WHILE George W Bush’s visit last week served as a reminder of where the Prime Minister’s close allegiances lie, South Australian lawyers would be pleased to know that their new leader, who bears the PM’s surname, will not fall into line with spurious political claims.
Assuming the presidency of the SA Law Society this week, David Howard unashamedly responded to the ‘elitist’ barbs flung by senior State Government politicians — premier Mike Rann included — onto the profession.
“[The attacks on lawyers] and allegations made by politicians from government are a particular concern,” the Adelaide barrister said. “I will be encouraging members to continue to debate issues relating to the system and its shortcomings in a vigorous, rational and logical manner.”
Lawyers had not overstepped the mark in their criticisms of government thus far, contended Howard, who described the Premier’s claims that the profession is “clubby” as “unjustified”.
The Law Society has distanced itself from engaging Rann’s remarks and its new president was similarly mindful “not to upset government any more than necessary” with his response.
“But the worst part of [these attacks] is that they bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” he added.
Howard only joined the Law Society in 1998 — about a decade after quitting private practice to become a barrister — and has been moving steadily up the ranks ever since.
“I suppose talent was recognised,” he quipped.
A champion sailor, Howard understands his term may involve some squalls, particularly in the vicinity of the National Profession Project (NPP). Under Howard’s captaincy, the Law Society will continue to encourage Attorney-General Mike Atkinson to preserve local fidelity fund, insurance, and disciplinary arrangements from any accommodations under the scheme.
He is also against multi-disciplinary practices and incorporation entering SA, consistent with the Society’s stance thus far, despite a close call at Council recently.
“We are still against [ILPs and MDPs],” Howard said. “Personally I don’t think they are a good thing. The compromise of a lawyer’s independence is the significant thing.”