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From the president: Opportunities emerge from crisis

From the president: Opportunities emerge from crisis

By Tania Wolff

COVID-19 Opinions 

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Whatever you resolved to change or take into 2021, the LIV is here to help.

I feel honoured to assume the role of LIV president as we transition to a post-COVID-19 era. 

As we dip our collective toe into 2021, we may do so with trepidation, but hopefully, too, with optimism and an expanded perspective. 

We witnessed all sorts of things last year, from toilet roll hoarding to extraordinary acts of generosity and kindness. We learned to navigate new ways of working and online platforms. We mastered the Zoom mute button. We went for extended periods without seeing in person our friends and extended families. We found new ways to be there for one another. Former US president John F Kennedy once noted that in Chinese script, the Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word “crisis”. One brush stroke stands for danger, the other for opportunity. The opportunity before us now is to capitalise on the lessons learned, the improvements and advancements achieved and the wisdom gained. Can we apply what we learned in 2020 to living better and less frantic lives, defined by deeper relationships and connections that are better aligned to our values? 

In this new world, not only will flexible work practices become the norm, greater community connectedness, mental health and wellbeing will also be prioritised. Workplaces will need to champion positive work cultures and practices. Perhaps too, in recognising our interdependence, we may finally realise that tall fences do not necessarily make for good neighbours. We are stronger when we look out for everyone, more secure when we include the most vulnerable. 

COVID-19 highlighted and exacerbated social inequalities from economic and social exclusion to digital disadvantage. In 2021, the LIV will continue to have a role in helping address these critical issues. 

It’s widely acknowledged that during 2020 the LIV came into its own and, in my view, shone as our LIV. It will continue to do so, but with expanded support services to help practitioners return to COVID-normal. New services to assist practitioners in these unprecedented times include a free and confidential employment law advisory service for COVID-19 related issues, infection control and COVID-safe planning advice and cashflow management advice from an expert panel (see p79 for details).

Wellbeing is all-important and the LIV plans to expand in this critical area. Its employment assistance program Converge is a 24/7 personal coaching and counselling service that provides support for short-term personal or work issues. Through Converge, members can meet with psychologists, social workers and coaches. 

Ethics and practice support teams will go on fielding calls, supporting members to adjust to new challenges. The online LIV COVID-19 Hub will continue to support members and keep them up to date with court information and practice notes. Conferences, CPD, the Practice Management Course and Accredited Specialisation assessments will continue to be facilitated on digital platforms. Webinars, live chats and meetings with heads of jurisdiction and stakeholders about COVID-related issues, including the return to the office, will be ongoing. As will the work of many hundreds of volunteers on committees and working groups. 

The LIV legal policy team will continue to make submissions to government. We will advocate for the profession and the community, facilitating better access to justice, championing the rule of law and supporting the administration of the legal system. We will work together to uphold the ideals that define our profession and working lives. 

Hopefully, new lawyers of 2021 will be admitted in person in the Supreme Court as generations of Victorian lawyers have done. But if that’s not possible due to COVID-19, admission will be “on the papers” and the profession will wrap its digital arms around the newcomers, as it did in 2020, with special pre-recorded messages of support from members of the legal community. 

To differing degrees, I suspect most of us have reflected on our lives in recent times, asking what’s truly important and essential to our happiness and wellbeing, what we might change or leave behind. Whatever you resolved to change or take into 2021, the LIV is here to assist.

It’s going to be a big year. I look forward to sharing it with you. ■

Tania Wolff
LIV PRESIDENT

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