Much water has flowed under the bridge since South Australian premier Mike Rann accused the State’s lawyers of being too “clubby”.
However, judging by a vitriolic response from the profession, prominently featured in this month’s Law Society of South Australia’s Bulletin, bridges are still well and truly in need of mending.
Wasting no time to hit back hard at Rann’s remarks, the piece described as “ill-informed” the Premier’s sentiments that “the legal profession needs to do more to rid itself of a clubby image that appears to exclude, not include, the community”.
It continued by asserting the claims only served to entrench, rather than shatter, elitist perceptions.
“Accusations of a clubby legal fraternity are easy to make and hard to dispel,” it reads. “This [a clubby profession] is, perhaps, a hangover from years gone by when the majority of lawyers were white, Anglo-Saxon protestant males . . . Today’s legal fraternity draws its members from a diverse cultural and socio-economic background — but let’s not let the facts get in the way of some decent lawyer bashing.”
“Cheap shots at lawyers are politically popular, and in the rush to kick the dog, it seems you do need to get your facts straight.”
Rann’s provocative comments, which also advised lawyers to develop “thicker skins”, were made during a keynote address to Adelaide’s World Jurist Association Conference in August. At the time, the Law Society declined to respond and again last week took measures to distance itself from the latest return of fire in its official mouthpiece.
An insider confirmed that views contained therein were those of a lawyer on the magazine’s editorial team, but added the society “did not necessarily” endorse them.
But according to those contacted by Lawyers Weekly, both sides of the debate maintained valid points.
While lamenting the popularity of ‘lawyer-bashing’, Phillip’s Fox’s Adelaide head Joe De Ruvo conceded his peers were partly responsible for their own predicament.
“The problem is a lack of education. Lawyers need to communicate better to society what it is we really do,” he said. “At the moment I don’t think we’re very good at that.”