THE CHANGING nature of legal practice in Victoria requires all members of the profession to be brought under one wing. Government lawyers would then have a sense of the profession and it would nurture a fluidity in all the different types of practice, according to the state’s peak legal body.
Approval for the formation of a Government Lawyers Committee late last year came about after the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) expressed an interest in the needs of government lawyers.
Government lawyers, who were concerned that there was no existing forum or section to facilitate discussion on the status, role and career opportunities for government lawyers and legally qualified government employees, approached the LIV last year, and this expedited the approved formation of the committee.
The LIV recognised that government lawyers as a group had been overlooked by the organisation, said LIV president Chris Dale in an interview with Lawyers Weekly. “They have a very important role to play and have special needs which would be addressed if a government law group was formed,” he said.
“[Government lawyers] ought to be embraced into the broad church of the Institute,” Dale added.
Lawyers are increasingly taking on government positions and the LIV is eager to include them in the profession. Dale argued that the profession benefited from seeing the expertise of government lawyers on display.
“Lawyers are going into government work, and we are lesser if we don’t include them. [The LIV] must acknowledge the changing nature of law to be relevant,” Dale said.
The LIV is asking members of the profession to respond to a discussion paper which aims to facilitate debate on the status, role and career opportunities for government lawyers.
Submissions received will be used to form a position paper, which will be completed by the end of 2004. The paper will set out the role and functions of the new Government Lawyers’ Committee and provide a voice for government lawyers.
The discussion paper points out that the committee “will clearly represent all lawyers employed by government in the state of Victoria”, and that this may include people with legal qualifications with diverse roles in government.
The Committee would provide continuing legal education on specific issues for government lawyers, the paper states. And it must ensure “high standards of practice by government lawyers by provision of appropriate and up-to-date legal education and training.”
“Government lawyers have special needs for continuing education,” Dale said.
He also said issues develop in government legal circles that are unique to government lawyers. “I’ve been concerned that there needs to be a coming together of different groups so that there can be shared knowledge.”
Government lawyers will enjoy knowledge sharing and will have a safe networking environment under the new committee, the paper notes. “Up until now there has been no coordinated attempt to bring together government lawyers working for the Commonwealth, Victorian or local government,” it said.