THE SELECTION of a new president to the Queensland Law Society has brought the issue of judicial appointments again to the fore. Contrary to comments made by some of his peers, covered in these pages, Joe Pinder says solicitors will always make suitable candidates for the bench.
“I firmly believe that solicitors should be considered for appointment as senior judicial officers,” he said.
“There is no rational basis at all to argue that solicitors who are appropriately qualified should not be considered. After all, the nature of the profession is evolving and changing and many solicitors don’t just do highly technical work in all areas of practice but now have significant advocacy work as well.”
His comments came after the recent appointment of Ann Lyons to the Supreme Court of Queensland, and the furore caused by Bar Association of Queensland president Martin Daubney’s very public response.
Pinder said he welcomed the renewed commitment of Attorney-General Linda Lavarch to consult with the profession on future appointments, but that the Society “will not be shy at all about advancing the legitimate case for well-qualified solicitors”.
Other than matters of judicial appointment, support to members rated as Pinder’s highest priority.
“The bottom line is that nothing — and I mean nothing — is more important than our members,” he said. “If we can advise and inform a member who feels trouble looming, then we don’t just help that member, we help his or her clients.”
Pinder also desired an expanded and higher profile role for LawCare: the professional service for members who are suffering from professional or private emotional stress. “That can be and should be a touchstone service,” he said.
A key benefit for the Society lies in having the LAWASIA Secretariat based in the Law Society House, which Pinder aims to utilise to its full potential as chair of the body’s newly-formed litigation and ADR section.
“Constructive and mutually beneficial liaison with our fellow professionals in the Asia Pacific will open doors for the export of legal services and other business opportunities for our members,” he said.
A further goal is to shed the bonds of the Legal Profession Act 2004, by establishing the Society as a private corporation under the Corporations Act 2001. Pinder was involved with a submission to the Lavarch to achieve such an end in June.
“The days when this profession should be governed by a statutory authority, as we are now, should be long gone, and no other trade union or professional association would ever tolerate it,” he said.
Other potential battlegrounds concern incorporated legal practices, multi-disciplinary practices and the contentious issues surrounding the Civil Liability Act 2003. Pinder remained firm that these issues were not beyond the scope of reform.
Of the injury scale in the Civil Liability Act 2003, Pinder said it was important that “in addition to delivering a fair and appropriate compensation that injury victims are entitled to, [the system] must be prudentially funded, profitable and viable”.
“Certainly this is particularly true in statutory classes of insurance where there are large premium pools effectively regulated by government,” he said.
“We have promoted a number of reforms which have been adopted to ensure particularly that smaller claims can be dealt with in a speedy, cost-effective and efficient way, such as reforms in respect of the indemnity costs rule.
“Other scheme pressures have been alleviated by reforms such as the restrictions on the advertising of legal services and I’m committed to dialogue with government, the scheme regulators and insurers to get a balanced outcome.”