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LIV: Governance structure under review

LIV: Governance structure  under review

By Carolyn Ford

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The LIV is reassessing its corporate structure to ensure it is best placed to serve members into the future. 

The goal of the LIV’s governance review, now underway, is best practice by contemporary standards. To report by the 2020 annual general meeting, the LIV is being assisted by corporate governance advisory firm cameron. ralph. khoury.

The governance review, an initiative of the LIV Council and new leadership, will determine whether changes to governance are in order. 

A case for review was suggested in a letter in the April 2018 edition of the LIJ from a group of past presidents of the LIV on the imminent sale of the former home of the LIV at 470 Bourke Street. They suggested that just as the old premises were no longer fit for purpose, nor, arguably, was the LIV’s governance structure. It was, they said, at odds with best practice in corporate governance which for decades had been to move away from representational board structures towards a skills-based board with some independent directors.

This moment in time was a once in a generation opportunity to reassess and recalibrate, the signatories of the letter said, and they wanted to see a governance structure “best calculated to serve members into the future”.

LIV president Stuart Webb says having established a new home at 140 William Street, a new strategy (2019-2022), a new involvement with regulation and professional standards of lawyers in Victoria and new practice support priorities to better meet member needs, it is now time for a governance review for the organisation, now in its 160th year.

“It’s the last piece in the puzzle,” Mr Webb says. “Reviewing our governance is part of our renewal. We have turned 160 this year and this is part of that. What do we need to look at, what do we have, what might we adjust to meet the needs of our organisation and our members. 

“With this major examination, we will modernise to ensure best practice. We have updated our strategy, it is now appropriate that we update our governance model.

“We are asking, is our model still working? Can it be improved? Are there opportunities for streamlining? Our governance structure should support the strategy and member expectations.”

Everything is on the table, including the number of board members the LIV should ideally have, and whether there should be non-lawyers providing different skills on the board.

“There is no preconceived outcome. The review is to see where we are at, measure it against contemporary practice and see where we go.”

LIV vice-president Tania Wolff is chair of the LIV governance working group. It has established terms of reference, which were approved by LIV Council in February. 

Advisory firm principal Phil Khoury says governance expectations of professional organisations like the LIV have increased in the past two decades. “Every organisation should periodically regularly review its governance model and make sure it’s fit for purpose. It is happening across Australia. There is a lot of activity in governance generally, including membership and not-for-profit governance. There is an expectation of the highest standards.

“In the last 20 years, professional organisations have become more substantial. They have grown to have bigger budgets, more staff. They are generally less dependent on government funding and more dependent on their own financial sustainability.

“So, the governance of a professional organisation has become more and more important. Increasingly, they will have external oversight of audit and risk, to ensure accounting is at best practice level.”

Mr Khoury says “we will be asking whether the LIV’s governance model is most effective for the organisation. There is no perfect model. Every organisation has to put a system in place that is best for it. The governance needs for the LIV will have commonalities with other membership organisations, as well as its own unique solutions. Change is rapid in our environment, and it is good practice, every five to 10 years, to make sure the model is working for you.”

Throughout the process, cameron. ralph. khoury will consult through sections, committees and suburban and regional law associations and open communication with the membership. 

Members can continue to have their say about what the organisation looks like, following on from the most recent member survey. “We will listen and talk to members, office bearers, committees and groups to get a thorough understanding of what works and what doesn’t,” says Mr Khoury, adding there will be opportunities to do teleconferences and have visits from advisory consultants. “We then do our analysis which includes comparing the LIV with other, similar organisations. If appropriate, we will float some ideas for change for discussion with members.”

The LIV Council will receive a preliminary report in December 2019. Members wishing to give feedback to the governance review can contact Phil Khoury (liv_governance_review@crkhoury.com / 9421 3111).


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