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LIV President's Blog
October 27, 2011

Legal Profession encouraged to adopt diversity

Next month the LIV will launch its own Disability Action Plan at an event designed to assist law firms and the profession to diversify their workforce and develop plans to recruit and retain lawyers with a disability. We invite you to register for the free launch at 12 noon on Wednesday 9 November.

LIV will implement a Disability Action Plan
Under the plan the LIV commits to undertake a range of actions to provide equal opportunity to people with disabilities to participate in and contribute to the full range of activities of the LIV.

Almost 20 per cent of the population reported having some sort of disability in an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey in 2009. The disability could include mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, or physical limitations which can make access to legal institutions difficult.

People with a disability make up a significant part of our customer base at the LIV, and this also applies to clients of law firms. This could equally apply to staff.

Diversity in the legal profession is a key issue for the LIV  and in 2010 we established a Diversity Task Force, chaired by Council member Lucy Terracall.

We also formed a Lawyers with DisAbilities committee in January 2010 to consider the needs of lawyers and law students who experience disability, the barriers they face in employment and career progression and what we could do to promote equality of opportunity.

What the LIV will do:
A key initiative is a new strategy to assist the profession to increase recruitment and retention of law graduates and lawyers experiencing disability. Under the strategy, we commit to:

• Providing a forum for sharing information
• Disseminating disability information and resources
• Raising awareness about disability in the legal profession
• Partnering with other organisations to improve access to services
• Promote a safe, open environment for disclosure of disability
• Provide opportunities for law students and recent graduates to make connections
• Support the Lawyers with disAbilities Committee
• Work with Department of Justice, courts and tribunals to improve facilities

Our Council will expect a report in a year’s time to evaluate what we have achieved at the LIV and how we’ve engaged with the profession.

Are you a lawyer or law graduate with a disability? What barriers have you encountered in entering or remaining in the practice of law?

Comment here, and see November LIJ for extensive coverage of these issues.

*President Caroline Counsel is overseas, Acting President is Michael Holcroft 

October 21, 2011

National unity and reform are key priorities for the legal profession

We have moved one step closer to long-anticipated national profession reform with this week’s announcement by the Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland that the new National Legal Services Board and the National Legal Services Commissioner will be hosted by New South Wales. Victoria has agreed to accept the role of host of the new national legislation, meaning that the Legal Profession National Law will be passed as a substantive law of Victoria.

NSW to host reform, Victoria to provide legislation
While it is disappointing that we cannot yet claim support from all Governments for national profession reform, I am sure that the profession is keen to see reforms implemented nationally.

We believed that Victoria was in the box seat to host the national profession reform, as our model is similar to what will be introduced nationally. We have had a Legal Services Commissioner and Legal Services Board model working effectively in Victoria since 2005, with appropriate delegation of some key functions to the Law Institute of Victoria.

Benefits to Victoria
There are some benefits to Victoria introducing the substantive law – our Attorney-General will become the “host Minister” under the scheme.

So far, four jurisdictions – New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Northern Territory – have agreed to take part in the reforms as proposed. These jurisdictions cover around 85 per cent of Australia’s practising lawyers.

National reform vital
We believe that the cause of truly national reform is vital for our profession. The current ad hoc regulatory system of different legislation, rules and standards covering the profession according to State borders is anachronistic and inefficient.

We join with the Law Council in hoping that other jurisdictions will see the benefits of a national profession and reconsider their position.

We will continue to work with the State and Federal Governments on the detail of the reforms and will keep our members informed as information becomes available, such as the Federal Attorney General Media Release.

Comment here

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