President’s Report – June
LEGAL AID MATTERS CAMPAIGN
Members will no doubt be aware that the Society has joined together with the Law Council of Australia and the Law Societies and Bar Associations in other States to raise public awareness of the crisis currently facing our legal aid system.
Cuts to legal assistance funding by successive governments have caused important services to shut down. Legal Aid, Community Legal Centres, domestic violence service providers and Aboriginal legal services are all under threat. The cuts have placed greater pressure on remaining services.
It is short-sighted of successive governments to fail to address this funding crisis as it only results in increased costs to the taxpayer and in fact the whole community; whether that be by lengthier court proceedings, more people in jail or going to court in the first place when the provision of sound legal advice or social work assistance from, for example a Community Legal Centre, might have avoided the need for legal proceedings at all.
The legal profession understands the immense importance of legal assistance organisations, which form a vital safety net in our justice system. Indeed, many legal practitioners are regularly on the ‘frontlines’ when it comes to dealing with access to justice issues, whether they work at a Community Legal Centre or donate their time to pro bono work through a large firm.
The Society has held a number of events around the Legal Aid Matters campaign and access to justice issues recently.
On Wednesday, 20 April, the Society’s Executive hosted a lunchtime meeting with representatives from the Western Australian Bar Association, Legal Aid Commission, the Community Legal Centres Association and the Aboriginal Legal Service at the Society.
On Thursday, 28 April, I chaired a lively panel forum to discuss the campaign, involving eminent speakers from the judiciary, the community legal sector, social services and the Western Australian Bar Association.
At the Law Week Breakfast on Monday, 16 May, Fred Chaney AO gave a thought-provoking keynote address on The Case for Legal Aid. The breakfast was an excellent way to start Law Week and to get the Legal Aid Matters campaign rolling.
The campaign is continuing to gather momentum, having attracted a great deal of publicity from both the mainstream media and on social media platforms. In fact, the campaign hashtag became one of the leading ‘trending’ topics on Twitter during Law Week. You can share your support for the campaign by using #LegalAidMatters.
We need your help to make the Legal Aid Matters campaign a success. Become involved by going to legalaidmatters.org.au and finding out how you can be involved. You can make a difference. At the website you can learn more about the crisis in legal aid, sign a petition and contact your local Member of Parliament directly to let them know that you value a properly funded legal assistance sector.
It is crucial that, in this Federal election year, and as we follow this by a State election, we ensure our politicians understand the enormous significance of legal aid to our community and to the justice system.
Law Week began with the aforementioned Law Week Breakfast with Fred Chaney AO, as he presented The Case for Legal Aid. The Attorney General’s Community Service Law Awards were also presented. Congratulations to Michael Tucak (individual category) and King & Wood Mallesons (organisation category).
Between Monday, 16 May and Friday, 20 May, the Society was delighted to showcase more than 30 events aimed at both the legal profession and the community.
Selected highlights included the Law Week Panel Presentation, which took place on Wednesday, 18 May at the Supreme Court. The topic of discussion, ‘Homophobia within the Law’ was a very important one; as attendees learned, the law has and continues to create barriers for the LGBTIQ community.
At the Law Week Cocktail Evening on Thursday, 19 May, we were joined by a number of distinguished guests, including Stuart Clark AM, President of the Law Council of Australia.
The 2016 Lawyer of the Year Award winners were announced at the event, with the Award for a practitioner with less than five years’ experience going to Michael Geelhoed. The two leading candidates in the category of more than five years’ experience could not be separated, with Claire Rossi and Glen McLeod sharing the award.
The three newest Society Life Members, Steven Penglis, The Hon Justice Carmel McLure QC and Clare Thompson, were also acknowledged at the event. Congratulations to the Lawyer of the Year Award winners and new Life Members.
Thank you to everyone who attended a Law Week event. You will find a comprehensive review of Law Week in this edition of Brief.
The Society, in partnership with the Western Australian Bar Association, is honoured to host a Gala Dinner to recognise 10 years of service by the Hon Wayne Martin AC as the Chief Justice of Western Australia. The landmark event will take place on Friday, 9 September, at the BelleVue Ballroom, Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Part proceeds from the Gala Dinner will go towards a donation from the Chief Justice’s Law Week Youth Appeal Trust to Holyoake. Please visit the Society’s website to register for this very special event.
IMPORTANT CHANGES TO PROFESSIONAL INDEMINITY INSURANCE EXEMPTIONS PROCESS
From 1 July 2016, the notification of a legal practitioner’s claim for exemption from Law Mutual (WA)’s compulsory Professional Indemnity Insurance arrangements is to be submitted to the Society. All notifications must be made online through the Society’s website, lawsocietywa.asn.au.
A new administration levy of $75 (inc GST) is payable for each exemption notification and will apply to non-members of the Society*.
Until 30 June 2016, notifications of exemption should be submitted to Law Mutual (WA) at no charge using Forms 2, 3 and 3A, which are available on the Law Mutual website, lawmutualwa.com.au, under Insurance – 2016/17 forms.
*Law Society members and legal practitioners notifying of an exemption under Regulation 97(1)(e) Community Legal Centre or 97(1)(h) Pro Bono will have this levy waived.