The legal profession faces a challenge to get better at educating the public about how people can use the law to help them in times of need according to the new president of the Law Society of South Australia.
Lawyers are currently suffering a historically less than favourable perception from the public. Combined with factors such as under-resourced legal assistance services, overly complex legislation, reforms that have restricted access to legal representation, along with the expansion of other industries into services traditionally performed by qualified lawyers, people have been dissuaded to engage in lawyers often to the public’s detriment, according to the Law Society of South Australia.
However, according to the society’s new president, Tim White, these forces are precisely why people should get proper legal advice if they have a pressing legal problem, an unresolved dispute or feel they have been dealt with unjustly.
“Many people feel worried or concerned before seeing a lawyer when we want them to feel like they are in trusted hands in the same way they might when they see a doctor,” Mr White said.
“Lawyers get a pretty bad rap a lot of the time, and we need to do more to connect with the public and show them how our role in the legal process actually protects them and solves problems.”
As president, high on Mr White’s agenda for the year is to improve the profession’s credibility and connection with the general public.
“My career has been devoted to helping vulnerable people find remedies for the hardship they have suffered,” Mr White said.
“I have seen first-hand how the legal system, as daunting as it can sometimes be, can help people achieve justice, often against institutions with far more power.”
Furthermore, according to Mr White, greater synergy between lawyers and other professions to work closer together can strengthen the relationship with the client.
“Greater communication and understanding will see more and more professions working together in pursuit of a common goal or outcome,” said Mr White.
“This can only mean a better experience for clients who are likely going through a difficult, stressful time.”