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LIV update


Every Issue

Cite as: (2008) 82(4) LIJ, p. 93


The LIV Council meets each month to debate and decide on issues of importance to members, the overall legal profession and the community. At its meeting on 14 February, the matters before Council included:

Legal Services Commission and Legal Services Board

Legal Services Commissioner Victoria Marles, who is also CEO of the Legal Services Board (LSB), addressed Council on the Commission, the LSB and working with the LIV.

Judge-led mediation

Council discussed the issue of judge-led mediation and decided it was opposed to judicial officers undertaking mediations as it was more valuable and appropriate for judges to undertake adjudication than alternative dispute resolution processes. Council also agreed that parties to mediation should be able to pick their own mediators. This choice would be lost if there was a move to judge-led mediation.

Maiden speech to Council – Reynah Tang

The following is an edited version of Councillor Tang’s maiden speech to Council.

My recent election to this Council comes after some six years of involvement with the LIV’s Commercial Law Section. I particularly wish to thank [Councillor] Steve Stevens for encouraging me to join Council, and his support, given my absence overseas when the elections were held.

I began my journey into law on the advice of a stockbroker I met while on a family holiday before commencing my HSC, with the ambition of becoming a stock analyst. However, shortly after commencing university, there was the stockmarket crash of 1987 and I thought I’d better pursue a more stable career.

After successfully working my way up the ladder from articled clerk to partner of Corrs Chambers Westgarth, I applied to join the [LIV’s] Taxation and Revenue Committee of which I later became chair.

During that time, we undertook various initiatives, including formation of a taxation discussion group for solicitors. As Taxation and Revenue Committee chair, I also became a member of the [LIV] Commercial Law Section Executive and, following Patrick Sweeney’s election to Council, I became Section chair.

A recent highlight of that role was our work on the submission of the Law Council of Australia’s (LCA) Client Legal Privilege Advisory Committee in response to the review of privilege by the Australian Law Reform Commission. With the final report just released, it seems likely that privilege will remain largely intact in the context of federal government agency investigations.

The Commercial Law Section has more than 4200 members and is the largest legal Section of the LIV. For this reason, I believe it is important that Council include members with a commercial law background to reflect the needs and priorities of this significant group.

I am pleased to say that Corrs, and its predecessor firms, have had a long association with the LIV. Former partners to have been LIV presidents include James Syme, David Miles, Bernard Teague, Neville Colbran and Sir Edward Cohen. I should also note that David Miles went on to represent the LIV on, and then became president of, the LCA. It is not to say that I aspire to such lofty office.

With the LIV’s assistance, the LCA recently amended its membership rules to allow the Large Law Firm Group (LLFG) to obtain direct representation. A condition of doing so was that all lawyer members of the LLFG were to become members of their local law society to the extent they were not already members.

In the case of the LIV, an additional 450 members joined as a result of this initiative. I think it is important that the members of the LLFG, which together employ more than 2046 practising lawyers in Victoria, representing some 20 per cent of the LIV’s practising members, continue to have a close association with the LIV.

I hope that I can play a role in this regard.

In particular, I think the LIV has, and should continue to, lead the way in promoting consistency in the regulation of lawyers throughout Australia.

Another issue that I think is important for the LIV to address is the public perception of lawyers.

The press we get often focuses on the negative, such as the series of articles on illicit drug use in the profession. Like the Australian Society of CPAs, which has run a successful advertising campaign, it may be time to go on the front foot to improve the public standing of the profession, though perhaps with a focus on what lawyers have and can achieve instead of the employment opportunities for qualified members. Rather than “the power of association”, should the LIV’s tagline be “the power to make a difference”?

Beyond the public, we may also need to address the perceptions of those within our own profession from time to time. In that regard, it was with some disappointment that I read the comments of Bret Walker SC on large law firms in 2005 when he said that: “Perhaps it is time for ... the business-services part of the legal profession, the lawyers closest to the big money of their business clients, having nothing really to do with the general corpus of law and no real interest in the administration of justice, to leave the legal profession and join with the management consultants, accountants, finance brokers and merchant bankers”.

I think it is wrong to suggest that lawyers in large firms are not part of the legal system and have no interest in the administration of justice. In the tax arena, in which I practise, even the most heavily resourced corporation is a minnow compared to the leviathan that is the Australian Taxation Office. Why aren’t those corporations entitled to the best legal representation that they can afford? Is that not essential to the maintenance of the rule of law?

Part of the concerns which were expressed appears to relate to the increasing specialisation of those within large firms.

It is no secret that practice in tax law requires specialisation because of the overwhelming density of ever-changing legislation, rulings, case law and other materials that have to be read, assimilated and applied to answer seemingly basic questions as to a client’s tax liability. But what is there about specialisation that is at odds with the administration of justice? The high incidence of tax claims in the recent commercial law claims history of the LPLC gainsays the view that practitioners in a general practice are necessarily competent to advise in relation to specialist areas such as tax.

At the end of the day, it comes down to personal choices. Irrespective of the size of the firm, there are some that will act in an unprofessional manner in reckless pursuit of their client’s objectives. But, by and large, most lawyers that I know or deal with are simply seeking to represent their clients to the best of their ability, and remain mindful of their overriding duty to the court.

Even if observations about large firms were correct, which I do not accept, is the answer to disassociate the legal profession at large from those in larger firms? Isn’t it better to ensure that they do participate in the functioning of the law societies and, by doing so, ensure that they are inculcated with the norms applicable to the wider profession? Is that not what a profession is about?

I hope that during my time on Council, I can be – to use a phrase of which the CEO of Corrs is fond – a “disruptive force”.

In saying that, I do not mean that I intend to take objection to every position and argue for the sake of it; however, I hope to bring new and different perspectives to bear on the issues that confront the LIV in approaching its 150th year.

While my speech has focused on commercial law and large firms, because that is what I am familiar with, one of the real opportunities of being on Council is to expand your horizons given the diverse nature of practice among our members. It is a challenge that I am looking forward to.

I would like to finish on a personal note and thank my wife Cherry and my son Hadyn for putting up with seeing even less of me, having regard to the addition of Council responsibilities on top of full-time practice, especially given that I am here speaking to you this evening rather than having a romantic Valentine’s Day with my wife.

LIV Governance and Representation

LIV EXECUTIVE
President Tony Burke 9822 8588
Vice-president Danny Barlow 5823 7660
Immediate Past President Geoff Provis 9609 1555
Treasurer Steven Stevens 9288 1241
5th Executive Member Caroline Counsel 9328 5810

LIV COUNCIL MEMBERS
John Bentley 9269 0485
Cathy Gale 9620 0088
Iresha Herath 9607 9372
Aurora Kostezky 8602 9208
Anthony (Tom) May 9641 8917
Conor O’Brien 9351 1455
Bruce Pippett 9592 7800
Dominique Saunders 9607 9372
Patrick Sweeney 9672 5800
Reynah Tang 9672 3535
Elissa Watson 9603 7666
Stuart Webb 9269 0416
Mark Woods 5174 6311

LIV SUBURBAN LAW ASSOCIATION PRESIDENTS
Eastern Suburbs Law Association Ron Rowe 9888 6088
North West Solicitors Association George Conlan 9370 3636
Northern Suburbs Law Association Carolyn McNamara 9462 2608
Southern Solicitors Group Celina Roth 9592 7744
Western Suburbs Law Association Linda Paric 0422 961 005

LIV country LAW ASSOCIATION PRESIDENTS
Ballarat & District Law Association Justin Burke 5331 1122
Bendigo Law Association Megan Aumair 5444 0906
Geelong Law Association Deb Anderson 5222 2077
Gippsland Law Association Mark Woods 5174 6311
Goulburn Valley Law Association Anthony Coote 5821 4144
Mornington Peninsula Solicitors Association Nick Roberts 5977 4000
North East Law Association Karen Keegan (02) 6056 8210
North West Law Association John Roccisano 5021 6227
Western District Law Association James Nicol 5560 2000
Wimmera Law Association Phil Babic 5382 4455

To find out more about LIV Governance and Representation see http://www.liv.asn.au/about/structure and http://www.liv.asn.au/directory/lawasns or phone the Secretary to the Council on 9607 9372 or email preid@liv.asn.au.

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