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From the President: Long-term commitment

Every Issue

Cite as: (2009) 83(02) LIJ, p.4

Proud of its history, the LIV is also committed to its present and future membership.

One of my lasting impressions during a fleeting visit to London was that everything was so old. All those buildings which I'd seen on television growing up in Australia looked like they'd been there forever.

So I was surprised to find out that at the same time that English engineers were putting the finishing touches on that iconic English monument that would become known as "Big Ben", a group of lawyers on the other side of the world, in Victoria, Australia, was discussing the formation of what would become the peak professional body for solicitors in Victoria - the LIV.

It certainly is a privilege to serve as president of the LIV in its 150th year.

I mention the historic parallel with Big Ben as it brought home to me the longevity of the LIV, particularly in a country like ours with a relatively short history.

The fact that the LIV has survived all these years in my view says something about the profession it represents.

There exists among solicitors in this state a camaraderie which I expect is borne out of the difficult job we do.

It is a job which is often misunderstood and at times criticised by the public and the media. And this is despite our members consistently over the years performing countless pro bono hours for the most vulnerable in our community.

Our role is subject to an overly tight regulatory regime - far tighter than almost any other profession - which at times makes it difficult to just get on with the job of being a solicitor.

It is therefore not surprising to me that those engaged in this profession do not see themselves as practising in isolation from their colleagues. Rather, most of us take the view that to a greater or lesser extent we're all in this together.

I also expect that this sense of unity has allowed the LIV as our representative body to thrive for a century and a half.

Last year I was talking to the head of the law society of another Commonwealth country who told me that his country's law society was about to move from compulsory to voluntary membership, just as we had in Victoria in 1997.

He was nervous about the move and said they were hoping 50 per cent of lawyers would maintain their membership and that they would be very pleased if it exceeded 60 per cent.

He was amazed when I told him that in Victoria we had consistently achieved more than 80 per cent membership (and as high as 85 per cent) since membership was made voluntary.

The LIV Council and staff, however, are acutely conscious that if our high membership levels are to be maintained then we must provide service levels to our members which justify them renewing their membership each year.

This is particularly so given that we have entered tough economic times which appear certain to be around in the medium term.

It is for this reason that the LIV is always looking at new and different ways to provide real and practical benefits to our members in an effort to ensure that their annual membership fee represents a good investment.

I'll take the opportunity from time to time to use the president's page to inform our members of some of these initiatives as they occur.

One of my goals in performing the role of president is to be able to look back at the end of the year satisfied that it was a year during which the members received some real "bang for their buck".

If we happen to meet during the course of the year, please feel free to let me know whether you think this goal is being achieved.

Danny Barlow
President, Law Institute of Victoria


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