Posts for February 2017

President's Message - We must strive to protect Rule of Law & basic rights

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 2:41pm

Happy New Year to all readers. I hope 2017 proves to be productive and prosperous.

It is indeed a privilege and honour to serve as the 82nd President of the Law Society of South Australia. I am looking forward to working with members to represent the best interests of the profession.

I have practised as a solicitor and barrister for 33 years and am an ardent supporter of the fused profession. A fused profession presents great opportunities for the profession generally to perform advocacy work. In my experience, there are many clients that welcome the opportunity to have a lawyer represent them from the initial interview through to the client’s representation at trial. The Society will be actively involved in supporting practitioners who wish to practise as both solicitors and barristers. I encourage anyone who wants to develop their advocacy skills to regularly consult our CPD program, which will have a focus this year on the trial process.

These are challenging times for the legal profession. Demand for legal work is not meeting supply, our economy is sluggish, legislation is becoming more complex, common law rights are under threat, and technology, while having many positive applications in the law, is adding to the uncertainty about the future of the legal profession.

As a member of the Law Society’s Council for several years, I have seen the amount of work the Law Society has done to support the profession, especially in terms of assisting lawyers to navigate the ever increasing regulatory burden they face. What can be done to mitigate the regulatory burden on lawyers will be reviewed.

Proposed Federal anti-money laundering laws threaten to increase the profession’s regulatory obligations, even though the profession is already one of the most regulated industries in Australia. The Law Society, in conjunction with the Law Council of Australia, has and will continue to lobby for a better model that does not place undue burden on the legal profession.

Another key theme of my presidency is the protection of the independence of the judiciary. Some recent Bills have had the potential to encroach upon the independence the justice system by the Government, particularly through essentially administrative appointments exercising judicial function. Our judiciary must be independent, impartial and fearless in the delivery of justice. A key feature is security of tenure. We must also strive to protect our common law rights, which, have slowly been eroded over time. Recently we have seen the introduction of legislative regimes which deny people the right to fair compensation. People injured in motor vehicle accidents have been particularly disadvantaged by new laws. An override of well-established common law rights can also be a threat to the independence of the judiciary.

A significant portion of the Society’s membership is involved in the practice of torts law and particularly in the area of personal injury claims. This year, both the ReturnToWork scheme and motor vehicle injury compensation scheme will be the subject of parliamentary review, and the Law Society will be actively involved in this review process. It will represent the interest of members during this process.

One of the most persistent challenges for the legal profession in recent years has been the difficulty young members of the profession face in finding suitable, stable, full-time employment in the law. I consider there to be two core issues that need to be addressed. One is the oversupply of law graduates leaving many job-seekers without meaningful work. The other issue is the shifting perception of the study of law to the point where a law degree is now often referred to as “generalist” degree akin to an arts degree. In my view it is essential that the bar of entry is high enough to ensure that law schools are replete with students of outstanding academic merit. Maintaining the legal profession’s high quality of service to clients depends on the quality of students coming through the ranks. The universities have an important role and responsibility in this area.

The year is off to a busy start with the Happy New (Legal) Year event on 2 February. I thank his Honour, Chief Justice Chris Kourakis, for making the opening address at the event. Our marquee annual event, the Law Society Forum, will kick off on 16 February, and this year the Law Society will also be hosting the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference on 23-24 March, which is set to be an important event. You are encouraged to reserve the date of 5 October 2017 for the annual dinner.

I am eagerly anticipating working with fellow members of Council, staff, and the many special interest and governance committee members who so generously volunteer their time and expertise.

There will be many “hot button” issues relating to the law this year, and the Law Society should be at the forefront of those discussions and debates. Already the Society has responded to a Federal Government consultation paper flagging the possible expansion of access to metadata beyond matters of counter-terrorism, and made a number of recommendations to improve the State Government’s Draft Children and Young People (Safety) Bill 2016, which itself is a response to the recommendations of the Nyland Report into Child Protection Systems.

I congratulate my immediate predecessor David Caruso on his many achievements last year and look forward to representing the legal profession with vigour and conviction. I am always happy to speak to any member about issues concerning them. You can contact me at on (08) 8229 0200. 

Tony Rossi, President - Law Society of South Australia

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