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LIV History Book Launched

LIV History Book Launched

By Carolyn Ford


The first history of the Victorian legal profession was highly praised by Australia’s pre-eminent historian Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Blainey at the launch of Solicitors and the LIV in Victoria 1835-2019: Pathway to a Respected Profession by Simon Smith.

“It’s a very good book. A lot of hard work, dedication, an eye for the human being, especially the human being in difficulties, a sense of how remarkable has been the change at the Bar, solicitors and the courts. I think it is a valuable contribution not only to legal history but to Australian history,” Professor Blainey said.

“Those who buy it will find so much that is funny, much that is sad and much to be proud of in this long-standing and noble profession.”

Former Victorian Premier John Cain, who wrote its Foreword, also praised the book. “Simon Smith should be commended by all of us. It’s a great performance. The profession has needed it for a while. Thanks for doing it, it’s a terrific job.”

Mr Cain, a former president of the LIV, was one of three former Attorneys General at the launch. Jan Wade and Haddon Storey were also in attendance, as was Shadow Attorney General Edward O’Donohue. Mr O’Donohue’s trailblazing grandmother, Margot O’Donohue, gets a mention in the book as the first married woman admitted to practice law in Victoria.

They were among many elders of the LIV and the legal profession invited to help celebrate publication of the history on October 31.

Mr Cain joined the Hon Bernie Teague, the Hon Gordon Lewis and former LIV president Caroline Counsel in a panel discussion led by Damian Carrick of the ABC Law Report. They each spoke entertainingly about aspects of their legal careers.

Author Dr Smith told the 100 attendees that he got the idea for the book at the 2017 launch of Gordon Lewis’s autobiography Bitten by an Elephant.

“At the launch Bernie Teague conducted a Q&A. From the response of the many former presidents in the room it was clear there was a rich history waiting to be captured and recorded.

“It was also clear that that if it wasn’t done soon, it would slip away. Legal history in Victoria was very under-done.”

Dr Smith offered to write a comprehensive and accessible history that reviewed the past and could inform the future for the LIV, regulators and the wider community, as part of its 160th year. 

“If I say so myself, the story is a good one. What is clear is that for at least the past 100 years, it has been the institute, through the volunteers who serve on Council and the many committees that have driven the continuous improvement in legal practice standards to the benefit of the general public. These standards underscore the rule of law,” Dr Smith said.

“The institute has been the engine room of progress in our legal system. Many reforms have been a first for Australia.” They included legal aid, the guarantee fund, compulsory indemnity insurance, accredited specialisation and CPD.

Dr Smith thanked the LIV, staff and also those firms – Herbert Smith Freehills, Harwood Andrews, Wisewould Mahony, Maurice Blackburn and Galbally & O’Bryan – and institutions and current and former legal executives, who sponsored the book. He also thanked Professor Blainey for launching the book with the gift of a vintage LIV tie from 1959.

At the end of formalities, the LIV’s 137th  president, Stuart Webb, encouraged guests to buy the book and get it signed by the VIPs in the room, which they did.

Solicitors and the Law Institute in Victoria 1835-2019: pathway to a Respected Profession by Simon Smith is available at the LIV bookshop and online. Member price $76.50.

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