President’s Report – July
90th Anniversary Cocktail Party
I was delighted to see more than 300 members and other special guests at the Perth Town Hall on Thursday evening, 15 June, joining in celebration of the Law Society’s 90th anniversary.
This glittering event was held precisely 90 years to the day after a small group of about 30 legal practitioners gathered in the old Supreme Court library^1 and resolved that “an Association of Legal Practitioners of Western Australia be formed”. Over the course of nearly a century the Society has grown from these humble beginnings to become the leading, and by far the largest, organisation for members of the legal profession in this State, with a record membership this year of over 3,800.
A number of story boards showing a selection of significant milestones and screens depicting a series of photos relevant to the Society’s 90 year history were on display as part of the celebrations. As noted at the event, none of the Society’s achievements over this period would have been possible without the support of the Society’s members, the dedication of its councillors, committee members and staff and the dogged determination of some of my predecessors.
The Society expresses its thanks to the Hon Chief Justice Wayne Martin AC, a Life Member and former President of the Society, for graciously delivering a toast on the evening and to our Principal Sponsor, JLT Australia, and Gold Sponsor, UWA Law School for their generosity.
A publication authored by Dr Catherine May, commemorating the Society’s 90 years, will be released later this year.
Future of the legal profession
With the Society’s 90th celebration now behind us, our attention once again turns to day to day business^2.
As members would by now be aware, the Society recently resolved to adopt the Future of the Legal Profession as a strategic focus area.
‘Disruption’, ‘big data’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ are among the many buzz words and catchphrases which have in recent times increasingly punctuated debate about where the future of vast parts of the workforce – including the professions – might be headed. As with the rest of society, the legal profession is not immune from these challenges.
In keeping with its strategic focus, the Society recently established a Futures Reference Group, comprising both internal and external members, to guide its work. In the coming months members may expect to see an increasing number of discussion papers and guidelines, CPD seminars and Brief articles, focusing on a smorgasbord of future-themed topics such as artificial intelligence, cybercrime, commoditisation of legal work, multi-disciplinary practices, diversification, in-sourcing, out-sourcing and unbundling of legal services – to name but a few.
Three articles may be found in this month’s edition of Brief relevant to the above context. The first is an introductory paper identifying just a few of the challenges that are likely to face the profession over the next two decades, along with some of the steps which the Society proposes taking to assist members in navigating their way through them^3. The second is a report relating to a forum hosted by the Society, and facilitated by Dr Ingrid O’Brien of O’Brien Consulting, during Law Week 2017 to discuss artificial intelligence and the challenge of ensuring that emerging and future lawyers continue to be able to develop and refine their practical skills to levels necessary for the performance of competent professional work^4. The third is a substantial extract from the keynote address delivered by Katie Miller at the launch of Law Week 2017 entitled Legal traditions in an age of disruption: How do lawyers decide what to keep and what to relinquish?^5
Please keep an eye out for more articles relevant to the future of the profession in forthcoming editions of Brief, and for further information regarding the Society’s initiatives in this area in Friday Facts and CPD news, on the Society’s website and social media platforms.
Cyber security survey
On a related note, the Society is pleased to have entered into a partnership with Edith Cowan University Security Research Institute to conduct a major cyber security survey. On publication of the findings, follow-up training will be provided as an intervention scheme to aid members of the profession to better secure their businesses, with a view to making them less susceptible to cyber security breaches.
Legal Profession Uniform Law
As mentioned in my report in the April edition of Brief, the Society commenced steps, following the State election earlier this year to progress its recommendation for the adoption of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (currently in force in New South Wales and Victoria) as a law of Western Australia subject to certain conditions.
Work in this area is advancing and, as indicated in last month’s electronic update, the Society is actively engaged with both government and other stakeholders in an effort to achieve an outcome consistent with the Society’s position. I hope to provide a further update soon.
Electronic lodgment and electronic files – Supreme and District Courts
Members will recall that in March 2017, the Society published information from the Supreme Court advising of significant changes concerning the means by which the profession and the public communicate with the superior courts of Western Australia in relation to civil matters. The changes concern the extension of the availability of electronic filing of documents and the creation of fully electronic files in the civil jurisdiction of those courts.
As indicated to members by email alert last month, the Supreme Court has determined that documents lodged by the profession in the Court’s General Division civil cases must be lodged electronically via the eLodgment System from 4 September 2017 and, from 3 July 2017, most Supreme Court General Division civil documents will be available for lodgment via the system, in addition to all District Court civil documents.
The new system offers significant benefits not only for the courts but also for law firms as registered users will be able to electronically lodge a civil document; receive court documents; view documents for matters in which they are a party; and search all civil matters.
Use of the eLodgment system by the profession and litigants is intended to be maximised while at the same time ensuring that court users are not disadvantaged. To that end, the Society has been advised that provision will be made for non-electronic document lodgement in limited and appropriate circumstances. Further details may be expected soon.
In the meantime, sessions relating to the new system aimed at practitioners and legal staff, with attendance attracting CPD points, will be conducted by the Supreme Court towards the end of this month. Further information about these sessions will be posted on the Court’s website: supremecourt.wa.gov.au.
Under the Administration Act 1903 (WA), a statutory legacy is available for a husband or wife, which may include a de facto partner as defined in the Act, whose spouse dies intestate. The current statutory legacy under section 14 of the Act is $50,000 or $75,000^6. The statutory legacy has not been amended since 1982. The amount is manifestly inadequate. However, to increase the amount it is necessary to amend section 14.
The Society recently wrote to the State Attorney General, the Hon John Quigley MLA in relation to this matter. I am pleased to report that the Attorney shares the Society’s view that the statutory legacy is inadequate and that legislative reform to section 14 will be considered. The Attorney has also indicated that he proposes continuing the working group previously set up to review the law of succession and which will report on further reform of the Act.
Continuing Professional Development
Members will recall from my report in the February edition of Brief that the Society intends exploring greater flexibility in, and accessibility to, its Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme for the benefit of members.
Since that report, work in this area has been ongoing. Executive has also recently approved an external review of the Society’s CPD programme. The purpose of the review is to ensure that the Society’s CPD programme continues both to reflect ‘best practice’ and to meet members’ needs.
It is envisaged that any recommendations arising from the review will be put to Council before the end of 2017.
New LawCare WA counselling provider
Finally, I am pleased to advise that the Society has entered into an agreement with a new LawCare WA provider for its counselling and wellbeing support services, Converge. Converge is owned by an Australian not-for-profit organisation and specialises in psychology and mental health. It has 95% coverage across Australia with face-to-face, telephone and web video services.
As part of LawCare WA, members of the Society have access to an independent and confidential professional counselling service to support wellbeing in the workplace and personal life. Members may access up to three free sessions per membership year.
Members also have complimentary access to a wealth of online resources to help manage career, life, finances and health and wellbeing issues including: Money Assist; Career Assist; Lifestyle Assist; Manager Assistance; and Conflict Assist.
For more information about LawCare WA please read the insert included with this edition of Brief.
Please note that the new LawCare WA number for counselling and wellbeing support services is 1300 687 327.
- Now the chambers of the Chief Justice of Western Australia in the 1903 building.
- In deference to unsolicited feedback received at the event just described, this month’s President’s Report extends beyond one page.
- Pages 12 – 13.
- Pages 14 – 15.
- Pages 16 – 19.
- Depending on the circumstances set out in the section.