bono schemes, at the bar, volunteering with community legal centres and many other ways. These are some of the great unsung stories of the legal profession that we try to publicise during Law Week, so that the broader community can see lawyers for what they are – people helping other people with their problems.