THE EVER public face of the peak body representing the legal profession across Australia, John North, last week stepped down from his post and another has taken his role.
Hobart-based partner Tim Bugg, with Tasmanian firm Dobson, Mitchell and Allport, this week took the helm of the Law Council of Australia and immediately laid down the blueprint for the national body’s activities in the upcoming year.
Bugg’s first act as president was to reaffirm the Law Council’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific region. He will participate in a legal services mission to Beijing and Shanghai next week, led by the Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and former Chief Justice and Lieutenant-Governor of NSW Sir Laurence Street.
The delegation will meet with legal professionals in China to lobby for increased access by Australian lawyers to the Chinese legal services market. “In Australia we have a regime to accommodate foreign lawyers, and we desire to see those in the [Asia-Pacific] region as well,” said Bugg.
While in China, Bugg will address a gathering of law school deans on Australia’s foreign law practice and our regulatory system. “It’s about giving Chinese lawyers a better understanding of what we do, and engaging more with them, as the two countries themselves move towards a Free Trade Agreement,” he said.
Apart from China, the Council intends to further relationships with other Asia Pacific nations, under Bugg. “The Law Council is a very prominent body within the region and we have done much to foster relationships with our counterparts in neighbouring countries. Forging these relationships is helping to open up new legal markets for Australian practitioners,” he said. “As Australia enters free trade agreements with its Asian neighbours, there is a strong role to be played by the Australian legal profession.”
The partnership forged last year between the Australian Law Council and the Fiji Law Society in opposing the Fiji Government’s Promotion of Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill, and the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between both legal bodies, are examples of the relationships the Council will lead Australian lawyers to forge. Last year a professional body in Indonesia became the most recent Asian contact for the Council. “[Indonesia’s] a developing area for us, but very important,” said Bugg.
Domestically, the new president wants the Law Council to continue its role in law-and-order and access-to-justice issues. He is also eager to see through the Law Council’s National Legal Profession Project to complete implementation and successful operation, and to maintain the Law Council’s momentum on restoring fairness to personal injury laws.
“The Law Council has been steadily increasing its profile. The efforts over the past 18 months of outgoing President John North, particularly on rule of law and human rights issues, has had a lot to do with this,” Bugg said.
Bugg has practised in civil litigation and family law for the last 26 years. A past president of the Law Society of Tasmania, he is a member of the Law Foundation, a member of the board of the Centre for Legal Studies and chairman of a Law Society sub-committee.