Queensland Law Society

New Year Profession Drinks 2016 - president's address

New Year Profession Drinks 2016

Wednesday 3 February, Law Society House Brisbane

Address, president

Time 6.15-6.23pm, 5-8 minutes

Introduction

  • Good evening.
  • My name is Bill Potts. I am the 2016 QLS president and I am here to help you.
  • It is a pleasure to welcome you to the new year, and to celebrate the first of my official public events as QLS president.

Presidency

  • Although I only have one year as QLS president, I understand the positive impacts that my predecessors have made upon the Society and the profession, through policies, priorities and innovative ideas.
  • Together, QLS presidents to date have developed the Society to ensure it remains our peak body.
  • This has resulted in it being the respected, industrious membership organisation that it is today.
  • I applaud the previous presidents on their achievements and their stamina, and look forward to leaving my own mark on the Society during 2016.
  • I am proud to be a solicitor, as I’m sure everyone here tonight is also.
  • We are beset by economic stress, over regulation, a critical public and increasingly unachievable client demands.
  • Combine this with crushing workloads and reducing financial returns and it’s not a pretty picture, but still, we soldier on.
  • I will do my best to really listen to the profession and further the interests of our members this year.

Key themes

  • I have four key themes and priorities for 2016 which I would like to share with you tonight.
  • Firstly, I would like to assist lawyers in becoming more profitable within their own work areas by providing better tools, assistance and ideas on how to market, develop and run their practices in a profitable and ethical way.
  • In my experience, solicitors are often subject to significant stress and the financial pressures on practices have never been greater. It is in the area of practice management that many solicitors sometimes struggle.
  • I would like to provide assistance in things that will help them such as, becoming LPA-compliant, assistance with trust accounting, and assisting those in both small and large practices.
  • As Amelia briefly mentioned, one way in which we will further assist members this year, is through the expansion of our highly-regarded Ethics Centre to include practice support.
  • This unified service will combine ethical and practice support guidance directly to firms, along with refined educational resources.
  • This endeavour will be of great benefit to QLS members at all stages of their careers.
  • Key theme – for members
  • Secondly, I plan to spend 2016 speaking to members and for members about matters which are important to them including: the economics of their practices, mental health and legal reform. All of which will promote greater efficiencies and sustainability in the business of law.
  • The practice of law is in a state of flux; there is increasing splintering of smaller firms, and at the same time there is increasing consolidation of large law groups, not to mention the digital disruption that is occurring every day.
  • The difficulty for lawyers is that often we’re conservative; we think it’s about dealing with the same clients over and over again, but there are all sorts of challenges which are only going to accelerate.
  • Unfortunately, the Society cannot be all things to all people, but I would like to be a president for all members and to ensure that members are a part of a respected professional organisation that focuses on both members and the wider community.
  • We have often been seen as the ‘police officer’ of the profession, often dealing with members when there is a trust account audit or a bill to be paid.
  • I will advocate and lobby state and federal government for better laws which will positively impact our profession and the wider community.
  • Thirdly, I wish to defend the rule of law, defend the courts, insist upon better resources and bring the practice of law into the 21st Century.
  • I believe that one of the fundamental duties and obligations of my role this year is to explain the law, protect the courts and raise the standing of solicitors in the community.
  • I am passionate about 2016 seeing QLS as a lobby group for our members. We have a very important role in defending the rule of law, in sometimes defending the courts, and we have a very important role in calling for and insisting upon better resources and laws which will modernise the way in which we practise law. Let’s bring some of our areas of law into the 21st Century!
  • Despite criminal law being my first love, mine will not be a criminal law presidency.
  • Things such as the Trusts Act and the Property Law Act may sound dull to the average person in the street but would be of great assistance to the profession if modernised.
  • This year, we also face an historic opportunity to have our say on whether Queensland should introduce a Human Rights Act. 
  • The issue of domestic violence is an important one for Queensland Law Society and top of mind for everyone in our community.
  • The Society is focused on ensuring that lawyers are properly equipped to deal with the legal response to domestic and family violence, through developing the Domestic Violence Best Practice Guidelines.
  • Thank you to the many volunteers who are creating these guidelines led by 2015 vice president Deborah Awyzio.
  • We also acknowledge all those involved with the Domestic Court project at Southport.
  • We are pleased to see the project initiated and this trial has now been extended.
  • We encourage the Government to roll this valuable contribution to community safety out to other regions including Cairns, Townsville, Ipswich and Brisbane.
  • We continue to work toward harmonising some of our laws with other states to ensure that the large law firms can have practices across the country with minimum disruption.
  • I am also keen to see the Society modernising its practices. We have a very active CEO who is doing some great things within the organisation to make it more flexible and proactive rather than reactive.
  • One of my priorities will be to engage again with the State Government to grant us corporatisation, which simply makes sense.
  • Lastly, but certainly not the least, I wish to obtain greater resources such as funding for community legal centres and the Federal Circuit Court, through engaging with various leaders of the jurisdictions and government to achieve proper and sustainable funding.
  • I believe that there is a significant opportunity to obtain greater resources for the profession. In particular, for the Federal Circuit Court where delays in getting hearings are a scandal!
  • The judges do a great job but are being worked into the ground. I believe that there are opportunities for us to lobby the government for proper and sustainable funding not only for the courts but also for the community legal centres.
  • Better resources for the Legal Aid office is a must for the future.
  • One of the great problems we have is that there are many in our community who simply can’t afford to receive legal advice.
  • If the people can’t afford to utilise the services of a trusted advisor, then there is no mechanism for the most vulnerable in our society to access good quality legal advice.
  • Putting aside my well-known views on the VLAD legislation, I also believe that better resources for police are essential, along with better resources for the courts. Quite frankly, we need more magistrates.

Closing

  • I hope to engage with the various leaders of the jurisdictions and with the government in its various forms to assist in providing access to justice for all in our community.
  • I am well aware that I do not undertake this journey alone. If I see further tonight, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.
  • I look forward to working with our deputy president Christine Smyth, the new QLS Council, the wider profession and, of course, the hardworking policy committee members and QLS staff who will assist me in this journey.
  • I also look forward to speaking with you all tonight and during the year at future events.
  • Thank you.