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LIV update

Every Issue

Cite as: March 2011 85(3) LIJ, p.87

LIV COUNCIL

The LIV Council meets each month to debate and decide issues of importance to members, the overall legal profession and the community.

Topics discussed at the 27 January meeting included proposed changes to the Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) family law eligibility guidelines, priorities for lobbying new state Attorney-General Robert Clark and the LIV return to work project. Newly elected Councillor Fiona Knowles gave her maiden speech.

VLA family law eligibility guidelines

Council heard that LIV Section representatives had been briefed on VLA’s proposals to amend its guidelines to align with recently reviewed commonwealth priorities for funding and to prioritise children’s needs in family law aid matters.

Council was told there would be no increase in resourcing for family law legal aid matters – current funding would be re-prioritised to “retire structural debt” – and the LIV would establish a taskforce to review the guidelines. (See also the president’s column on page 4 of this edition.)

New state Attorney-General

Councillors were asked to prioritise the justice issues outlined in the LIV Advocating Justice For All platform (see November 2010 LIJ, pp20–32) to identify contentious and other issues and form a list of priorities with which the LIV can lobby new state Attorney-General Robert Clark.

LIV return to work project

Council noted the development of a return to work project in collaboration with Victorian Women Lawyers, the Victorian Bar and the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association.

The scope of the project is to assist practitioners to transition back into the profession by providing them with the necessary skills and training, particularly through a series of educational courses that will focus on updating practitioners’ knowledge on areas of substantive law and core soft skills.

Edited version of Councillor Fiona Knowles’ maiden speech

After spending the past three years as the chair of the Workplace Relations Section of the LIV, I feel very privileged and excited in having been appointed to the LIV Council.

I studied a combined arts/law degree with honours at the University of Melbourne. For my honours degree in arts, I completed a major in philosophy and minor in English. I loved philosophy and often feel that one of the best parts of being a lawyer is being able to engage in debate, argument and creative thought, as I did when studying philosophy.

I did articles at a large commercial law firm. After a few years there, I moved to Holding Redlich’s employment & industrial relations department, where I remain.

I am certainly glad I made the decision to practise law. At first I thought that I would just complete my articles and not practise law, at least not immediately. However, I took to legal practice like a duck to water and have continued with it.

I have also obtained my accredited specialisation in workplace relations and sit on the LIV’s advisory committee for accredited specialisation in workplace relations. I have also been an active member of Victorian Women Lawyers, sitting on its work practices committee. Currently, that committee has engaged researchers to examine the reasons behind the attrition of lawyers from the profession.

My main reason for running for Council was to continue involvement in issues about which I am very passionate.

These include anti-discrimination and access to – and the practice of – law, including for women, people with a disability and all of us who juggle the many facets of our lives – whether it be our families, caring for the ill or elderly, the importance of having a life outside work and the impact of these issues on our health. I want to find out more about and then tackle the reasons behind attrition from the profession.

I believe that these issues and our ability to deal with them are all inter-related, which, in turn, impacts on the role and image of lawyers in the community.

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