Dr Matt Collins AM QC
As I write, there is a definite sense that the nation is returning to something resembling normality after the extraordinary disruption of the last two years. In the justice sector, there is an enormous amount of work and rebuilding to be done. The backlog in jury trials, in particular, is daunting, and ongoing restrictions on in-person hearings mean that it will still be some time before meaningful inroads can be made. But the pandemic has upended more than just how we practice our craft—it has tested our mental health, our values and every aspect of our home and personal lives.
As a profession, we must reflect on all of these impacts. What should we retain from the adapted practices we have adopted in a period characterised by restrictions on freedom of movement, working from home, and remote hearings? What features should we jettison? How has the justice system held up during this unprecedented period? What do different work patterns mean for chambers and the collegiality of the bar?
All of these issues, and more, will be the focus of the ABA’s centrepiece event for 2022, Re-Emerge: The Australian Bar After Covid-19 — Energised, Innovative, Enduring. If you have not done so already, I urge you to register for the conference at www.re-emerge2022.com.au. In-person tickets are limited and selling fast.
Re-Emerge 2022 will be a unique opportunity to reconnect with colleagues, pause and reflect on a momentous two years, with the benefit of provocative panel discussions with thought leaders drawn from the judiciary, the bar, politics, the academy and elsewhere. I am very much looking forward to seeing members from around the nation in Melbourne in just over a month.
The ABA Council met for its quarterly meeting on 22 February 2022. Among other matters, we discussed the return to in-person advocacy training through the auspices of the ABA’s Advocacy Training Council, the work of the ABA’s specialist committees, and a planned ambitious program of CPD seminars and podcasts for members.
Next month will mark the long-awaited launch of the first national database of profiles of Australian barristers (as to which, see more below). I encourage all members to create a profile on the new national database in preparation for its launch. I expect that, over time, the database will become the “go-to” service for clients and solicitors seeking barristers with expertise in particular practice areas and prepared to accept briefs all around Australia.
On behalf of the ABA, I extend my thoughts and best wishes to all those affected by the recent floods in NSW and Queensland, and to our colleagues at the Ukrainian Bar and Ukrainian National Bar Associations who are facing a desperate period of uncertainty and fear.
As always, please feel free to contact me concerning any ABA-related matter.
Thursday 28–Saturday 30 April 2022, in Melbourne and fully live-streamed
In-person tickets are selling fast for the unmissable legal conference of the year, RE-EMERGE 2022: the Australian Bar After Covid-19—Energised, Innovative, Enduring.
The conference will be held in the spectacularly renovated State Library of Victoria. Conference sessions will be available ‘on-demand’ to registrants who cannot attend in person.
Welcome drinks will be hosted at the Old Melbourne Gaol. The gala dinner will be at the stunning new W Melbourne.
Dinners will be hosted on the first night of the conference by Victorian Bar associations and committees to welcome visiting delegates.
The program for the conference is now close to finalised and can be viewed in full on the conference website, www.re-emerge2022.com.au. Highlights include addresses by Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash, the Hon. Stephen Gageler AC, Professor Richard Susskind OBE, the Hon. James Allsop AO and the Hon. Anne Ferguson.
The opening plenary session of the conference, Where Goes Australia? The federation (politically) after the pandemic, presented in association with the conference’s major partner, The Australian Financial Review, will bring together a high profile panel of Australians, including Matthew Howard SC, Róisín Annesley QC and Peter Dunning QC of the Australian Bar, together with Jennifer Hewett (national columnist, The Australian Financial Review), Tass Liveris (President, Law Council of Australia) and Professor Brendan Murphy (Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Health). They will discuss the many ways in which standard conceptions about our federation were upended in 2020 and 2021.
Other sessions in the conference will explore how Australia’s management of the pandemic has sat with fundamental constitutional principles, the physical and emotional impacts the past two years have wrought on society and legal practitioners and what the pandemic has exposed about the ethics and culture of the bar. There will be specialist streams for commercial, criminal and common law, and taxation barristers.
Several sessions at the conference will explore how the pandemic has challenged or presented opportunities for many aspects of the way in which justice is administered, and law is practised. There will also be a focus on the future of the Uluru Statement From the Heart, the proposal for a First Nations Voice to Parliament, and the challenges faced by those among our colleagues who practise with a disability.
The conference will close with a star-studded War Room panel that asks how well prepared we are as a society, polity, profession and connected world for the next pandemic.
RE-EMERGE 2022 will be a highlight of 2022, helping to set the agenda for the Australian Bar as we re-emerge energised, innovative and enduring from two years of Covid-19 imposed restrictions.
Image credit - Old Melbourne Gaol.
Amendments to the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules—which currently apply to all barristers in NSW and Victoria—came into effect on 4 March 2022. Their commencement follows a long period of consultation and advocacy by the ABA on behalf of members.
Broadly, the amendments extend the circumstances in which barristers can be professionally sanctioned for engaging in conduct which constitutes discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying to social functions connected with the bar or the legal profession, and interactions with a person with whom the barrister has, or has had, a professional relationship. The definition of bullying has also been broadened.
The amended rules can be found here.
A thought experiment: you are a client or solicitor in need of the assistance of counsel. Perhaps you brief someone you have already worked with? Perhaps you go to the website of a State or Territory Bar Association and conduct a search or browse? Maybe you search the website of a clerk or set of chambers?
Whichever of those options you adopt, you will be exposed only to a subset of the extraordinary talent at Australia’s independent referral bars.
Wouldn’t it be better if there were a national database of profiles showcasing barristers, wherever they are based, available to accept briefs anywhere in Australia?
Well, soon there will be.
To coincide with the commencement of Re-Emerge2022, the ABA will launch a new find-a-barrister service on the ABA’s website. The service will be opt-in only.
To ensure that your profile is visible on the site when it launches, please create one as soon as possible, by visiting https://fab.austbar.asn.au/login#register. You will not appear in the find-a-barrister profile database unless you create a profile.
The service enables you to record your qualifications, dates of admission and call, date of taking silk (where applicable), previous occupations and specialised practice areas, and to upload a photo. You can record your preparedness to accept briefs Australia-wide, and whether you are a First Nations barrister, a nationally accredited mediator, and have adopted the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy.
You can also embed up to three external sites on your profile containing more detailed information about you, including the website of your home Bar or your clerk or set, or a personal site.
The service provides users with simple and advanced search options and the ability to print user-friendly profiles of barristers and lists of search results.
Over time, the ABA’s find-a-barrister service will become the go-to site for clients and solicitors seeking the best available barrister for their matter. Unless you create a profile, you risk missing out.
Register your profile today at https://fab.austbar.asn.au/login#register so that you can be found when the new service launches on 28 April 2022.
In 2021, the ABA pioneered a series of podcasts, focussing on the elimination of sexual harassment and fostering a culture of respect and diversity at the bar. In the first podcast, former President Matthew Howard SC spoke with the Hon. Ken Hayne AC QC and Kate Eastman SC. In the second podcast, Matt and Kate spoke with Rachel Doyle QC about her book, Power and Consent. In the third podcast, Matt and Kate were joined by Associate Professor Michael Flood from the Queensland University of Technology. In the fourth and final podcast for the year, Matt and Kate discussed the #metoo movement and the bringing of the bar within the legal framework of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).
In the first in the ABA’s podcast series for 2022, we will be looking at the changing landscape of advocacy, with a particular focus on the challenges faced by junior barristers in getting on their feet, including in remote hearings. Look out for that podcast in early April, in which a panel of barristers from different levels of seniority and backgrounds, and different jurisdictions, discuss their experiences.
Also, this year, the ABA will be producing a series of podcasts highlighting the pathways to the bar taken by barristers from unexpected backgrounds. Look out for the first in that series in early April. And—if you think you have a pathway to the bar that others might be intrigued or inspired by, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ABA’s 2022 podcast series will be accessible at https://austbar.asn.au/news-media/podcasts
Covid restrictions meant that the ceremonies at which newly appointed silks take their bows in the High Court of Australia in Canberra, before attending a celebratory dinner had to be cancelled in both 2021 and earlier this year. The ABA is working with the High Court to ensure that all silks appointed in 2020 and 2021 have the opportunity to mark that special occasion. More information to come.
New South Wales has welcomed the appointments of the Hon. Andrew Bell as Chief Justice of NSW, and the Hon. Julie Ward as President of the NSW Court of Appeal.
The Australian Capital Territory has welcomed the appointment of the Hon. Lucy McCallum, formerly a judge of appeal on the NSW Supreme Court, as Chief Justice of the Australian Capital Territory.
On 3 March, the Hon. Justice Gordon AC launched the coffee table-sized book, Vic Bar: A History of the Victorian Bar, by Dr Peter Yule. The evening was well attended by members and judges.
Image credit - The Victorian Bar
25 March 2022
NSW Bench and Bar Dinner
26 March 2022
Queensland Bar Association Annual Conference
28 April 2022
ABA National Find-A-Barrister Database launch
28–30 April 2022
RE-EMERGE 2022—the ABA’s annual conference: register now, tickets selling fast
30 April–1 May 2022
South Australian Bar Association annual conference
27 May 2022
Victorian Bar Dinner