ENCOURAGED by recent support from the New South Wales Bar Association, the body representing more than 2,200 in-house counsel nationwide will this month demand a bigger say in the overall affairs of the profession.
Lawyers Weekly has discovered that the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) intend to formally apply for membership status with the Law Council of Australia (LCA).
ACLA president Tony de Govrik revealed he met with LCA secretary-general Michael Lavarch last year to discuss the prospect of the corporate lawyers getting a seat at the table.
“At that time, the [LCA] indicated they would look at their options, but since then we haven’t heard anything more,” de Govrik said.
Along with CEO Peter Turner, de Govrik will again meet with Lavarch in the next fortnight, this time on a more formal basis.
“It can go on the record that we are looking to achieve membership status with the [LCA] and it can also go on the record that the more diversity there is on the [LCA] the better that is for the profession.”
ACLA’s standard bearers will travel to Canberra buoyed by an unexpected dose of support for the cause from Bar Association president Bret Walker.
Speaking out in the opening pages of the Bar’s 2002-03 annual report, which was released last week, Walker made no secret of the fact he supported further diversification of the LCA’s constituent member ranks.
“In my view the best antidote to what may be a threat of a centralising ambition on the part of some involved in the [LCA], or even the Commonwealth Government, is to press with vigour for the admission into the [LCA] of even more voices representing different segments of legal profession,” he wrote.
Directly addressing the merits of ACLA’s inclusion, Walker continued: “As a matter of principle, I would regard [ACLA] as a natural and very deserving recipient of another seat at the table.”
Responding to Walker’s comments, de Goverik said: “What it says to me is that the legal profession has woken up to the fact that more than twenty percent of all lawyers come from places other than private practice and it’s time they had a voice.”
At present, 12 bodies including each state and territory’s law society and four bar associations, constitute the LCA’s membership.
As revealed by Lawyers Weekly, the Western Australian and Northern Territory Bar Associations applied to join the ranks earlier this year. Lavarch expected their fate would be announced in December.
According to Walker, however, the claims of representative bodies should not be ignored.
“We are all Australian lawyers. The [LCA] cannot afford for long to proceed as if the number of our colleagues practising as private solicitors suffices to characterise its political constitution and agenda,” his yearly report said.
When asked to respond to Walker’s comments, Lavarch said he viewed them in light of the membership applications already on foot.
He declined to provide comment on the possibility of ACLA becoming a constituent because no formal application had been received.
Although hopeful of being accepted into the LCA’s fold, de Govrik anticipated that “deep rooted constitutional issues” might hinder the smooth delivery of bodies other than law societies and bar associations into its membership.