• The Executive Director and I travelled to Canberra for the period 30 November – 2 December 2023. On 1 December 2023, we attended the official opening of the Law Council of Australia’s new building. The building was officially opened by the Commonwealth Attorney General.
  • I had the opportunity to meet with current and incoming Presidents from the other states and territories. This was an invaluable opportunity to hear what is happening in each state, the objectives of other presidents, and issues they face over the next year.
  • Whilst Tasmania is a small jurisdiction with only 800 practising certificate holders, it is quite clear that we have very similar goals and areas of interest. The matters that we all agree will continue to be a matter of discussion over the next twelve months are:
  1. Attraction and retention of graduate and early career lawyers.
  2. The ongoing debate in relation to youth offenders and detention of young people.
  3. Sovereign citizens. This is an interesting topic, and it is becoming a more common occurrence for lawyers and the courts when dealing with self-represented litigants who do not accept the court’s jurisdiction. That raises many issues for us as practitioners and is a matter that I will be referring to the CPD Committee.
  4. Risk management, given the progression of the legal profession. It was interesting hearing about what happens in other states and in particular the auditing of firms.
  • The Executive Director, Mr. Rohan Foon, and I attended the 90th anniversary of the Law Council Gala Dinner on Friday evening. This was an opportunity to celebrate the contributions made by the Law Council of Australia over the last 90 years.
  • On 24 November, I was interviewed by the ABC in relation to the DPP’s Annual Report and in particular, the reference to a lack of defence counsel in the state. This is an area of focus for the Law Society of Tasmania, and it provided me with the opportunity to be able to share with the ABC some of the initiatives that are being undertaken by The Law Society of Tasmania along with joint initiatives with Tasmania Legal Aid. The ABC were a little surprised by the number of different ways we are trying to address this issue.
  • The Executive Director and I have received the annual Legal Profession Board Report for 2022/2023. It is worth noting that there were 110 complaints during that period, which is a reduction of 17% on the previous year. We would not agree with the comments on page 23 of the report that there is a general upward trend of complaint numbers since 2016/17. That is not consistent with the numbers. In 2021/22 there were 133 complaints whereas for 2022/23 there were 110 complaints. There are less complaints this year than in 2017/18. We are also conscious there has been an increase in practitioner numbers which impact on statistics.  We did note that most complaints are against more experienced practitioners in that 55 of 94 complaints against practising certificate holders were against practitioners admitted prior to 2003.
  • The Law Society of Tasmania is currently working with the Family Law Practitioners Association and is aware that many of our members have concerns about the complaint process. We will be seeking information from the Legal Profession Board (i.e., statistics) and will continue discussions.
  • This week, the ABC have been in contact in relation to the question of court delay. I will be reviewing information and responding on behalf of the Society.

Vinnies Christmas appeal

  • You might recall that my charity is St Vincent de Paul Society, otherwise known as Vinnies. If you are visiting the Hobart building of The Law Society, you will see the Vinnies Christmas Appeal brochure on display.
  • I met with the CEO, Ms Kent on 5 December 2023. I was shocked when informed that currently in Tasmania there are 120,000 people living in poverty. That is a staggering 1 in 5 adults suffering from severe food insecurity. In addition, there are 26,000 children who have not had enough to eat in the last year.  Over the last financial year, Vinnies have provided $1,400,000 in assistance to Tasmanian community members. There has been a 25% increase in food support expenses.
  • Over next couple of weeks, volunteers for Vinnies will be delivering Christmas Hampers packed with essential food items along with festive treats. It is estimated 1,250 Christmas Hampers will be delivered across the state to families doing it tough.
  • The Law Society of Tasmania has 800 members. My challenge is for every member to give $5.00 to the Vinnies Christmas Appeal.  That is a total of $4,000. Those funds can assist struggling families with living expenses such as rent to keep a roof over their head, food, and essentials. Whilst Christmas should be a time of cheer, for the families that Vinnies are assisting it is a time of increased financial and emotional stress. Your donation can assist with reducing some of that stress.
  • You can donate online through donate.vinnies.org.au/christmas-kindness-tas or use the QR code to make your donation. Your donation can be anonymous, or you can put in your name. It would be helpful if you could include as your reference LST (i.e. Law Society of Tasmania) so we can keep track throughout my presidency of the profession’s fundraising.

JULIA HIGGINS
PRESIDENT