Queensland Law Society

New Year Profession Drinks 2019

Thursday 7 February, Banco Court

QLS President

So, I now take pleasure in welcoming you all to 2019, which is actually an auspicious year, at least in fiction. The Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Running Man was set in 2019. According to that film, in 2019 the United States is a totalitarian state which is effectively run by the host of a TV show; good thing that could never happen in real life!

That film was actually about criminals being hunted for sport and being pardoned if they survive, which is not so different from what some op-ed writers suggest from time to time. Although I jest, this is a serious issue which has been brought to light by recent high-profile prison releases, which have been the subject of unjustified criticism from some media pundits. I am glad I was afforded a chance to point out the strength and correctness of these decisions and to support those on the Bench.

In that regard it seems that, regrettably, some things never change. When I was President in 2016 I spent a fair amount of time defending our stellar judiciary and magistracy from unfair and uninformed criticism; it seems I will be doing that a bit in 2019 as well–and while I will admit that age has mellowed me in some ways, that isn’t one of them.

Lawyers, as officers of the court, are sworn to respect the rule of law and that means supporting our excellent, fair-minded, overworked and under-appreciated judges, magistrates and tribunal members. So I can assure you that one thing will be the same as 2016 I will speak up on your behalf when the more shallow denizens of the fourth estate–or anyone else–level ignorant and unjustified attacks on our bench.

In fact, it is something of a disturbing irony that in the year we observe the 30th anniversary of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, which did so much to strengthen the rule of law in this state, we find the flames of populism being fanned by those who put less stock in the rule of law than we do. It is a reminder that the price of justice is unsleeping vigilance.

That said, it is challenges of this kind, and the others our profession faces-technology, disruption, mental health, legislative over-reach–that prompted me to run again. Nothing keeps us young like engaging on causes about which wear passionate, and now that I am (mumble, mumble) years old, I am always looking for ways to stay young!

Of course, I can’t do this by myself, and that is why I am looking to QLS members and our colleagues at the bar and on the bench, for input into how we respond to these challenges. The legal profession in Queensland is a diverse and multi-skilled group, and we are far greater than the sum of our parts. By embracing our diverse skill-sets and points of view, I am confident there is no challenge that we cannot overcome.

Speaking of diversity, it is with great pleasure that I note that at some point this year, the solicitor’s branch in Queensland will become majority female. That probably isn’t something I could have foreseen when my legal career kicked off in (mumble, mumble) and it is great to see.

It has been a great pleasure to watch the solicitor’s branch approach this point, and we have seen many benefits to the growing gender balance in solicitor’s ranks. Those benefits are most excellently in evidence in our own Chief Justice, who started her career as a solicitor; given that our courts need more judges and our bench needs gender balance, I think we can all agree that appointing more solicitors to the bench is not only justified but a virtual necessity.

Just to close the loop on that subject, in case any of you heard me speak in 2016 I can assure you I still like State of Origin…

The legal profession is changing in many ways, and it is easy to get left behind or overwhelmed; Techlaw, Newlaw, Biglaw, Coleslaw–actually, scratch the last one–and it seems something new comes out every day. Indeed, whatever was new and innovative when I started this speech will probably be outdated when I end, although that may just be the length of the speech; I promise the end is in sight!

These challenges are why in 2019 the Society will look to partner closely with our members to provide answers. In short, we are your professional partner and your partner in the profession.

You’ll see the Society continue to hold popular workshops such as the Solicitor Advocate Course, which is open to all, although I note members do get a substantial discount on the fee.

You will also see our Modern Advocate Lecture Series continue, and I urge our colleagues at the bar to come along, especially those just starting out. In addition to the excellent and informative lectures, these sessions provide you with the chance to network with solicitors and form productive professional partnerships.

We will also roll out new initiatives such as a leadership series, which will complement our Modern Advocate Lecture Services, and provide mentoring and guidance for lawyers, while not necessarily being just about the law. Our profession can learn much from our own leading lights, and from leaders in other areas of endeavour.

This is important because maintaining a fair justice system and dynamic and ethical legal profession requires more than just technical competence and hard work; it requires governance, mentoring, collegiality-it needs leadership.

We have seen several high-profile lawyers charged with serious offences in recent times, and whatever the outcome of those matters the public will be looking to see how the profession responds. It is important that we do so in an open and transparent way, and initiatives like this are part of that response.

Of course, it is important not to be daunted by the challenges ahead, because I am confident we as a profession have what it takes to survive and thrive. We have, as I have already noted, admirable judges, magistrates and tribunal members who inspire with their dedication and competence.

Our solicitors and barristers are hard-working and highly skilled, and despite a friendly sibling rivalry, we work very well together and can speak with a strong, authoritative and united voice when the situation demands. I think that together, the solicitors, the bar and the bench have the best interests of our state and its people well in hand.

In other words, we have much to do, but much to do it with as well.