If you have ever had the good fortune to hear QLS’ iconic Director of Ethics, Stafford Shepherd, speak about the duties of solicitors, one of the themes you will have picked up is the responsibility that comes with our position. Stafford has noted on many occasions that those who pursue our noble profession do so with the burden of knowing much about our clients and the law, and doing the right thing with that information.
Our burden comes from our privileged position in our society; we actually have access to the wheels of justice, whether it be a neighbourhood dispute, a cottage conveyance, the sale of a business or seeking leave from the High Court. We know the buttons to push, we are the ones behind the curtain, working the levers of the great and powerful Oz (or at least, the great and powerful Aussie justice system!).
We have the privilege to know these mysteries, and with it comes the duty to act. Mostly that it is to act for a client, but sometimes the duty is broader; sometimes we are called to serve the community. Sometimes it is our task to lead that community through a difficult discussion about a difficult issue, and right now is one of those times.
In the October issue of Proctor, you will see several feature articles representing many differing points of view on the often divisive issue of Voluntary Assisted Dying. It is QLS’ intention to lead a respectful, thorough and inclusive discussion on this important question. These articles are the start of that, and I urge all QLS members to consider the issues carefully, read different points of view and engage in an exchange of ideas that will hopefully edify the profession and the public on this vexed matter.
QLS members are uniquely suited to taking a lead role in this debate, as we will deal with the outcome on many levels. We will draft the documents expressing our client’s end-of-life wishes, and thus be tasked with ensuring that the wishes expressed are genuinely those of the client. It will fall to us to be the last defence against the potential for abuse in these circumstances, and to seek redress if our efforts prove unsuccessful.
As solicitors, we cannot afford to dodge the responsibility to lead this debate. Hopefully the Proctor Articles will illuminate the issues and give us the perspective to keep this debate balanced and beneficial; it is what the community expects, and needs, from us.
On to less divisive and solemn matters, and indeed to positively inclusive ones! On 10 October we will hold another in our Modern Advocate Lecture Series, which will be delivered by Her Honour Justice Soraya Ryan of the Supreme Court of Queensland. This will be the final lecture for the year and they are always popular, so make sure you get in early!
We also have two more Practice Management Courses for the year, in October and November. Both of these courses focus on the sole to small practice area, which is a fast-growing and vibrant sector of our profession. Whether you are thinking of breaking out on your own, looking to go into partnership or simply keen to increase your practical knowledge of law firm operation (and thus your employability) you should take a look at what these courses offer. Many of the skills taught translate effectively into government and in-house teams, and could give young lawyers the edge when it comes to management and leadership opportunities in those areas of practice as well, so check them out.
Until next time,
Bill Potts, QLS President
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