President’s Report – November 2017
Future of the legal profession
In his 2013 work, Tomorrow’s Lawyers i , Richard Susskind predicted that the legal world would change “more radically over the next two decades” than “over the last two centuries”.
Alive to that prediction, and as noted in this column in the July edition of Brief, the Law Society adopted the Future of the Legal Profession as a strategic focus area earlier this year. As members would have observed, the Society has, since doing so, commenced a roll out of an increasing number of materials, CPD seminars and Brief articles focused on future themed topics.
This month’s edition of Brief explores several such topics. In his cover article entitled ‘The Inevitable Surprise: How technology will change what we do’, Tony Joyner explains how artificial intelligence, in particular, is likely to affect the legal profession and the practice of law. While there will doubtless be many challenges along the way, as the author notes, “[n]ever in our profession has there been a better opportunity for adventurous, bold, innovative thinkers to make a difference.”
Also in this edition, Julian Sher and Paul D Evans examine the concept of “unbundling”, the breaking down of a legal matter into its constituent parts so that one – or some – of those parts will be the subject of a so-called “partial retainer agreement”, as distinct from a “full retainer”. As the article makes clear, unbundling is increasingly becoming “a necessary part of delivering access to the legal system in a manner that is ‘just, quick and cheap’”. That said, and as the authors observe, unbundling is not without its risks; and a number of helpful risk management techniques are identified for consideration. The article is published along with the Society’s recently-released Unbundling Guidelines which are reproduced in full.
November Brief also examines the future of legal education and the issues associated with law graduates undertaking practical legal experience, with articles from Kate Galloway, Kate Offer and Natalie Skead, Neville Carter and Daniel White.
Also included in this edition is an article reflecting the results of a partnership between the Law Society and the Edith Cowan University Security Research Institute. The article provides an analysis of data collected from a survey of our membership, providing an insight into the habits of practitioners with respect to their use of information technology and attitudes towards cyber security.
In the February edition of Brief, I reported that the Society had commenced a comprehensive review of its Constitution with a view to ensuring conformity with the requirements of the Associations Incorporation Act 2015 (WA). As part of that review, active consideration was also given to possible further refinements to the Constitution to accord with contemporary notions of good corporate governance.
In August this year, feedback was sought from members regarding a series of possible constitutional amendments developed as part of the review. Following completion of that process, the Society’s Council in October approved a final set of proposed amendments. Those draft amendments will be put to members at the Society’s annual general meeting on 9 November 2017. I am grateful to all members who took the time to assist the Society by providing their feedback.
In addition to the proposed constitutional amendments, a number of other measures have recently been introduced to further enhance good corporate governance outcomes. One such measure, also approved by Council in October, was the variation of the Society’s standing orders to permit Council to appoint any of its members as an ex officio member of any standing committee of the Society (irrespective of whether a vacancy exists).
The purpose of this measure is to facilitate outcomes, from early 2018,
to the effect that:
- Every serving member of Council will also serve on at least one standing committee; and
- Every standing committee has at least one serving member of Council as one of its members.
As members would by now be aware, nominations for election to Council have now closed. I once again extend warm congratulations to Hayley Cormann, who was elected unopposed as President for 2018, and to Greg McIntyre SC and Jocelyne Boujos, who were both elected unopposed as Vice Presidents. All three will commence their terms on 1 January 2018.
Elections will now be held to fill the six ordinary member vacancies, three junior member vacancies and one country member vacancy on Council. Ballot papers will be transmitted electronically by CorpVote Voting & Election Services to members eligible to vote on 7 November, and voting will close on 21 November, 2017.
Although voting in this particular election is not compulsory, I encourage all eligible members to exercise their democratic right by assisting in deciding who will represent the interests of the Western Australian legal profession in 2018.
Members are invited to refer to pages 6 and 7 of Brief for a full rundown of the nominees for Council.
Richard Susskind, Tomorrow’s Lawyers (2013), p xiii.
Misleading as these two expressions are for the reasons identified by the authors.