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From the CEO: Collaborate and advocate

Cite as: May 2015 89 (5) LIJ, p.06

Working together gets results

By Nerida Wallace - LIV CEO

Last month the managing partners of the largest law firms in Australia met in Sydney to discuss how best to ensure that all lawyers get the same opportunities and to review the progress made since the Law Council of Australia’s National Attrition and Re-engagement Study (NARS) called for change when it was released in March last year.

The consensus is that a clear business case exists to include women and other groups and to deal with unconscious bias in whatever form. As one attendee said – being cut off from large sectors of the available talent pool is no longer an option in a far more competitive world. (See “Taking the virtual way out” p22, and “Big picture thinking” p28). I will report further as this exciting project unfolds with a roundtable this month to refine the necessary tools for a true meritocracy.

This project is an outstanding example of how the legal profession cooperates. These firms have been finding safe places to discuss shared problems with competitors. It has been done in a spirit of cooperation and commitment to improve the legal sector and the practice of law. The result will be higher quality legal services to clients and an improving reputation for Australian lawyers in Asian markets.

Other examples of collaboration and cooperation across the legal sector are emerging. The federal Attorney-General George Brandis only recently sought our help in supporting funding for our court system. (Think about contacting your local federal member on this).
Another example of collaboration is the LIV’s consultation with the Department of Justice and Regulation, Victoria Legal Aid and LIV member firms seeking better ways to spend scarce legal dollars for both criminal law and family law cases.

In an adjacent area, this same group is working with Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen on the Magistrates’ Court’s Family Violence Taskforce. Together with Victoria Police, community legal centres and women’s groups, it is seeking practical ways of dealing with the escalating number of family violence cases, which have almost doubled in the past four years. Many of you will be seeing the exacerbating influence of the drug ice in these matters. While the LIV welcomes and will work to support the state government’s Royal Commission into Family Violence, this collaborative taskforce is positioned to achieve many small short-term objectives in different parts of the system. Even so, more legal aid will be needed while its work continues.

In yet another collaboration, the Victorian Bar and the LIV will be cooperating to present a second joint conference on litigation at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre following the success of last year’s conference. On another front, the LIV is in discussions with accounting body CPA Australia on how best to support our respective members. Each of these interactions drives new ideas and new ways of doing things.

This issue of the LIJ provides an array of new ideas, new tools and new approaches to everyday practice. I encourage you to look for new contacts and new synergies. The LIV has appointed a new liaison manager dedicated to our suburban and regional law associations. In the past few months, the LIV has been in contact with other associations with members working in the law. Already new opportunities for member benefits and information are opening up. Many of you will have attended the LIV CPD intensive in March. I asked you to make yourselves known to each other – these connections lead to long friendships in the law and peer support both professionally and personally.

Last month I mentioned the Legal Profession Uniform Law (LPUL) due to start on 1 July 2015. I urge you to attend your relevant local association events, come to events at the LIV or go to the LIV website before that date. LPUL will bring new compliance obligations which you will need to know about. Government lawyers will need practising certificates (unless exempted). Legal firms undertaking lower costs transactions will have the option to use a prescribed disclosure form. The LIV is working to educate you and has negotiated on a range of issues, including the status of partnerships of incorporated legal practices. If amendments to the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (Vic) go through as advocated for by the LIV, your firm will be able to continue as a law practice on 1 July 2015. The LIV is seeking further clarification on how new audit powers are to be exercised by the Legal Services Board and Commissioner. Check the LIV website and emails for more information on this. The same applies for the new e-conveyancing arrangements.

As always, you are welcome to contact me at any time.

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