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From the president: Righting wrongs

Every Issue

Cite as: October 2009 83(10) LIJ, p4

The LIV is developing a number of initiatives to address societal ills - namely, Indigenous inequality and sustainability.

There are a lot of things I like about the legal profession.

I like that the role of the lawyer more often than not involves helping people who need assistance of one form or another. I like that we have a culture of assisting our fellow practitioners in their development when the opportunity arises.

One thing I don't like about our profession, however, is that at this moment in time we do not have the representation of Indigenous lawyers one would expect based on relative population numbers.

The LIV this year has continued to pursue initiatives designed to try to right this wrong.

One initiative, which was launched last month, was the introduction of a joint LIV/Victorian Bar Indigenous barrister briefing policy. A copy of the policy is inserted with this LIJ and can also be downloaded from www.liv.asn.au/media/pdf/2009LIVVICBarIndigenousBriefingPolicy.pdf.

At present there are very few Indigenous barristers at the Victorian Bar, although it is noteworthy that the current Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson, is a former member.

It is my view that the current low numbers of Indigenous barristers is unlikely to change, and could indeed get worse, unless the current Bar members are given every opportunity to succeed and become role models for future generations of Indigenous barristers.

The briefing policy, which was prepared in consultation with the respective Indigenous Issues Committees of the LIV and the Bar, does not seek to mandate particular conduct on the part of those involved in the briefing process.

Rather, what it does is encourage those people to consider when choosing a barrister any Indigenous barristers who may be suited on their merits to the brief.

The policy is not about preferential treatment - rather, it is about "a fair go".

Its main objectives are to promote equal opportunity for Indigenous barristers, offer the choice for legal practitioners and their clients to brief Indigenous barristers and increase awareness of the presence of Indigenous barristers. [For more about the briefing policy, see "Redressing inequality, one brief at a time" on page 18 of this edition of the LIJ.]

Of course, this is only one of the things we've been working on.

Keep your eyes open for a publication to be distributed to Victorian solicitors setting out various ways that they can become involved at a practical level in helping to increase the number of Indigenous solicitors in our profession.

It is true that we already have a number of firms doing great work in this area, such as implementing Reconciliation Action Plans, for example.

Progress is being made, but there is more work to be done and the LIV is committed to helping in any way it can to ensure our profession is properly representative of the original Australians.

The LIV has a fantastic Young Lawyers' Section, which is constantly coming up with new ideas about how the legal profession can continue to evolve.

One recent initiative has been to produce a publication to assist solicitors in "greening" their practice.

The guide is a straightforward, practical document with many useful tips on steps to keep your firm in line with best environmental practice.

Points range from dealing with waste, energy efficiency and even green transport options.

A green practice is a law firm that sets objectives for environmental performance, minimises energy, water and resource use, minimises its waste output, purchases environmentally sustainable office products, reduces the impact of its built environment and encourages lawyers to engage in sustainability issues.

[For more information on the guide, see "A green practice is a good practice" on page 20 of this edition of the LIJ.]

There are many reasons why firms should implement some of the suggestions in the publication.

Apart from being good for planet Earth (which should be reason enough), there are also significant cost savings to be made be following green office habits.

I think we'll find in the future that our clients will increasingly expect, and even demand, that our firms are environmentally friendly.

The publication is available at www.liv.asn.au/greenpractice.

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