President’s Report – July
REVIEW OF LAW SOCIETY’S CONSTITUTION
The Society has appointed a Working Group to review its Constitution, having regard to requirements in the Associations Incorporation Act 2015. The Society’s Constitution is required to comply with the new Act, which comes into operation on 1 July 2016. There is a three year period from 1 July 2016 for incorporated associations to comply with the new regime. The last detailed review of the Constitution was in 2006.
LAW SOCIETY IN THE MEDIA
I am working closely with our Advocacy and Marketing and Communications staff to develop a series of briefing papers/position statements on key issues, which will also provide a condensed guide to the policy positions of the Law Society.
The purpose of this is to ensure that whoever from the Society is dealing with the media is fully briefed, so we are able to enter the debate on key issues promptly and act as the authoritative voice of reason. This allows us to both enter into public debate directly and promptly as issues come under the media spotlight, as well as advocate robustly for the interests of our members.
Those practising in the jurisdiction of the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) will be aware that the President of the SAT, Justice Curthoys, has implemented a number of administrative and procedural changes over the last almost 2 ½ years. The effect has been to create a leaner Tribunal without losing efficiency. Following the President’s report to Government earlier this year, it was evident that SAT could no longer justify maintaining several positions, including one of the Deputy Presidents.
The Deputy Presidents’ roles are in effect a secondment from the District Court for up to 5 years at a time. This allows for flexibility both for the SAT and for the District Court, just as is the case for WorkCover and the Judges in the Children’s Court. As such, those appointed to the District Court are expected to have the versatility to handle all aspects of the extended jurisdiction – and have proven themselves ably to do so.
At the same time as the SAT report was received by Government, Chief Judge Sleight of the District Court was seeking additional resources for the substantive jurisdiction in His Honour’s Court. So the SAT’s loss will undoubtedly be the District Court proper’s gain with the movement of Judge Parry into the District Court’s fold.
As the Deputy President’s position is a seconded position, there is no farewell ceremonial sitting for Judge Parry, so I have taken the liberty of writing to Judge Parry and thanking him for his service on behalf of the profession.
His Honour was first appointed to the SAT as a Senior Member in January 2005, at that time heading up the Development and Resources Stream, having a distinguished background in environmental and planning law. In 2011 His Honour’s talents were recognised and he was appointed as a Judge of the District Court and immediately as a Deputy President of the SAT.
During His Honour’s time at the SAT he has been the principal author of the Tribunal’s practice notice and other publications for the general public as well as being the co-author (with Dr Bertus De Villiers) of the Guide to Proceedings in the SAT (Lawbook Co/ThomsonReuters, 2012) and a chapter in the same publisher’s loose-leaf service – Lawyers Practice Manual WA. Judge Parry is also a Consulting Editor of the State Reports (Western Australia).
On behalf of the Society I have wished Judge Parry well in this new chapter of his much appreciated service to the Western Australian community and noted that we look forward to appearing before His Honour.
LAW COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA
On Saturday, 18 June 2016, I attended a meeting of the Directors of the Law Council of Australia. Key issues on the agenda included the adoption of a Policy Statement on Human Rights and the Legal Profession and a National Model Equitable Briefing Policy.
Human Rights Policy Statement
The Law Council’s Policy Statement on Human Rights and the Legal Profession endorses an approach, consistent with international law and practice, which confirms that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent. It aims to provide a framework for activities of the Law Council in relation to human rights, and in evaluating the merits of legislation, policy and practice by reference to international human rights law.
The Policy Statement contains 29 commitments to be made by the Law Council.
Commitments are directed to:
- the domestic implementation of international human rights in Australia;
- advocacy in relation to human rights in Australia and internationally;
- education and public awareness in relation to human rights; and
- participation in the international human rights system.
National Model Equitable Briefing Policy
On 26 October 2015, the Law Council held a National Equitable Briefing Roundtable in Sydney, inviting representatives of each Bar Association, Law Society and Law Firms Australia. It was agreed that the Law Council would develop a Draft National Model Equitable Briefing Policy for consultation based on the discussions and feedback provided by participants during the Roundtable.
The aim of the Equitable Briefing Policy is to achieve a nationally consistent approach towards bringing about cultural and attitudinal change within the legal profession with respect to gender briefing practices and:
- play an important role in the progression of women in the law, the judiciary and the wider community;
- give effect to other wider diversity and equity policies;
- redress the under-representation of women barristers in Australia;
- acknowledge that diverse groups bring a greater variety of experience and enhance decision- making;
- provide role models for women in the legal profession generally;
- better reflect the community and its confidence in the profession that the law is not only fair but seen to be fair; and
- enhance the profession’s credibility by being representative of the composition of the community.
The Equitable Briefing Policy adopted includes the following non-mandatory targets:
- to make all reasonable endeavours to brief or select women barristers with relevant seniority and expertise, experience or interest in the relevant practice area;
- by 1 July 2018:
- to brief or select senior women barristers accounting for at least 20% of all briefs and/or 20% of the value of all brief fees paid to senior barristers;
- to brief or select junior women barristers accounting for at least 30% of all briefs and/or 30% of the value of all brief fees paid to junior barristers; and
- to provide a confidential report to their local Bar Association or Law Society each year with respect to the measures taken to implement these targets.
The Equitable Briefing Policy was adopted by the Law Council on the basis that it would be reviewed following an initial reporting period, which will run until September 2017.
The Law Society Council has adopted this policy and will be working with the Law Council and our members to help implement this important step.