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From the president: A collaborative year

Every Issue

Cite as: (2006) 80(12) LIJ, p. 4


The combined efforts of LIV members, Council and staff have achieved much in 2006.

What a difference a year makes.

In my first president’s page in February I talked about the concept of collaborative law, especially in the context of family law, and suggested Australia needed to look seriously at the practice.

Since early this year, the concept of collaborative law, which focuses on alternatives to the adversarial system, has taken on a life of its own.

Various states, including Victoria, now have trained collaborative law practitioners and at the 12th National Family Law Conference in October, federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock publicly endorsed the initiative.

Collaborative law was developed in the US in the 1990s by a family lawyer disillusioned by the inability of the adversarial system to deliver positive results to his clients.

Although it has been embraced by family lawyers, its emphasis on problem-solving, negotiation and client empowerment has relevance for other areas of the law.

It offers many lawyers an opportunity to develop relationships with clients and work in a more affirming environment than the traditional adversarial system.

The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) led the country on collaborative law this year and its successful inclusion on the national agenda is an example of how your representative body can take up and promote issues.

The LIV exists to promote the law and those who serve it, both professionally and personally, and the past year has seen issues arise that have implications for both areas.

Following a report in late 2005 entitled Regional and Country Recruitment and Retention, in March this year the LIV’s Careers in Law website http://www.careers.liv.asn.au was launched.

The site operates on a range of levels and provides job seekers, employers and locums with comprehensive information on careers in law. As a competitively-priced recruitment service it caters to a professional need but its locum register also fills a personal need – it provides a list of people who can “fill in” while practitioners take a much-needed break.

One of the most important things practitioners can do to protect their health is to take a holiday so this register is a great service, particularly for those in small practices or sole practitioners.

Another part of the investigation of staff recruitment and retention was the LIV’s April 2006 report into workplace attitudes among Victoria’s biggest legal employers. Co-authored with Victorian Women Lawyers (VWL), the report Bendable or Expendable? Practices and attitudes towards work flexibility looked at the demographics and changing needs of the 21st century legal workforce.

It particularly focused on women in the law and their desire (as well as that of their life partners) to have both a career and children and how this has led to a demand for more flexible work practices.

It is these types of surveys and data that help the LIV promote the wellbeing of practitioners in both their professional and personal lives.

This year saw a changing of the guard at the level of CEO at the LIV.

After four years of service John Cain resigned to take up the position of Victorian Government Solicitor. The LIV and the profession have benefited immensely from Mr Cain’s hard work, dedication and tireless approach to his role and I thank him on behalf of the LIV and the profession for all he achieved.

The LIV is fortunate to have secured a wonderful replacement for Mr Cain in Michael Brett Young.

With more than 30 years experience in the profession, Mr Brett Young has brought a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm and ideas to the LIV.

He has been at the forefront of ensuring the LIV continues to serve its members and keep them up to date with changes.

Just last month he attended the Conference of Regulatory Officers which covered many important areas for the legal profession. (See “Leading lights brighten the way”, page 6, for more on the conference.)

I would like to thank the LIV staff for their work in what has been a year of change and especially Natalina Velardi for her efforts as acting CEO in the period between chief executives.

Thank you to all who have supported me in the past year. Being your president has been a rewarding experience and I wish incoming president Geoff Provis all the best for next year.

I wish you all the best for the coming festive season and New Year.

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