THE PRESIDENT of the Law Society of NSW, Hugh Macken, made his 2008 agenda clear at the start of the legal year. Opening proceedings at the law term dinner, held at Parliament House on 29 January, his speech followed presidential tradition, “part indulgence and part crystal ball gazing”.
Macken warmed-up the crowd with some informal comments about his rather crowded family. “[As] the seventh child of 10 … later having another sister and six step brothers sand sisters thrown in for good measure,” Macken said, “I was obliged to do things that no child ought to have to do to get attention.”
The focus of his address was far more serious, revolving around a central theme of “service”. “Solicitors serve. We serve the courts. We serve our clients. We serve society. It is so organic to the practice of law, that it is essentially intuitive,” he said.
On these same grounds, he expressed strong support for the Law Reform Commission motion to allow lawyers to serve on NSW juries. “As lawyers we serve and if that’s where our service is sought, then that’s where we will serve.”
“Now is the time to act”, Macken said, stating his desire for harmonisation of laws governing the legal profession by the end of this decade. The Law Society president blamed the current regulatory environment for unnecessary complications that have the effect of “impeding the ability of solicitors to act for their clients”.
“The legal community has a responsibility to look at the difficulties present and as lawyers we need to be the new founding fathers of a revamped legal system that addresses these inconsistencies,” he said.
The second issue in Macken’s sights is the cloud of mental illness hovering over the professional achievements of lawyers. “The Law Society’s 2008 objective is to reach out to practitioners in situations of depression to alleviate that feeling of being alone,” he said. “They are highly respected and regarded by their peers.”
Justice Spigelman, Chief Justice of NSW Supreme Court tackled entirely different topics in his speech, focusing on the pre-eminence of Sydney in commercial law matters (see p**). Other speakers on the evening were emcee Deborah Wilcox, Law Society councillor, and Dr Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney.
The Australian Red Cross was announced as the presidential charity of 2008.