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Communities need lawyers

Cite as: April 2012 86 (04) LIJ, p.04

Through our members the LIV stands strong as the leading voice of the profession.

By Michael Holcroft, LIV President

Whether they practise in a regional, rural, remote, suburban or metropolitan centre, lawyers offer substantial skills (often pro bono) to any number of community groups, sporting clubs, educational boards, churches and social groups.

The community also looks to the legal profession for leadership.

As lawyers, we hold a unique position as officers of the court and advocate for those who cannot effectively speak for themselves.

We lobby, we advocate, we agitate and we educate.

The LIV unites lawyers practising across the broad spectrum of the legal profession and allows us to undertake our responsibilities with one clear voice.

We also have amazing resources in those that volunteer their time to our sections, committees and working groups. I strongly believe the strength and influence of the LIV as an organisation is derived from the quality and efforts of its 15,000 plus members.

The LIV works constantly to deliver tangible results for members in the areas of leadership and representation, education and professional development and information and practice support.

A member from a middle-to-large size firm told me recently that he thought those who were not members of the LIV could be seen as selfish. Effectively they were relying on others to pay for our advocacy on human rights, the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and other matters that are fundamental to being a member of this profession. I tend to agree.

In addition to the inspirational or aspirational work that we do, the LIV is working hard to provide tangible practical benefits to members.

Meeting regional and suburban practitioners, as well as some smaller city firms, I hear that succession is a key issue for them. I have also witnessed firsthand the problems that result when businesses do not have a clear succession plan in place.

The threatened demise of many small practices in country, regional and suburban areas will rob these communities of both paid and unpaid legal skills.

We have all seen small towns die. The doctors leave, the hospital shuts, the lawyers leave, the accountants go and no professionals are left. The local footy teams folds and the town is left soulless.

The LIV is now working on tools for members to address and assist with succession planning. Later in 2012 the LIV will present a series of roadshows across Victoria looking at these issues.

The best succession planning starts at the commencement of the firm – but it is never too late to do something.

As most of you will be aware, the move towards a national legal profession has been going on for some time.

The Legal Profession Adoption of National Law Act 2012 will be introduced into state Parliament this year. The LIV is presently examining the legislation and its impact and will continue to update members and provide information and assistance to the legal profession to ensure they adapt to the changes positively and effectively.

The LIV also continues to work to address diversity in the legal profession. Many members will already know that the LIV has developed a Disability Action Plan (http://tinyurl.com/7uk4owt) which aims to produce the systemic change required to eliminate disability discrimination.

This year the LIV will implement new strategies to improve access to LIV products, services and facilities for those who are affected by disability.

We will also continue to discuss the issue of retention of women in the legal profession. In collaboration with the Law Council of Australia we will be establishing programs to address the high attrition rate of female lawyers. We can’t afford the continuing exodus of highly qualified and experienced women lawyers from the profession.

Also in 2012 the LIV will finalise its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reconciliation Action Plan. The plan aims to build meaningful relationships with Victorian Indigenous communities and close the gap in Indigenous representation in the legal profession.

Workplace pressures and sometimes the nature of cases can have a lasting impact on individual lawyers. In addition to existing services, this year the LIV will pilot a free confidential telephone helpline (1300 664 744) for individuals and employers for all inquiries relating to mental wellbeing. The helpline will include referrals to health services, access to counselling and independent advice on disclosure requirements.

My new role as president has also introduced me to the brave new world of social media. Social media enables the LIV to have a direct dialogue with more members and conduct far-reaching research in order to better communicate with our members. The LIV is also reviewing its website and will look at navigation and content and how to improve the design to make the website more user friendly.

Only through the unity of its membership can the LIV stand strong as the leading voice of the legal professional in Victoria. The LIV exists to represent you. I strongly encourage you to get the most out of your LIV membership.

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