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From the CEO: Young lawyers – old opportunities

Every Issue

Cite as: (2007) 81(3) LIJ, p. 6

The legal profession as a whole benefits when it involves its younger members.

I recently attended a Young Lawyers’ Section Executive Conference. This was a two-day forum in which topics particularly pertaining to young lawyers were on the agenda.

I was most impressed by this group, not only by their acceptance of giving up a whole weekend of their own time, but also by their approach to and discussion of the issues that affected not only young lawyers but all lawyers in the modern legal world.

There is, however, a trend in the legal profession that I think should be addressed and this needs the help of young lawyers and law firms and lawyers at large.

In a time-poor world, the trend is the tendency to jettison any activities other than working for the firm, even when these “other activities” involve legal organisations such as the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV).

I think that this is patently shortsighted.

While many firms support their young lawyers, I suspect that there are some which are less than encouraging of time spent on activities outside the firm.

Today’s young lawyers should be considered the future leaders of our profession.

Any negative attitude towards them when they attempt to move forward in their profession and join in the activities of professional bodies.

Young lawyers are encouraged by their firms to become involved in the scramble to maintain billable hours and little recognition is given to the skills they acquire when they become involved in the state’s peak legal body.

The LIV committee structure allows a great deal of contact with many lawyers who are operating in the same area.

This results in better informed lawyers, building a group of lateral thinkers which extends far beyond the ability of any firm.

It will often also lead to the extension of a lawyer’s networking capacity well beyond the LIV, the legal profession and their firm.

Being part of a committee structure allows a young lawyer to develop the skills for involvement in and ultimately running of meetings.

On occasions there is the opportunity to operate as a spokesperson on behalf of the LIV in the media and thus build a media profile.

The challenge for anybody wanting to do this is to overcome the attitude of some firms.

The firms must understand that they are getting a much better employee who has many more skills than they would develop purely through the firm process.

And it is not just young lawyers who encounter such negativity.

I’ve had LIV Councillors and prospective Councillors tell me that the message from their firms was that they would prefer less involvement with the organisation.

This is not because of any conscious bias against the LIV. Rather, it is based on the perceived time commitment to deal with LIV matters – time which some firms consider should only be spent on work matters.

Perhaps one way for firms to understand how important the involvement in professional organisations such as the LIV is to consider such work as pro bono.

Much of the work undertaken by the LIV centres around access to justice issues – tort law reform, better resourcing of courts and law reform in general.

Lawyers involved in such work benefit the profession, their firms and their community, and this is very much in the spirit of pro bono.

The LIV will discuss with government the possibility of relevant LIV work being considered pro bono for issues such as government tendering.

Our young lawyers need the incentives of feeling part of a collegial profession and opportunities to work on matters affecting the legal profession that may not necessarily be connected with their day-to-day work.

I believe that involvement in organisations such as the LIV will lead to a better future for both the LIV and the firms.

It will also assist in maintaining the relevance of the law for young solicitors, an issue which is always difficult.

Finally, it can only lead to a better, more focused and formed profession which will be well placed to tackle issues of the future.

It is with sad regret that we note the passing of Tina Millar. The story of the little girl who came from Italy aged 9 to become LIV president is not a fairytale but the result of hard work.

Tina was well loved among those in the profession and will be sadly missed.


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