As the newly elected president of the Law Council of Australia for 2011, Adelaide barrister Alexander Ward aims to improve the retention of young lawyers, both in the cities and rural areas, and to ensure that women lawyers are better represented in the senior ranks of the legal profession.
Also on the agenda for the LCA in 2011 is to continue to play an active role in the reform of the national legal profession and to support the Pacific region in its efforts to develop an improved legal framework.
While the reform of the national profession is a high priority, the retention of young, country lawyers and the support of women lawyers is equally as important, according to Ward.
"What's dear to my heart are the projects that we've got with women lawyers and young practitioners," Ward said. "To focus on that and look at the conditions of young lawyers and the female lawyers. To [understand] what their working conditions are like; seeing if they need improvement and how we can help to improve them. They are the key to the profession."
By addressing the impediments to lawyers in their careers, Ward hopes to ensure that female lawyers - which make up approximately 70 per cent of law graduates - have greater representation amongst barristers and senior members of the profession.
The attraction and retention of rural lawyers is another issue close to Ward's heart, having worked closely with country lawyers throughout his career and as a former president of the Law Society of South Australia.
"I guess I find rural retention quite personal," he said. "There are lawyers out there, so the needs of the community are being met more or less, but it's putting a lot of pressure on the people doing the work. The problem is one that's going to manifest in about five years' time and that's why we have to work on it now."
Having negotiated on the draft reforms for a national profession throughout 2010, Ward expects that a final version of the reforms will be achieved shortly.
"I think that we're pretty close to a [final] version. The version that's being put out will be sent to COAG, which officially meets in early February, so we'll see what happens from there," he said.
In response to the resistance of the law societies of Western Australia and South Australia regarding parts of the reforms, including the independence of the profession and increased costs, Ward said the issues raised have been dealt with.
"I'm hopeful the national profession is going to come through. There's a good drive towards that. We just need to wait and see the views of COAG," he said.
"The point of the national profession, with its governing committee, is that it's fluid....We're not going to get a bill that's set in stone, never to be changed."
With plenty on the 2011 agenda, which also includes the continued development of the Military Court, Ward is excited to be leading the LCA in what he believes is a crucial time for the profession.
"We've got lots of irons in the fire that we'll be working on. A great thing about it is that there are many opportunities for us because we've got a very good working relationship with the government, and in particular the Attorney-General," he said.
"It's a time of good opportunity."
Like this story? Read more: