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LIV Celebrating 150 years

Cover Story

By Sue Peacock

The history of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) over the past 150 years is a story about the thousands of solicitors who have made unpaid contributions to the legal profession, the community and the cause of justice. It is also the story of the staff who helped them.

Successive presidents, councils, committee members and staff, throughout the years, have demonstrated enormous talent, dedication and creativity as they have worked towards forming better laws and improving the status and wellbeing of lawyers. This talent and effort has been evident in the work they’ve done to improve legal education, legal aid, access to justice and community services.

The LIV may have had a number of false starts in its early days but it has evolved into a strong and diverse network of more than 14,000 members – almost half of whom are women. These members work in all kinds of practices, from large international firms to sole practices and community legal centres, across rural areas, the suburbs and the CBD.

Collectively, they have earned the LIV a reputation as a respected leader, contributor and lobbyist on issues of law reform, access to justice and the rule of law.

150 years of service and achievement: The Law Institute of Victoria (1859-2009)

The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) had an inauspicious and stuttering start.

It began on 22 March 1859 with 26 members after at least five attempts to set up a professional society. Twice an organisation had been formed, but on both occasions it foundered due to problems with funding and who should be allowed to join.

The LIV’s first members wanted rules for conduct and education. Other objectives included law reform and a relief fund for LIV members and their families.

Lawyers were keen to have a body to enforce professional standards. They were frequently the subject of negative newspaper reports, which focused too often on the unprofessional conduct of some practitioners in the colony.

Unfortunately, the initial enthusiasm which underpinned the LIV’s establishment soon waned, with meetings poorly attended and membership numbers stagnant.

For the next 30 years the LIV was kept alive mainly by the work of the executive.

In October 1868 only three turned up for the quarterly meeting of members. The minutes read: “Secretary absent as usual – no books or papers – meeting adjourned to 13th November”.

From its earliest days the LIV was focused on the issue of amalgamation of the two branches of the profession. It was a touchy subject, with some solicitors opposed to barristers moving into their domain. Others believed barristers were better trained and equipped to act as advocates in court.

The Legal Profession Practice Act was passed in January 1892, making it legal for all barristers to practise as solicitors and vice versa.

The LIV hoped barristers would join the LIV and it would become the representative body for all legal practitioners.

Several did, including Samuel Leon QC who became LIV president in 1898, but the majority did not, choosing instead to set up their own governing body, the Committee of Counsel, now the Victorian Bar Council.

From the beginning, the LIV had concern for more than the practice of law, believing it also had a responsibility for the personal welfare of members.

In 1907, it set up the Legal Benevolent Fund to help members of the LIV and their families in need.

The LIV celebrated its jubilee on 31 March 1909 with a meeting in the afternoon and a dinner attended by 120 gentlemen in the evening.

Overall membership stood at 216, including 50 country barristers and solicitors from a total of about 792 practising lawyers in Victoria.

Most of the topics canvassed at the dinner would not be out of place today, with conversation ranging across the problems facing country practitioners, scales of costs and court delays.

Although many country solicitors were members of both the LIV and their local law association, there was no official connection between the two until 1917, when incorporation of the LIV provided that the president of each of the three associations – Ballarat and District, Bendigo and Geelong – should be ex officio a member of the LIV Council. In 1945, membership of the Council was extended to any other country law association recognised by the LIV.

One of the earliest major examples of LIV members’ commitment to pro bono work occurred during World War I.

The LIV set up a Soldiers’ Advice Bureau which provided free legal assistance to servicemen and their families across the state. More than 10,000 soldiers and their families received assistance during and immediately after the war.

During the war, LIV members volunteered at Australian Red Cross Information Bureaus. The LIV also coordinated fund-raisers for the Red Cross.

Before 1918, the LIV chief executive was the honorary secretary Sir Arthur Robinson. With his retirement, it was decided to appoint a paid secretary.

Solicitor Jack Campbell took on the job a year later, operating with a lone typist until his retirement in 1947.

The idea for an “authorised legal periodical” had been spoken of since 1861 and on 1 July 1927 the Law Institute Journal’s (LIJ) first edition appeared. For the past 82 years, the award-winning LIJ has been an integral part of the life of the LIV.

As early as 1911, the LIV was pushing for a Federal Legal Council to be formed and it played a leading role in discussions which led to the birth of the Law Council of Australia (LCA) in 1933.

Solicitors found their incomes squeezed by the Great Depression. Defalcations by professional men, including solicitors, made headlines in all states and within the legal profession there was a feeling that formal supervision or control was required.

In August 1930, the LIV responded by adopting a recommendation of the LIV Council providing for separate trust accounts, the creation of a Fidelity Guarantee Fund and rules governing conduct and ethics.

Fierce opposition to the recommendation, particularly from country solicitors, saw its implementation deferred.

It was not until 1936 that legislation was passed requiring all solicitors to keep separate trust bank accounts and proper accounts.

The LIV Council believed this did not go far enough, as it did not allow for clients who had been defrauded by dishonest solicitors to be compensated.

It submitted draft Bills in 1940 and 1943 which finally resulted in the passing of the Legal Profession Practice (Amendment) Act 1946.

The Act gave the LIV the power to police the conduct of all solicitors and provided for a Solicitors’ Guarantee Fund – built up by annual contributions from every practising solicitor – to protect clients against any defalcations by solicitors or their employees.

The auditing of solicitors’ trust accounts became compulsory. Annual practising certificates could only be obtained after a satisfactory auditor’s report or statutory declaration that the solicitor did not hold any trust funds.

Solicitors had to pay a practising fee to the LIV, which gave them automatic membership. As a result membership increased significantly.

The implementation of the Act, which included a wide range of new procedures, was not easy, especially as many solicitors, displaying their trademark independence, were hostile towards the changes and resented the intrusions that came with it.

The task of implementation fell to Arthur Heymanson, who at 39 had been a chief legal officer in the Australian Army. He took over from Jack Campbell as the LIV’s paid secretary on 1 July 1947 – with a staff of one.

Mr Heymanson was one of many lawyers who served during World War II. As at 1942, at least 80 per cent of solicitors who were medically fit or otherwise available for service in the Forces had enlisted.

In 1939, LIV president FR Gubbins wrote to Prime Minister Robert Menzies as World War II broke out “to inform you that if the Government can now, or at any time during the war assign to us any task in which we may serve Australia or the Empire usefully, we shall not be found wanting in diligent devotion to our public duty”. The PM wrote back saying he deeply appreciated the LIV’s support.

The period also saw the LIV re-establish its pro bono legal services bureau for those who served. Following the war, the LIV aided solicitors returning from service to re-enter the profession.

During Mr Heymanson’s 28 years at the helm, the LIV made major advances in professional conduct, legal aid, legal education, law reform and in improving the image of solicitors.

One of his many accomplishments was working out a plan to obtain interest on the vast amounts deposited with banks in solicitors’ trust accounts. Under the plan, one third of a solicitor’s previous year’s minimum trust account balance was deposited with the LIV for investment. This provided income for the Solicitors’ Guarantee Fund, with earnings not needed to meet claims used to finance legal aid in civil matters and the Victoria Law Foundation (which funded the Leo Cussen Institute, LIV and a Law Reform Commissioner).

Some solicitors were unsure about using clients’ money in this way and the issue attracted debate in the press. Members voted to support it and the ground-breaking legislation was eventually passed in December 1964 and later copied by other states and New Zealand.

The 1970s was a time of great social change and a difficult period for the legal profession. The boom of the fifties and sixties was over and recession saw many young lawyers out of work. Some legal practices were poorly managed while others, if they had insurance at all, were underinsured against claims of negligence.

Public criticism of the legal profession was also mounting and the community had little understanding of the principle of the rule of law and how the legal profession operated.

On his retirement in 1975, Mr Heymanson, who was feted at a farewell dinner attended by more than 350 people, urged the LIV to focus its efforts on professional indemnity insurance, services to members, the welfare of the profession, law reform and public relations.

Enter Gordon Lewis.

Employed as the first secretary and executive director of the LIV in 1975, the 40-year-old former partner of Hamilton firm Melville Orton & Lewis set about radically reshaping the LIV as a service provider.

According to Mr Lewis, he was lucky to have the backing of a dynamic young Council which included John Richards, Brian McCarthy, David Jones and Bernard Teague. [Mr Jones and Mr Teague would later become the first solicitors to be appointed to the County and Supreme Courts respectively in 1986 and 1987. Mr Lewis was appointed a County Court judge in 1990.]

Six weeks after Mr Lewis started work, the LIV discovered an $8 million defalcation by Betty Bryant, principal of city firm RW Barrie & Co. It was easily Australia’s biggest defalcation, and it shattered public confidence in the profession.

The LIV’s first press conference was held amid speculation that losses could be as high as $40 million. This marked the end of the LIV’s traditional “no comment” response to the media.

At the time the Solicitors’ Guarantee Fund had only $2 million to meet claims and was unable to continue funding legal aid and the Victoria Law Foundation. The Legal Aid Committee (a separate entity from the LIV) had to borrow funds from the state government to carry it over until the end of the financial year.

The LIV had to employ extra staff to process more than 800 claims and the ultimate payout with interest was $11 million.

Yet, despite these challenges, within three years of Mr Lewis’ appointment, the LIV had set up a compulsory indemnity insurance scheme to cover all claims, a management advisory service, a team of qualified office inspectors to check solicitors’ trust accounts, a free legal advice and referral service for the public, a counselling service to guide members on ethical matters, as well as employment and locum services.

Also, amendments were made to the Legal Profession Practice Act in 1979 – instigated by the LIV – to improve disciplinary procedures and ethical conduct.

Overseas trips by LIV executive members to countries like Canada and the US showed the benefits of good public relations and marketing and the need to liaise closely with politicians. This led to appearances by LIV staff and members on weekly talk-back radio and ongoing support for Law Week, which was first held in 1980.

The right to advertise proved a contentious and divisive issue during the eighties.

By 1984, restrictions on advertising had been whittled away, despite strident opposition from some members. Solicitors individually or in groups could now inform the public that they were in business and what they did.

During Mr Lewis’ final years as executive director, the LIV campaigned strongly against the state government’s WorkCare program, which included the abolition of the common law rights of injured workers to sue for negligence. The LIV believed the existing system of no-fault compensation was world class.

As a result of the LIV’s campaign, changes were made that retained common law rights for pain and suffering.

The campaign showed the LIV now had the resources and skills to successfully lobby government and sway community opinion.

Robert Cornall took over from Mr Lewis in 1987 and continued the work done in the previous decade to increase services for members and to lobby on behalf of the wider community for better laws. He came from Middletons Oswald Burt, where he had been a partner since 1972.

For the first time, the number of women graduates in law schools reached more than 50 per cent, prompting the LIV to begin looking at why women were failing to renew their practising certificates at double the rate of male graduates and the unacceptably slow progress of women within the legal profession.

In 1988, the advertising issue resurfaced, dividing the profession and testing the leadership of the LIV.

An extraordinary meeting of members successfully called for a referendum on the banning of fee advertising. (The ballot also called for a decision on the issue of the LIV’s involvement in disciplining lawyers.)

In the referendum, members overwhelmingly voted to ban fee advertising. (They also voted by a similar majority to keep the disciplinary functions.)

The Council prepared a draft rule banning fee advertising which the Chief Justice initially refused to approve. Following amendments, the rule was passed in March 1989, giving the Council the right to approve fee advertising only when linked to general LIV campaigns.

This decision provoked widespread public criticism, including from the Prime Minister, Trade Practices Commission, Law Reform Commission and media who argued it was a restraint of trade and an invasion of consumer rights. Under political pressure, in 1992 the Council lifted the ban, despite continuing opposition from many members.

The recession of the early nineties saw income from the Solicitors’ Guarantee Fund plummet, leading to major financial problems for legal aid in Victoria. The LIV responded by endorsing a pro bono scheme which would see each solicitor provide $500 worth of free legal work to the Legal Aid Commission.

Commonwealth and state inquiries into the legal system were launched, foreshadowing major changes ahead for the LIV.

But no-one could predict that the election of the Kennett government in Victoria in 1992 would be the start of a tumultuous relationship. Major legislative changes were introduced and the LIV soon found itself campaigning against moves to reduce government accountability, challenges to judicial independence and a reduction in the rights of individuals injured by crime or in the workplace to sue for compensation.

One of the first actions by the government was to abolish the Accident Compensation Tribunal, which saw tribunal members, who had been appointed on the same terms and conditions as County Court judges, sacked from their positions.

This unprecedented attack on the independence of the judiciary provoked widespread protest by the legal profession. It was seen by the LIV as having inflicted more damage to the concept of judicial independence than any other event in Australian history.

In late 1993, the then Victorian Attorney-General Jan Wade announced yet another review – this time a review of all the recent reviews relating to the legal profession and access to justice issues.

The government proposed the creation of a Legal Ombudsman; a government-appointed Legal Practice Board which would administer the Solicitors’ Guarantee Fund and the compulsory professional indemnity insurance scheme; and a Legal Profession Tribunal comprising equal numbers of lawyers and non-lawyers to hear allegations of misconduct against solicitors.

Recognised professional associations including the LIV would regulate their own members subject to the Board’s overall control and, in relation to complaints and disciplinary proceedings, supervision by the Legal Ombudsman.

Crucially for the LIV, lawyers would no longer be required to be members of a professional association.

The LIV Council accepted the voluntary membership structure but objected to the balance of the changes, arguing they threatened the independence of the profession.

The LIV was also totally opposed to the government controlling the cost of practising law and any client money.

Mr Cornall left the LIV at the end of 1995 to head Victoria Legal Aid. Former Council member and Wisewoulds partner Ian Dunn stepped into the CEO’s job as the Legal Practice Act 1996 was being enacted.

Significant amendments to the legislation had been achieved, including the ability of the profession to elect three of the seven members of the Legal Practice Board (with the seventh member being a judge or a retired judge), provisions for statutory fees to be fixed by the Board, rather than by government and a reversal of provisions in the Act which would have ended the compulsory professional indemnity scheme, which operated as a monopoly.

Despite some internal pessimism that membership numbers might fall to 40 per cent under a voluntary regime, the membership made clear the value it placed on the LIV with a retention rate of more than 80 per cent.

These figures were all the more remarkable considering the LIV was compelled to devote extensive staff and Council time to what seemed a never-ending series of external regulatory reviews.

The new millennium arrived with a renewed focus on the profession’s culture, in particular where it concerned women in the law. Four of the LIV’s 10 country associations were headed by women in 2000, as well as the LIV itself with Tina Millar at the presidential helm. The first female president was Gail Owen in 1991-92.

In March 2002, John Cain Jnr (son of former LIV president and Victorian premier John Cain) became the seventh head of the LIV after 10 years as managing partner at then Maurice Blackburn Cashman.

Mr Cain quickly embarked on a major review of the LIV’s staff levels and management structure. Membership fees were reduced and services were improved and expanded.

Other changes included the closure of the loss-making Snail ’n Bottle restaurant to make way for the Tony Smith Lecture Theatre.

The use of video-conferencing and teleconferencing facilities meant rural and suburban practitioners could participate in events held at the lecture theatre.

Responding to calls from the state government, mandatory continuing professional development for lawyers began in 2004, ensuring lawyers maintained the highest of standards. It provided networking opportunities and was a major focus for country and suburban law associations.

It also provided a much needed new revenue stream for the LIV.

The following year ushered in another new era in regulation of the legal profession with the introduction of a Legal Services Board and the appointment of a Legal Services Commissioner under the Legal Profession Act 2004.

In 2006 Mr Cain resigned to take up the position of Victorian Government Solicitor and was replaced by Michael Brett Young. Like his predecessor, Mr Brett Young was managing partner at then Maurice Blackburn Cashman before joining the LIV.

The move from closed to open market economies and the adoption of competition policy in the nineties has forced the profession to look at a national structure, yet progress has been slow.

During Mr Brett Young’s term, the LIV has continued to lead the push for harmonisation of the profession across state and territory borders as an increasing amount of legal work is done at national and international levels, with practitioners operating across jurisdictions.

The LIV has also been at the forefront of research on retention of young lawyers in the profession and ways to help lawyers suffering depression and has called for greater support for Indigenous legal professionals.

In 2008 the training of newly admitted lawyers underwent a complete change, with articles of clerkship replaced by supervised workplace traineeships. The LIV is playing a central role in helping firms and trainees adjust to the new environment.

Looking forward, 2009 LIV president Danny Barlow, from Shepparton firm Riordan Legal, believes more can be done to remove barriers to entry into the legal profession so it better represents the diversity of the community it serves.

He said the LIV must continue the work it has begun on helping firms become more adaptable and user-friendly with regard to flexible working hours to stem the flow of lawyers leaving the profession.

Remaining relevant to the next generation of lawyers, resisting any erosion of the profession’s independence and staying afloat amid the waves of regulation imposed by governments are just some of the other challenges facing the LIV in the next half century.

“For a country on a world scale that is relatively young, to have an institution like the LIV that has been around for 150 years speaks highly of the role that the LIV has played over that time,” Mr Barlow said.

“That role has been to make invaluable contributions to the law and the broader community. Overwhelmingly, these contributions have been the result of selfless work by members of this organisation.

“In 2009, the LIV is in as strong a position as at any time in its history to continue making this contribution to the profession and the community.” l

All stories by Sue Peacock. Ms Peacock acknowledges previous LIV publications, especially those authored by Columb Brennan, in the writing of these articles. To find out more about the history of the LIV, go to

Moving with the times

The LIV’s first home was two rooms in New Temple Court which were rented for 65 pounds a year.

In 1883, the LIV was given accommodation at the Law Courts and from 1910 its library was housed in the offices of the honorary secretary, Sir Arthur Robinson.

When Mr Robinson was appointed Solicitor-General in 1918, the LIV rented rooms in Collins House until it was able in 1922 to buy a building at the corner of Little Collins and McKillop Streets.

The three-storey building, known as Law Institute House, was bought and refitted for about 13,000 pounds, raised by a loan and debentures to members.

Until 1962 the LIV operated from the McKillop Street premises.

Law Institute House had a number of tenants in 1947 who could not be moved out under wartime landlord and tenant laws. Even when the LIV gained possession of the second floor in 1955, there was still not enough space for it to operate efficiently.

By the early 1960s, the LIV had expanded so much that new premises were needed and rising property values gave the LIV the funds to move to bigger premises.

In 1961 the LIV bought and renovated a factory at 465 Little Bourke Street, opposite the Supreme Court, but within three years it was too small for a staff which had grown from eight to 20. It acquired the building next door but by the time of the fire in 1978 [See “Arson destroys LIV building”, page 29] it was bursting at the seams.

In September 1978, the LIV made an offer of $1.5 million for its current premises at 470 Bourke Street and set about renovating it using funds from the sale of the Little Bourke Street site.

The top two floors were initially rented out but by 1982 the LIV had taken over the sixth floor for a permanent Council chamber and meeting rooms.

The settlement area on the ground floor was soon used to capacity during the day. Conference rooms which could be booked at short notice, a restaurant and lounge, followed later by a bookshop at the entrance, attracted more members to the building in the 1980s.

In 2003 the Snail ’n Bottle restaurant was closed to make way for a lecture theatre, and 2004 saw two important milestones for the LIV’s Bourke Street headquarters.

The building underwent a major refurbishment and was classified by the National Trust.

The Trust, which announced the building’s classification in June 2004, said the building had historic and architectural significance.

The building, also known as the former London Assurance Building, was designed by Bernard Evans, an architect and former Melbourne mayor. It is the only building left in Melbourne with prominent use of hopper windows, which are sections of openable window framed in aluminium.

Kerr-tain raiser

No LIV event can match the 1976 annual dinner for drama and excitement.

The then Governor-General Sir John Kerr had accepted an invitation the previous year to speak at the dinner. Taking into account his career as a former Law Council of Australia president, member of the Sydney Bar and a popular and progressive Chief Justice of New South Wales, he appeared a good choice.

Everything changed in November 1975 when Sir John famously dismissed the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

A small notice in the June 1976 edition of the Law Institute Journal (LIJ) that the Governor-General would speak at the annual dinner, to be held at Hawthorn’s Leonda restaurant, proved explosive.

Members sent letters of protest and some vowed to picket the dinner to demonstrate their disgust at his actions.

A statement in a subsequent edition of the LIJ said that, although the LIV Council understood and respected the views of those who protested, the engagement would not be cancelled and the Governor-General would be speaking at the dinner.

Although the event was the Governor-General’s second appearance in Melbourne in a fortnight, even the 400 police in attendance, including rooftop marksmen and mounted officers, could not have predicted the level of violence that ensued.

As the 450 guests arrived they were forced to run the gauntlet through 1000 protestors who spat on them, pelted them with eggs and beat car panels.

The protestors, largely a collective of the Victorian ALP Students Association with several other student bodies, hurled marbles and stones at police and, according to The Age newspaper, tossed sulphur bombs that exploded under horses, sending acrid orange smoke billowing across the Yarra.

The constabulary seized a long-bladed knife from one man only moments before Sir John and Lady Kerr’s 6.30pm arrival and several people were trampled by horses or struck by motor vehicles, including two young protestors who suffered broken bones.

A female guest who was spat on told The Sun that she was “horrified at the noise and unruliness . . . they seemed to go mad. People were arriving to a torrent of abuse and their cars were being hit”.

Twelve protestors were arrested but more than 500 of the protestors stayed until 11.30pm and harangued Sir John as he reappeared from Leonda. They pounded his Rolls Royce, which sustained $400 damage, as it drove away.

It was predicted that $20,000 damage had been caused during the evening.

Michael Winneke, the son of Victoria’s Governor, Sir Henry Winneke, said “the crowd was ugly and, if not for the police, I would have been roughed up”.

Then Premier Sir Rupert Hamer later said that the demonstration was “un-Australian”.

Arson destroys LIV building

“Lawyers flee fire”, shouted the front page headline of The Sun on Friday, 23 June 1978.

Twenty-two members and senior staff attending a Thursday evening Council meeting ran for their lives as the fire ripped through the LIV’s building at 465 Little Bourke Street.

Recalling the event, former County Court judge and LIV executive director Gordon Lewis described it as “terrifying”.

“It was an unseasonally warm night for June and so we had the door open and could smell smoke.”

The building was quickly engulfed, leaving those around the meeting table to stumble their way through dense smoke and darkness to the back door.

The fire, which was deliberately lit, destroyed files on some lawyers under investigation and gutted the LIV’s library as it burned through the entire ground floor of the two-storey building. The four offices on the second storey received some fire and smoke and water damage but most records remained intact in their steel filing cabinets.

Much of the LIV’s irreplaceable historical material was in the library, including law reports dating back 200 years.

The morning after the fire, a major security and salvage operation was launched. All salvageable records and equipment were transferred to rented accommodation at 191 Queen Street and staff and volunteers worked all weekend to have the LIV back up and running again on the Monday.

The LIV was inundated with offers of help which enabled the basic items for a new library to be bought.

Arson squad police, having established that the fire was lit deliberately, couldn’t determine whether the motive was malice, a desire to destroy LIV records or pyromania.

The arsonist was never caught.

LIV aid

Legal assistance and access to justice for the poor has long been a high priority for the LIV.

As early as 1949, the LIV Council, in conjunction with the Victorian Bar, offered to set up a similar legal aid scheme to that which operated in South Australia under the Poor Persons Legal Assistance Act 1936. This scheme was run by the legal profession, with a committee that considered applicants and referred them to solicitors.

In Victoria, before 1928 only prisoners or the very poor could apply to the Supreme Court for legal aid. The state government then set up the Public Solicitor’s Office which offered help to applicants who did not own property worth more than 50 pounds.

The legal profession’s offer to set up a legal aid scheme was viewed favourably by the state government but it was not until 1961 that legislation was passed which saw the formation of a Legal Aid Committee. The scheme finally got underway in April 1964 after pressure from the LIV saw the state government and the Bar accept its proposals.

Funding came from the state government but this ceased when surplus revenue from the Solicitors’ Guarantee Fund began to flow in.

Barristers and solicitors agreed to accept work from the committee for 80 per cent of their fee, and the committee met weekly to vet applications for assistance.

The committee handled all legal aid in civil matters until 1969, when new legislation gave it responsibility for minor criminal matters as well. By 1975, the committee employed seven solicitors, including a secretary and 23 office employees.

In 1981, the Victoria Legal Aid Commission took over the functions of the Legal Aid Committee, the Australian Legal Aid Office (which since 1974 had provided legal aid for federal law cases such as family law and bankruptcy) and the Public Solicitor’s Office.

Its role included providing community legal education and law reform.

In 1991 as the recession hit, then LIV president Gail Owen claimed the government had failed to accept its responsibilities for providing legal aid, making it difficult for legal aid work to be done without practitioners incurring losses.

The Legal Aid Commission was replaced by Victoria Legal Aid in 1995, following an extensive study and report into legal aid by LIV member Don Cooper.

LIV executive director Robert Cornall left the LIV at the end of 1995 to head the new legal aid body.

In October 2002, more than 200 legal practitioners attended meetings held outside magistrates’ courts across the state as part of an LIV-led campaign to get state and federal governments to increase legal aid funding.

Speakers painted a bleak future for the legal system if there was not an appropriate injection of legal aid funds. In the 2003 federal and state budgets legal aid lawyers received an injection of funds.

However, by 2008 lawyers were again concerned with the lack of funding for the legal aid system, saying that the criminal justice system in Victoria was teetering on the brink of collapse. In late November, about 200 solicitors attended a public rally on the steps of the County Court to seek improved legal funding. Criminal lawyers threatened to withdraw from legal aid work unless funding was lifted to a fair rate.

A group, including LIV representatives, was formed in December last year to review the rates and ensure continuing access to justice.

In times of crisis

Throughout its history the LIV has sought to support people through a crisis.

In the aftermath of the deadly bushfires that tore through Victoria last month, the LIV was one of many organisations eager to help stricken communities deal with some of the darkest days of the nation’s short life.

At the time of writing the fires, which raged from Beechworth in Victoria’s north to Wilsons Promontory in the state’s south, had become the worst natural disaster in Australian history, having claimed 181 lives, more than 1000 homes and several communities.

As survivors turned their minds to practicalities such as funerals, insurance and replacing documents, lawyers responded by attending bushfire relief centres to dispense free advice to those who had lost loved ones, homes and other property. Regional community legal centre lawyers also offered extensive assistance.

These efforts were supported by the LIV which rushed to set up a free advice line for victims of the fires.

This was followed by a state-wide coordinated effort by the LIV, Victoria Legal Aid, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the Victorian Bar and the Public Interest Law Clearing House to provide free legal advice and other support via a dedicated bushfire legal help line.

LIV president Danny Barlow wrote to all LIV members encouraging them to become involved with the relief effort and said the LIV would produce a package of information for legal practitioners to help with their efforts. The response was overwhelming.

During the December 2006 and January 2007 Victorian Alps fires, the LIV offered assistance to affected members of the community. In 1983 during the Ash Wednesday bushfires local law associations arranged a network of free assistance, including the recruitment of insurance law experts and the setting up of legal aid centres in caravans in burnt out areas. In the Western District, practitioners worked with victims to mount damages claims.

This willingness to assist communities in need was a continuation of pro bono work that had begun early last century.

During World War I, the LIV created a soldiers’ advice bureau to give free legal advice to servicemen and women and their families. Country solicitors helped soldiers in country camps.

Similar services were provided during World War II, with a legal service bureau established at the recruiting depot in the lower Melbourne Town Hall.

The LIV was instrumental in setting up legal aid in Victoria in the early 1960s. A Legal Aid Committee was established by the LIV and the Bar to investigate applications for assistance from those on low incomes.

In 1977, the Council set up a free legal advice and referral service for the public. By 1981, it was handling an average of 100 calls a day.

In 2000, the LIV set up its own legal assistance scheme. Referrals were received from courts and tribunals, legal aid and community centre lawyers, other lawyers and the public, both in Victoria and interstate. The scheme is administered by the Public Interest Law Clearing House and overseen by the LIV Access to Justice Committee.

In 2007-08 the scheme received more than 715 inquiries for pro bono assistance in diverse areas of law including debt recovery, administrative law matters and bankruptcy.

Welcome to 2009

Lawyers across Victoria gathered within halls of religion, power and justice for a range of events to mark the opening of the 2009 legal year on 2 February.

Religious services were held in Melbourne at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation and the Buddhist Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery.

LIV president Danny Barlow told a secular community ceremony held at Parliament House, a symbol of the strength of democracy, that he hoped the coming year would see justice equally accessible to all citizens.

The theme of speakers at the second annual International Commission of Jurists ceremony, including World Vision CEO Tim Costello, was that fairness and community-mindedness were the golden threads holding together the rule of law.

A regional service, attended by LIV CEO Mike Brett Young, was held in the Geelong Supreme Court building.

Mr Barlow said that while the LIV’s primary role was member support, it also had an obligation to advocate justice for all.

“We do that by providing legal information to the community and advocating for legal reform. The LIV has a long and proud history and [the Parliament, LIV and the courts] have shared a common journey over the past 150 years,” he said.

On 3 February, the Victoria Law Foundation hosted the annual Legal Laneway Breakfast in Hardware Lane.

Good men & women all

The LIV is founded on the voluntary work of its members. Over its 150 year history countless men and women have given time and expertise to LIV Council and various committees. All have been bound by an abiding principle – to ensure the constant improvement of the profession and the services it offers to the community.

Council members have come from large multinational firms to sole practices and community legal centres; Melbourne city, suburbs and regions; and various stages of their careers. The following is a list of the LIV presidents who have led the organisation since its inception.

1859-60 David Ogilvy

1860-62 The Hon JB Bennett

1862 KE Brodribb

1862-64 T Hamlet Taylor

1864-65 E Klingender

1866-67 Alfred Brooks Malleson

1868-70 Robert S Anderson

1870-72 Alfred Brooks Malleson

1872 John Macgregor

1873 Alfred Brooks Malleson

1874 R Ramsay

1875 Frederick G Moule

1875-76 T Hamlet Taylor

1877-78 Robert S Anderson

1878-80 Arthur Palmer Blake

1880-81 Sir John Mark Davies

1881-82 Frederick G Moule

1882-83 R Ramsay

1883-84 Robert S Anderson

1884-85 W Lynch

1885-86 Sir John Mark Davies

1886-87 Sir Frank Madden

1887-88 JG Duffy (may be Duffett)

1888-89 RW Dickson

1889-90 William Riggall

1890-91 WH Croker

1891-92 Henry Jennings

1892-93 AD Michie

1893-94 Edward Augustus Atkyns

1894-95 W Brown

1895-96 Frederick Arthur Moule

1896-97 Samuel Gabriel Pirani

1897-98 Thomas Plumley Derham

1898-99 S Leon

1899-1900 Sir Samuel Gillott

1900-01 David Abbott

1901-02 James Maitland Campbell

1902-03 William John Fookes

1903-04 Montague Cohen

1904-05 Herbert Turner

1905-06 James Hall

1906-07 MH Davies

1907-08 William Riggall

1908-09 R Beckett

1909-10 Henry Tilley Washington Stillman

1910-11 Arthur Morrice Williams

1911-12 Edward Charles Rigby

1912-13 Joseph Fitzgerald

1913-14 Lewis Henry Braham

1914-15 Charles Aldred Dale

1915-16 John William Robertson

1916-17 Henry Upton

1917-18 Thomas Cauvine Alston

1918-19 James Volum McEacharn

1919-20 Henry Walter Courtney Simpson

1920-21 Sir Arthur Robinson

1921-22 Charles Hugh Lucas

1922-23 Robert Leslie White

1923-24 John Beacham Kiddle

1924-25 Raynes Waite Stanley Dickson

1925-26 Hubert Ralph Hamer

1926-27 Charles Hugh Lucas

1927-28 Harold Edward Elliott

1928-29 William Slater

1929-30 Leonard Roberts Stillman

1930-31 John Patrick Rhoden

1931-32 Edward James Hamilton

1932-33 George Frederich Pitcher

1933-34 George O’Dell Crowther

1934-35 Henry Newton Spencer Wollaston

1935-36 Francis Plumley Derham

1936-37 Wallace John Ball

1937-38 James Burt Aitken

1938-39 Francis Roche Gubbins

1939-40 Alan John Moir

1940-41 William Slater

1941-42 Ian McEacharn

1942-43 Edmund Leolin Piesse

1943-44 Edmund Leolin Piesse

1944-45 Ronald Fox Hall

1945-46 Roy James McArthur

1946-47 Robert Nelson Vroland

1947-48 Duncan Cornelius Mackinnon

1948-49 John Paterson Adam

1949-50 Francis Plumley Derham

1950-51 Arthur Dean Pearce

1951-52 Arthur William Warrington Rogers

1952-53 John Miller Rodd

1953-54 Thomas Molomby

1954-55 Thomas Alfred Pearce

1955-57 Phillip Moerlin Fox

1957-58 James McConnell Hambleton

1958-59 John Stanley Elder

1959-60 John Ralph Burt

1960-61 Geoffrey Chaverton Wyatt

1961-62 Hulbert Andrew Greening

1962-63 Arthur William Warrington Rogers

1963-64 Peter Campbell Trumble

1964-65 David Stuart Murray

1965-66 Sir Edward Cohen

1966-67 John Wallace Ball

1967-68 Hartwell George Lander

1968-69 Thomas Molomby

1969-70 Neville Leonard Colbran

1970-71 Robert Winston Gaylard

1971-72 Leigh Masel

1972-73 John Alfred Cain

1973-74 Alan Robert Lobban

1974-75 John Albert Dawson

1975-76 John Carlisle Richards

1976-77 Brian Patrick McCarthy

1977-78 David Anthony Talbot Jones

1978-79 Bernard George Teague

1979-80 Rowland John Ball

1980-81 Anthony Felstead Smith

1981-82 Matthew John Walsh

1982-83 Alan Kingsley Cornell

1983-84 Jack Henry Harty

1984-85 David Arthur Miles

1985-86 Frank Watson Paton

1986-87 Bernard George Teague

1987-88 Ian Maxwell Dunn

1988-89 Jonathan Clifton Mott

1989-90 John Stanley Kelly

1990-91 Peter Salvatore Gandolfo

1991-92 Gail Ann Owen

1992-93 Gordon Langford Hughes

1993-94 David John Denby

1994-95 Peter Roderick Leslie Smith

1995-96 Mark Geoffrey Woods

1996-97 James Henry York Syme

1997-98 Geoffrey Provis

1998-99 Robert Andrew Scott

1999-2000 Michael Phillip Gawler

2000-01 Concettina (Tina) Millar

2001-02 John Matthew James Corcoran

2002 David John Faram

2003 William Patrick O’Shea

2004 Christopher Antony Dale

2005 Victoria Strong

2006 Catherine Gale

2007 Geoffrey Provis

2008 Tony Burke

2009 Danny Barlow



On 22 March, 26 solicitors meet and found the LIV

First offices located at New Temple Court, Collins Street, Melbourne


David Ogilvy is elected as the first LIV president

First office bearers include a president, two vice-presidents, an honorary treasurer, an honorary secretary and seven committee members


The LIV relocates to the Law Courts


Legal Profession Practice Act 1891 introduced


Sir Arthur Robinson appointed honorary secretary (CEO)


Flos Greig becomes the first woman to be admitted to practice in Victoria


The Legal Benevolent Fund set up to help members of the LIV and their families


Soldiers’ advice bureau set up with free legal advice given to servicemen and their families

Australian Red Cross Information Bureau staffed by LIV members


Law Institute Act establishes a statutory committee of six practitioners, appointed by the Chief Justice, to handle complaints of misconduct

Presidents of the Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong law associations become members of the LIV Council


Sir Arthur Robinson retires


Jack Campbell appointed as paid secretary (CEO)


Law Institute House opens, corner of Little Collins and McKillop Streets


Law Institute Journal (LIJ) first published


Legal Women’s Association established


The Law Council of Australia is formed by the state law societies


A Legal Service Bureau was established at the recruiting depot in the Lower Melbourne Town Hall to assist WWII enlisting soldiers


The Legal Profession Practice Act 1946 is introduced, giving the LIV authority to regulate the conduct of all Victorian solicitors

The LIV supports the introduction of church services to mark the opening of the legal year


LIV offices house a law library and serve as a meeting place for lawyers

The LIV has nine sub-committees

Jack Campbell retires as paid secretary (CEO)

Arthur Heymanson appointed as paid secretary (CEO)


Practising certificates introduced

Solicitors’ Guarantee Fund set up

The LIV has about 1000 members, including about 300 in country areas


The LIV sets up a public relations committee


The LIV celebrates its centenary as membership reaches 1472. A ball, a dinner and a state banquet mark the occasion

The LIV Council has 27 members and grows to 35


The LIV relocates to 465 Little Bourke Street

The LIV and Victorian Bar establish the first Legal Aid Committee in Victoria. Funding comes from surplus of the Solicitors’ Guarantee Fund


The LIV is the first law society to lobby the federal government for no-fault divorce to be introduced


Arthur Heymanson retires after 28 years as the LIV’s paid secretary (CEO). About 360 people attend a farewell dinner in his honour

Gordon Lewis is appointed secretary and executive director (CEO)


A record number of Council meetings – 22 – leads to the first weekend conference in
March 1976


Section membership begins which increases membership participation in professional matters and LIV activities


A fire on 22 June destroys the LIV building at 465 Little Bourke Street. Council members and staff meeting that night escape the fire without loss of life. Arson was the cause of the fire but no one was ever charged

Council meetings are opened to all members and direct representation is given to the five suburban law associations with the election of three suburban members


The LIV moves to its current location at 470 Bourke Street

Young Lawyers’ Section formed

An LIV committee concludes the court system is “outmoded, complicated, slow and inefficient”


Gordon Lewis begins a weekly legal talk-back segment on ABC radio


Arthur Heymanson dies


President Alan Cornell negotiates an agreement with Westpac for 7.5 per cent interest to be paid to the LIV on all trust money not already deposited with the LIV. The money was used for matters including legal aid


Restrictions on advertising removed


Australia’s first self-insured personal indemnity scheme for lawyers comes into operation

LIV members and staff organise the Australian Legal Convention. It is the biggest law conference held in Australia and attracts considerable press, radio and TV coverage


Gordon Lewis retires

A marketing and public affairs department is set up and begins providing regular news features on the law to metropolitan, suburban and country newspapers


Robert Cornall appointed secretary and executive director (CEO)

Solicitors are finally allowed to incorporate their practices after more than a decade of debate on the issue, but non-lawyers are barred from ownership

Management consultants review the activities of the LIV and recommend communication with members be improved


The LIV’s specialist accreditation program – the first in Australia – begins with 61 solicitors accredited as specialists in family law

The Legal Profession Practice (Amendment) Act 1989 sees a three-person Solicitors’ Board replace Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunals


Gordon Lewis appointed a County Court judge


Gail Owen becomes the first female president of the LIV


Council supports application of competition policy to all solicitors

The LIV is the first law society to accredit specialists in mediation


Robert Cornall resigns as secretary and executive director (CEO)


Ian Dunn appointed as CEO

The Legal Practice Act 1996 replaces the Legal Profession Practice Act 1946

Legal Ombudsman established


The LIV Council is reduced to 18 members


National practising certificates introduced


LIV membership becomes voluntary


Ian Dunn resigns as CEO

John Cain Jnr appointed as CEO

The format and content of the LIJ is completely redesigned, improved and expanded


The LIV and the Law Council of Australia host the 13th Commonwealth Law Conference in Melbourne


Mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) scheme introduced

LIV membership fees cut from the top rate of $600 to $315

Bourke Street premises undergo major renovations


The Legal Practice Act 1996 is replaced by the Legal Profession Act 2004

The Legal Services Board and Legal Services Commissioner replace the Legal Practice Board and the Legal Ombudsman for matters relating to the regulation of the profession

Victoria Marles takes up her position as CEO, Legal Services Board and Legal Services Commissioner

The LIV organises a legal services delegation to China


John Cain resigns as CEO

Michael Brett Young appointed as CEO


Supervised workplace training replaces the articled clerk system


The LIV celebrates its sesquicentenary

Honouring the LIV

Congratulations to the LIV on its 150th anniversary.

The Supreme Court of Victoria and the LIV form an important part of legal history in this state. The Court celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2002.

In recent years we have seen appointments to the Supreme Court from the solicitors’ branch of the profession – first, recently retired Justice Bernard Teague and, more recently, Justice Emilios Kyrou. Then there have been the masters, now associate justices, who have predominantly been drawn from the same sector of the profession.

The LIV has played an important role in the debate on significant legal issues. It has focused on the improvement of the administration of justice in this state.

In particular, over the years, the LIV has publicly supported the independence of the judiciary and defended the courts when appropriate. When conventions have limited public comment by judges, LIV presidents have acted admirably in adopting a strong public stance on important issues affecting the administration of justice, including contentious sentencing issues.

The presidents have provided balanced responses to unfair and ill-informed public attacks on the courts and individual judges who have been unable to respond themselves.

The LIV has played a pivotal role in legislative reform including publicly advocating reforms to particular laws.

The legal profession in Victoria has been able to achieve its very high reputation and standing largely due to the role of the LIV.

On behalf of the Supreme Court, I wish the LIV well in its significant 150th anniversary.

Victorian Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren

The LIV is a dynamic and innovative leader of the legal profession.

It supports and informs members, raises the profile and standing of the legal profession, especially through its encouragement of pro bono work, and advocates justice for all.

The LIV’s engagement with government is proactive and influential. Throughout its life, it has been a powerful force of opinion for law reform, especially on access to justice and the national legal profession.

In promoting access to justice for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society, the LIV has been, and continues to be, a passionate advocate for legal aid.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland

Every profession needs representation – every trade, a voice. The law, however, is a vocation – an office of privilege accompanied by great responsibility, which is why for 150 years the LIV has been so important to the Victorian community.

The LIV’s role, then, is a dual one – to advocate for the interests of its members, as well as for the wider interests of the law and those it is designed to serve. Over the years the LIV has found that balance – agitating for better conditions for those among its ranks but also, and more importantly, for an effective and fair justice system.

It has been a privilege working with the LIV for nearly a decade and I wish it a long and illustrious future.

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls

The LIV has been one of Victoria’s leading institutions since it was founded in 1859. As well as the services and representation it has provided for members, the LIV has performed a vital public role in upholding fundamental principles such as the rule of law, the accessibility of justice, and the independence of the judiciary and legal profession – a role as much needed now as it ever has been.

The LIV has also made a valuable contribution to Victorian law and public administration through its expert input on a wide range of legislative proposals. I and other MPs have greatly appreciated the constructive and helpful advice of the LIV over many years. The LIV’s renewed engagement in this area in recent years has been a welcome initiative.

My warmest congratulations to all who have contributed to the LIV’s outstanding 150 years of service to the legal profession and the community.

Victorian shadow Attorney-General Robert Clark

I congratulate the LIV on 150 years service to the people of Victoria, in particular the legal practitioners who interact with the Court and represent parties to civil cases and accused persons in criminal matters.

The role of the LIV has been significant in ensuring that the legal profession acts with propriety and maintains a high standard of conduct on the part of the people it serves.

The LIV has played a significant role in assisting the Court to streamline processes, procedures and rules. The LIV’s involvement through its members in the County Court User Groups, and through direct consultation, has assisted the Court in achieving its responsibility of service to the community.

The legal profession can at times be held open to criticism by the community and general public; the LIV’s promotion of ethical and professional standards among law practitioners contributes significantly to the administration of justice in the state of Victoria and the public perception of the profession.

The LIV in recent years has aligned its practices with those of other states in order to provide a more uniform approach for the benefit of the broader Australian community.

County Court Chief Judge Michael Rozenes

The administration of justice in any society is strongly enhanced by competent professional independent bodies representing an independent legal profession.

The contribution and professionalism of the LIV has, over the decades, been an important contributor to the justice system in this state.

The capacity of the LIV to not only represent its members, but to be in a position to comment on law reform and issues of concern to the community in the public domain, is critical.

The independent voice of a well-led professional legal organisation can play a major part in public education and can influence, in an appropriate way, decision-makers and government.

From a court point of view, it is vital for the efficient administration of justice, particularly in a statewide high volume court like the Magistrates’ Court, to have an effective relationship with the local and statewide legal profession.

The LIV has for many years contributed actively to the running of the Court and its leaders have maintained an effective communication with the leaders of this and other courts.

I value the relationship I and the Court have with the president of the LIV and its CEO – and with members of its committees, for example the Criminal Law Committee.

Court management is significantly enhanced by an effective, open and frank discussion between courts and the legal profession.

Chief Magistrate Ian Gray

The LIV can look back with pride to the contributions it has made to the growth of our legal system, and therefore our democratic society.

VCAT president Justice Kevin Bell

On behalf of the Law Council of Australia (LCA), I would like to congratulate the LIV on the occasion of its 150th anniversary.

As a former LIV president, it gives me particular pleasure to pay tribute to the LIV on this very significant milestone.

For a century-and-a-half, the LIV has represented with distinction the Victorian legal profession.

On 22 March 1859, after five unsuccessful attempts, a small group of solicitors met and founded the Law Institute of Victoria. Back then, under the leadership of its first president, David Ogilvy, the LIV represented just 26 lawyers.

Today, the LIV has more than 14,000 members and is regarded by business, government and the general public as the leader of the legal profession in Victoria.

Since the LCA was formed in 1933, it has enjoyed a strong and productive relationship with the LIV.

Turning 150 is certainly an achievement to be proud of and the LCA [which turned 75 last year] sincerely wishes the LIV all the best for its celebrations in 2009.

LCA president John Corcoran

Did you know

Before the LIV there was a Bread and Cheese Club established in Melbourne by 12 solicitors (10 pictured) for no purpose beyond “eating a good lunch in congenial company”. According to a 1927 article in The Argus, the club was formed in about 1857 by solicitors who were bound together by common interests in shooting, cricket and fishing. The report claims it dissolved in 1859, when the remaining members joined the newly formed LIV.

In 1903, the LIV passed a motion stating Australia was not yet ready for a federal High Court.

The Legal Aid Act 1961 was drafted by LIV secretary Arthur Heymanson and accepted, almost without amendment, by the parliamentary draftsman of the day.

The LIV applied to the Earl Marshal of England for a grant of armorial bearings and on 20 June 1961 the coat of arms was granted to the LIV. It bears the seals of the three Kings of Arms: Norroy and Ulster, Garter and Clarenceux.

During both World Wars, the LIV was involved in setting up a soldiers’ advice bureau to give free legal advice to servicemen and women and their families.

Suburban law associations did not appear until the late sixties/early seventies when the number of members practising in the suburbs was nearly 1000.

Only four women have served as LIV president: Gail Owen (1991-92), Concettina (Tina) Millar (2000-01), Victoria Strong (2005) and Catherine Gale (2006).

Mr GH Wise was the founding president of the Gippsland Law Association, set up in 1930. He held that office until 1948 when he retired after a remarkable 74 years of practice.

Until 1986, only barristers had been appointed as Supreme and County Court judges although Sir John Davies, a solicitor, declined an invitation to join the Supreme Court in 1906.

The LIV formed the Legal Aid Committee in conjunction with the Victorian Bar in 1961. Originally the scheme was funded by a state government grant, with revenue coming from the surplus of the Solicitors’ Guarantee Fund.

The Victorian legal profession gathered at the LIV in an emotionally-charged morning on 13 February 2008 to commemorate the federal government’s apology for past injustices to Aborigines.


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