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From the president: The future of our profession

From the president: The future of our profession

By Sam Pandya

COVID-19 Opinions 

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Young and newly admitted lawyers make an enormous contribution to the work of the LIV in many areas of policy and law.

I am delighted that this is a Young Lawyers (YL) special edition featuring the voices of young lawyers in the Victorian legal profession. It is the first such edition of the LIJ and focuses on the contributions, experiences and issues facing our young and newly admitted lawyers. They write thoughtfully on change, resilience, human rights, what excellence means, culture, carer leave and the year that’s been, among other topics. It might sound obvious but we can sometimes forget that young lawyers are the future of our profession and overlook that their development and progress need to be constantly encouraged and supported by the entire profession. 

Some of you may be unaware that our young and newly admitted lawyers make an enormous contribution to the progress, innovation and adaptation occurring across the profession and to the work of the LIV in many areas of policy and law. Over the years, I have been lucky to have worked with many leaders of YL as their Council liaison representative and have witnessed first-hand the ideas, enthusiasm, energy, camaraderie and support that our future lawyers demonstrate in order to learn and create opportunities, build networks and help and support each other. This resilience and innovation have been demonstrated so well this year during the challenges of COVID-19. Take, for example, the #2020visionforadmission campaign, an online forum for messages of support for those new to the profession.

The LIV recently surveyed its student and graduate LIV members in relation to cultural diversity. While it was a small sample, nearly 50 per cent of respondents spoke a language other than English and only 66 per cent were born in Australia. This compares with recent data collected by the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner which found that in the profession as a whole only 22 per cent spoke a language other than English and 78 per cent were born in Australia. The data suggests that our students and law graduates coming into the profession are likely to have increasingly diverse backgrounds and experiences than our existing profession. The face of the profession is changing, and this should be seen as an immense opportunity to learn and embrace new ideas and approaches to problem-solving, progress and growth. The best decisions are made using diversity of thinking and we should not forget that our young lawyers have new and diverse experiences and can add fresh insights to any discussion about how to improve the present and shape the future of our profession. 

I was recently speaking with YL president Alice Cooney and she emphasised that it is incumbent on our leaders to create space for young lawyers and for them to see the consequences of their voices being heard and valued. While it is true that young lawyers have grown up as “digital natives” and are comfortable communicating in the virtual world, we have all learned from the COVID-19 period that you cannot underestimate or substitute the importance and power of face-to-face connection and communication as a means of supporting, mentoring and guiding our young lawyers in their careers, collaborating with them and learning from one another. Part of our mentoring and guidance in this super-fast world of digital technology, social media and online interactions is to remind our young and newly admitted lawyers that, though technology and social media are hugely important, there is much to be gained by meeting people in person. The ability to build strong and lasting client relationships and to be that trusted adviser to your clients is vitally important. Remember to treat your career as an opportunity for continuing growth as a professional through technology and human connection. 

It is inspiring that so many of our members are committed to supporting young and newly admitted lawyers in any way they can, whether through mentoring, training, work experience or other formal or informal means. At a time of such uncertainty for younger people throughout our community, I encourage all LIV members to reflect on how they might be able to give additional support or opportunities to our more junior colleagues as they navigate a changing profession. This includes ensuring young lawyers are always provided with a positive, respectful and inclusive working environment that values their contributions and allows them to feel comfortable to be themselves and share their experiences and ideas. By valuing the different perspectives of our younger and newly admitted colleagues, we can learn how to foster a healthy, modern legal profession to better serve our clients and community into the future.

Helping those who come after you is a given for many lawyers. As a profession we support and contribute. That has never been more apparent than this year with advocacy around COVID-19. With valuable input from hundreds of members of committees and sections, the LIV has advocated effectively, contributing to emergency law reform and other changes and initiatives necessary to keep the justice system operating. The advocacy effort continues. However you are assisting, whether it’s guiding a young lawyer or attending a COVID-19 committee meeting, we thank you. ■

Sam Pandya
LIV PRESIDENT

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