President’s Report – April
Western Australian Parliamentary Elections
As all would by now be well aware, Western Australia underwent a change of government last month.
I have written to the new Premier, the Hon Mark McGowan MLA, and to the new Attorney General, the Hon John Quigley MLA, extending the Society’s congratulations and good wishes on their respective appointments.
A letter has also been sent to former Attorney General, the Hon Michael Mischin MLC, expressing the Society’s appreciation for his service and assistance.
Members will have observed, from the March issue of Brief, that prior to the recent State election both the (then Coalition) government and the (then Labor) opposition provided their respective responses to the Society’s policy statements on a variety of significant matters concerning the administration of justice, the Rule of Law and the legal profession.
The Society looks forward to engaging with the new Labor government in relation to a number of those matters in 2017.
Legal Profession Uniform Law
A particular matter which remains high on the Society’s agenda is national harmonisation of key aspects relating to regulation of the legal profession.
Members will recall the hope, expressed in my report in the February issue of Brief, that uniform professional conduct rules providing inter-jurisdictional consistency be achieved without further undue delay.
Uniform professional conduct rules are, of course, a significant component of the scheme for regulation of the legal profession in New South Wales and Victoria which came into force in those two states on 1 July 2015, under the umbrella of the Legal Profession Uniform Law 2014 (Uniform Law).
The Society considers that the scheme, as a whole, has many features which might benefit the profession in Western Australia. In addition to providing uniform professional conduct rules the provisions under the Uniform Law would, if adopted in this State, also provide: (a) a structure for the regulation of the profession which respects the primacy of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in relation to the admission to and removal from the Roll and the role of local regulatory authorities in relation to discipline; (b) uniform admission criteria; (c) uniform disclosure obligations in relation to costs; (d) uniform continuing professional development rules; and (e) a more liberal regime for the admission of foreign lawyers.
With these considerations in mind, the Society in 2014 resolved to recommend to the Attorney General the adoption of the Uniform Law subject to certain conditions^1.
As will also be recalled from the March edition of Brief, Labor’s response to the Society’s position on this issue was that it “supports Legal Profession Uniform Law across Australia with proviso that the Supreme Court and the WA Legal Practice Board retain control of the admissions and disciplinary functions of the Board”.
It remains the Society’s firmly held view that the adoption of the Uniform Law, as a law of Western Australia, is in the interests of both the profession and the wider community.
The Society has, accordingly, commenced steps to progress this matter with the new government.
2017-2020 Strategic Directions Plan
As noted in my recent electronic update, the Society recently adopted a new Strategic Directions Plan, effective from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2020. The new Plan has been developed following consultation with and taking into account suggestions (and, in some instances, frank feedback) by members.
Further information about the Plan, and its genesis, may be found on pages 6 to 9 of this edition of Brief.
Future of the Legal Profession
Under the new Plan the strategic objectives of the Society include: (a) contributing to the discussion, and providing leadership, on the future of the legal profession; and (b) providing resources and information to members on issues relevant to the future of the profession and legal practice.
Consistent with these objectives, Council also resolved to adopt the Future of the Legal Profession as a strategic campaign. This important campaign will be ongoing, and, as announced in my recent electronic update, the first two elements will manifest themselves during Law Week 2017:
- On Monday, 15 May 2017, the Society’s annual Law Week Breakfast will take place. The focus of the breakfast will be a presentation chaired by the Hon Chief Justice Wayne Martin AC and delivered by Katie Miller, 2015 President of the Law Institute of Victoria and author of the paper Disruption, Innovation and Change: The Future of the Legal Profession.
- On Friday, 19 May 2017, the Society’s Executive will meet with a range of managing partners and other key stakeholders to discuss artificial intelligence. A particular focus of this forum will be the challenge faced by law firms using AI technology to ensure that emerging and future lawyers remain able to develop and refine their practical skills to levels necessary for the performance of competent professional work.
180th Anniversary Celebration of the Old Court House
On Friday, 24 March I was pleased to welcome invited guests to a celebration of the 180th anniversary of the Old Court House. 180 years before – to the day – the first church service and unofficial opening of the building was held, on Good Friday 1837^2.
Marie Taylor provided a Welcome to Country on the evening, following which I addressed guests and introduced the Hon Chief Justice Wayne Martin AC who provided an interesting account of the history of the Old Court House and launched the final stage of the redesign of the Society’s Old Court House Law Museum.
The new exhibition is entitled From Past to Present: The changing face of the law in Western Australia and examines how the law has evolved in our State over the years. I encourage all members to visit the Museum.
The event was also an appropriate occasion on which to recognise the 30th anniversary of the Francis Burt Law Education Programme, opened by Sir Francis Burt during Law Week 1987.
- See the March edition of Brief, p 29.
- The first court session in the building having taken place earlier that year on 2 January 1837.