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Cite as: (2003) 77(10) LIJ, p.8

We welcome letters to the editor of no more than 400 words.

Email: letters@liv.asn.au. Fax: 9607 9451.
Mail: LIJ, Managing Editor Mick Paskos, GPO Box 263C, Melbourne 3001; or DX 350 Melbourne.
We reserve the right to edit letters and to republish them in their original or edited form on the Internet or in other media. Letters must include a phone number and address for authentication.

Raising the bar on briefing

Congratulations on your ongoing coverage of briefing practices and the impact on women barristers.

It is most gratifying to see the issue reported at a national level, in particular the discussion between commonwealth ministers and the Victorian and New South Wales Bars on the best way forward.

In considering the situation, I remind governments that the Victorian Bar and Women Barristers Association have been working for at least five years to remedy the situation, hoping that goodwill and encouragement will produce a change in attitude and a change in briefing practices.

Alas, this is not the case and, as your articles have reported, the situation has worsened in real terms. The data collected by the Bar indicates that changes have not and are unlikely to come about by sitting back and waiting for female law graduates to make their way through the ranks of the Bar.

Our governments have an important leadership role to play. They are universally committed to the principles of equal opportunity, they require the delivery of legal services at the highest level and they understand the necessity to increase the pool of talented and experienced women at the bar and in the judiciary.

The commonwealth Attorney-General is uniquely placed to deliver the policy initiatives to effect real change. I urge him to examine the briefing proposals advanced by the Bars with an open mind and to take this opportunity for inspired leadership.

Fiona Mcleod
Convenor, Women Barristers Association

For providing the letter of the month Fiona McLeod has won a $50 book voucher from the Law Institute bookshop, redeemable for the next 12 months.

Providing legal advice legally

While it is an honour to have been recognised as a Pro Bono Service Award winner in your article “CLCs celebrate 30 years” in the August 2003 issue of the LIJ, (page 25) I fear that I have been over-recognised. The list accompanying the article incorrectly shows me as having worked at the Flemington/Kensington Community Legal Service. The error appears to have occurred because that Service was kind enough to nominate me for the award.

With respect to the awards themselves, while I suspect that there were a number of unfortunate omissions, there are two that deserve special mention. Brian Wright was already a Monday night fixture at Fitzroy Legal Service (FLS) when I began volunteering there in 1982.

Peter Lithgow also deserves a special mention because he has worked continuously as a volunteer at SouthPort since we started in 1988. In addition to providing advice, Peter has been our chief recruiter of volunteers.

And although I am not sure that she meets the award criteria (I had been told that 15 years or more of service was required, although the article casts doubt on this) I would also like to mention the volunteer efforts of my wife Patsy Baudinet. Patsy worked variously as a volunteer at FLS and at SouthPort for 13 years until she was forced to stop for health reasons. In a sad testament to the state of our social lives at the time, Patsy, Bill Jeppesen and I put in a cumulative 30 years worth of Friday nights at FLS in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Could I also suggest that the LIJ provide whatever inducements are necessary to get Amanda George to submit for publication the excellent speech she delivered at the 30th CLC Anniversary Dinner.

Although words on paper will not recapture the fire-in-the-belly elements of the speech that made it so special, they will provide a more permanent record of some of the more notable achievements of community legal centres to date.

Finally, I should mention that I have possibly been breaking the law since 1996 by providing legal advice at a community legal centre. This situation arises because I do not need a practising certificate to earn my daily bread. There is a view that by providing legal advice I am engaging in legal practice, something I cannot by law do without a practising certificate. While I am of the view that engaging in legal practice involves a commercial element that is not present in my situation, it would be highly desirable for the uncertainty that exists for people such as me to be explicitly resolved when the Legal Practice Act is next amended.

I note that my circumstances are by no means unique – at SouthPort, for instance, 25 per cent of our volunteers are in the same situation at present. It is also something that needs to be kept in mind when continuing legal education (CLE) requirements are introduced. Community legal centres may well be crippled unless a reasonably expansive view is taken of what constitutes CLE.

Ben Piper

No guarantees

As the father of a law student, I was interested to read Mr Cain’s article (“Desperately seeking articles, July 2003 LIJ, page 6) on the growing mismatch between the number of law graduates and the availability of articles of clerkship.

He asserts that “as a profession we must ensure that all those completing a law degree and seeking admission are in a position to do so”.

I would ask why? Where do we draw the line? When there are twice as many law graduates as there are now? When there are three times as many? If universities see fit to enrol more students than can be accommodated in articles of clerkship or practical training courses, is it not just as logical to reduce the number of places at law schools?

As long as students know that there are fewer opportunities to be admitted to practice than there are places at law school, they can take their chances. It is not up to the profession or to anyone else to give them any guarantees.

John Patterson
Barrister and solicitor

Community spirit

I was recently invited to present at the Australasian Professional Services Marketing Association (APSMA) Annual Conference dinner. The guests were professional services marketers and their colleagues from law and accountancy firms across Australia and New Zealand.

As executive officer of goodcompany, an organisation that facilitates volunteering among young professionals, I was to address the group about the merits of volunteering and the need for professional services marketers to give back to their community.

The APSMA board agreed to a gold coin auction where senior marketers would be “sold off” to goodcompany to work on community projects. Their peers would bid for them in $1 and $2 lots. The gold coins were a gimmick to get people in the spirit of auctioning; it was never set up to be a fundraiser.

What proceeded was like something from The Block! Five senior professionals from KPMG, Middletons, PWC, Ernst & Young and Mahlab were put up for auction. Their peers bid more than $4000 for the talent pool and donated this brains trust back to community.

As an astounded observer and lucky recipient I wanted to write to the LIJ to congratulate the legal industry and its marketing professionals for once again showing true generosity and community spirit.

Thank you to all of the participating firms and APSMA for setting such an inspiring philanthropic example and forging even stronger links with the community sector. Your contribution will be widely felt.

Emma Williams
Goodcompany Executive Officer

Requisitions on title

I received a set of requisitions recently that I got bored with answering. They numbered around 50 and must have been compiled either by an articled clerk or a conveyancing company. After dictating at length, I decided to recap and re-think some of the more formal answers. Okay it was late at night and I admit I was tired.

Two stand out of which I am proud.

Q. Is the property subject to infestation from animals, rodents, termites, insects or otherwise which constitute either a degradation to the structure erected on the property or its contents or a health hazard to the occupants thereof or in anyway impinge on same?

A. Apart from the stray cat or dog or two, and in addition thereto mosquitos in summer, not to the vendor’s knowledge.

Q. Are there any pipes or conduits or cables or the like located on the property laid outside registered easements? If so, the purchaser reserves the right to require the vendor to remove same.

A. At the purchaser’s request the vendor will remove the toilet and the phone connected therein.

Well at least my vendor client had a sense of humour and he signed off on the answers!

So what constitutes requisitions on title?

In my view it is the substantiation of the ability to pass both the equitable and legal title without a breach of either. If the vendor is registered or capable of being registered then the vendor has legal title. If the vendor has leased the property then it must be disclosed and the proper evidence of the equitable interest demonstrated. Plus, the vendor has to state any non-compliance with any covenant, easement or a s173 or the like.

The vendor is obliged to disclose notices from bodies which impinge on title proprietorship, e.g. a compulsory acquisition notice.

Those may be s32 issues.

The last rider I add is adverse possession.

In the most simplistic terms I suggest that there are only four legitimate requisitions on title:

  1. is the vendor registered or entitled to be registered of the land?;
  2. has the vendor granted any equitable estate in the land?;
  3. has the vendor complied with all registered restrictions?; and
  4. is there any claim or any potential claim on any interest in the land?

For those who want to be scholarly, I suggest you read Voumard and then send a letter to the editor.

Some may recall an excellent article written in the Property Law Bulletin a few years ago analysing all the various requisitions plus another article on all the erroneous special conditions we insert in contracts. I think both should be republished.

Tim Templer
Property law specialist

Correction

In the article titled “Senate investigates legal aid funding”, (August 2003 LIJ, page 19) there was a paragraph that said unspent Commonwealth funding must be returned to the Commonwealth at the end of the year. Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) has since pointed out that this is not the case. In fact, unspent Commonwealth funding forms part of the VLA’s financial reserves and can only be used by VLA in accordance with the Commonwealth-VLA Funding Agreement. The LIJ apologises for this error.

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