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Involve junior counsel more, say WA’s top judges

The West Australian Chief Justice and president of the state’s Court of Appeal have penned a note to silks out west, stressing the “important role” that junior counsel play in cases and recommending the participation of such practitioners.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 02 March 2023 The Bar
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In a notice to the profession, posted on Wednesday, 1 March, Chief Justice Peter Quinlan of the Supreme Court of Western Australia and Court of Appeal president Justice Michael Buss encouraged the participation of junior counsel in the presentation of cases to the court where two counsel are briefed for a party.

The court recognises, the justices wrote, “that junior counsel play an important role in the preparation of cases before the court”.

“The court’s experience, both at first instance and on appeal, is that involving junior counsel in the presentation of cases often assists in the effective presentation of a case,” Quinlan CJ and Buss J submitted.


“At a broader level, the active involvement of junior counsel promotes the administration of justice by developing the skills of junior counsel as advocates and by enhancing the diversity of those presenting cases before the court.”

Their Honours also encouraged senior counsel, “in particular”, to actively seek out opportunities to divide the presentation of cases.

The justices suggested this “so as to enable junior counsel to take particular witnesses, to put submissions in relation to particular issues or to take responsibility for particular aspects of a case”.

The notice follows comments made by the state’s newest District Court judge, His Honour Judge Mark Ritter SC, at a special sitting for his judicial appointment, in which His Honour called out the bullying, sexual harassment, unreasonable work hours and expectations placed on the youngest members of the profession, and floated collective bargaining or unionising as a solution to such scourges.

As reported by Lawyers Weekly earlier this week, Ritter J said: “Examples of bullying, sexual harassment, unreasonable work hours and expectations from or condoned in one way or another by partners and principals are matters of great concern to the profession, and something should be done about it.” 

“As a parting shot as a former barrister to young lawyers in the profession and noticing, in particular, some of the people at the bar table, I think that the way to move some of these issues forward might be collective bargaining for working conditions and maybe even a union to involve in work practices that are not up to standard,” His Honour argued. 

“In other workplaces, when some of the things that I have mentioned occur, somebody has the capacity to call the union and somebody will appear at the worksite and help address things.”

“The law is perhaps the only profession where that is not possible.”

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