Queensland Law Society

QLS Roadshow: Law in the Tropics - Closing

Friday 18 August 2017, Port Douglas

President's closing remarks

Good afternoon.

“The first thing we must do is kill all the lawyers!”

To a crowded Supreme Court earlier this year I gave a speech opening with that line: “The first thing we must do is kill all the lawyers.”  Just like you today, I witnessed gasps from the bench infused with the query: where is she going with this?  

It is a quote from Shakespeare in his play Henry VI – he was dramatically identifying that for chaos to reign you must rid society of all the lawyers.  Flipped on its head he was telling us that for there to be a just and equitable society, lawyers are essential. 

You will have been told that there are robots coming to take your job.

Yes “science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response” ( Arthur Schlesinger – Historian.)

I’m not so concerned by digital disruption, mostly because I work with computers a lot and while they are a wonderful tool, they can be as reliable as a politician’s promise.

I wouldn’t like to be on trial for my life and, after telling my robot lawyer to run the “final submissions” file, getting the message “404 Error-file not found”, or maybe “for some reason Robotlawyer 3.0 is not responding; would you like Microsoft office to look for a solution on-line?”

I think it would be a tad embarrassing to ask the court to wait while you turned your robot lawyer off and back on again, hoping to re-boot it.

Despite what many tech-heads and doomsayers regularly claim, although technology is disrupting the law and the profession, and providing powerful new tools and force-multipliers for lawyers, we are not being replaced.

We are doing what we do best – adapting. The advent of technology certainly brings challenges, but also benefits – this is a good news story for us – rather a celebration of the opportunities on the horizon.

While “one machine can do the work of fifty ordinary people.  No machine can do the work of one extra-ordinary person” (Elbert Hubbard).  This room is full of extra-ordinary people.

We bring a great deal to the practice of law, and one of the main things is a morality and ethics that a machine could never replicate.

Far from being our death knell, the rise of new technologies throws into sharp relief the extraordinary – and unique – benefits we bring to the equation.

Lawyers are the conscience of the legal system, and we bring an understanding that only if justice is even-handed and blind to bias will the community buy in and consent to abide by the decisions of courts. Absent that consent, chaos will rule – it is the duty of our profession to conduct ourselves in such a way to create and maintain faith in the system we serve.

For lawyers of courage, who see the future as an opportunity and each challenge as another chance to demonstrate our good in society; we are not bench-warmers nor spectators, and we aren’t scared of the future.

Those of us here today – we are signalling that we intend to be a big part of it – an active and positive participant in our own future.

How do we do that in the face of so much technological change? Yes, technology is shaping the way we work, live and conduct our social interactions.

But I pause here to cite the words of John F Kennedy “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

When I first entered the work force, telex machines and DOS computers were the height of technology.

Now we have personal computers, laptops, portable tablets and smartphones that can fit into our pocket or handbag costing a just few hundred dollars (the phone that is).

Today, technology is utilised in everyday life and in business. It allows us to effortlessly and seamlessly connect with each other and clients in ways that in my earlier days of practice we simply did not imagine.

A bit like the driverless car – it was a product of mere fantasy and a lifetime away from fact. 

And so I urge you to not view technology as competition but as an asset to your practice, and to appreciate the skills and expertise that you bring to the table for your clients.

Our profession provides a great service to our local communities, and each and every one of you contribute greatly to your society each and every day.

Closing

And I have greatly enjoyed meeting with you all and experiencing our far north Queensland profession and the unique reflections you have on our profession as a whole.

I trust that you have enjoyed our two-day roadshow, myself and the QLS staff were very glad to bring you this professional development event.

I would like to once again thank our presenters and chairs for their time today.

I would also like to thank Legalsuper, Bupa, PEXA, ESS, LEAP, GlobalX, Herron Todd White, AlliedLaw and Bupa for their support of our Roadshow.

Please join us now for the Roadshow Pool Party, which will be held in the Lagoons Bar & Gazebo.

Thank you.