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New book puts Victorian legal profession since 1838 under the spotlight

New book puts Victorian legal profession since 1838 under the spotlight

By LIV Media


A new book examining the history of solicitors in Victoria, from dubious beginnings to the strong, regulated profession of today, is being published by the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV).

Solicitors and the Law Institute in Victoria 1835-2019: Pathway to a Respected Profession, by historian Dr Simon Smith, will be launched on 31 October. It commemorates the LIV’s 160th anniversary – the oldest law society in Australia.

The first solicitor in Victoria was Englishman William Meek who arrived in Port Phillip colony from Sydney Town in 1838, attracted by the prospect of conveyancing riches from the first land boom.

Many of the early solicitors focused on petty cases and employed questionable practices.

From 14 solicitors admitted in the first sitting of the Supreme Court in 1841, the profession is now more than 20,000 strong, with women in the majority.

LIV president Stuart Webb said that throughout this period the LIV had been central to improving professional standards and protection of the public.

The LIV pioneered initiatives such as legal aid, the Solicitors’ Guarantee Fund, compulsory professional indemnity insurance, accredited specialisation, compulsory seatbelt legislation and mandatory continuing professional development.

“The LIV now plays a critical role advocating and defending the rule of law on behalf of the community, as well as supporting our members throughout their careers,” Mr Webb said.

Author Dr Simon Smith said since 1838 Victorian solicitors have played a pivotal role in the building of a strong, democratic and fair society. The at times exciting, even tempestuous nature of that journey offers lessons from the past that provide valuable guidance for the future, he said.

The limited-edition book is available exclusively from the LIV bookshop at for $85 RRP or $76.50 for LIV members.

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