31 May 2017
My highlight for last week, and no doubt for the hundreds of members who attended, was the annual QLS Ball at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. It was a wonderful night, with much fun and laughter, not to mention dining, dancing and collegial sharing.
This was indeed a celebration of our profession and our achievements, and I felt it important to highlight some of our reasons for celebration in my welcome speech.
I mentioned several of our wins over the last year or so – the Federal Government heeding our calls to continue CLC funding, our ongoing advocacy on domestic violence reforms, improvements in the resources for our courts and the expansion of their specialist services, the implementation of search warrant guidelines, the successful development of the Modern Advocate Lecture Series, overturning the worst aspects of vegetation management legislation, and the introduction of class actions in Queensland.
As a succession lawyer, I said I was particularly pleased that my calls for a fulsome review of the Trusts Act had borne fruit.
I pointed out that, as solicitors, it is vital that we pause from time to time to take stock of our valuable contribution to the fundamental fabric of our society – the rule of law.
I said: “To do so keeps us invigorated and motivated, when the howling winds of criticism, and the torrents of derision buffet our resolve. We must celebrate that of which we are proud – that we are a force for good, that we do good in society and that it is OK to be proud of that. We serve and sustain the community.”
During the week I also spoke to the media about a number of matters, one of which was the rather clever ‘Judge for Yourself’ initiative from the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council.
We all cringe when there is a public outcry about a ‘lenient’ court sentence, because we know exactly what is involved as a judge decides on sentencing. The ‘Judge for Yourself’ program allows the public to go through a similar process, with some of the scenarios including a young mother stealing from a corner shop, a driver causing the death of a young girl after running a stop sign, and a drug dealer caught in an undercover police operation.
I applaud the introduction of this as a significant step in public education around the justice process, and I think many of us would have a client or two that we could recommend it to!
One issue attracting media interest during the week was the rather dubious interstate trend of ‘claim farming’, which appears to have resurfaced in Queensland.
I explained that, whether it’s called ‘touting’, ‘ambulance chasing’ or even ‘direct marketing’, it remains an unethical practice in clear breach of the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules.
I noted that our members were strongly opposed to this practice, and were not slow in telling us of their concerns. I also explained that lawyers engaging in this conduct would receive little sympathy and were likely to attract disciplinary action from the Legal Services Commission.