Fiona McLeod SC, the new chair of the Victorian Bar Council, has encouraged barristers to respond strategically to Australia’s evolving private practice industry.
McLeod (pictured), who held the position of senior vice-chair during 2011-12, was among seven Victorian Bar members elected to the 21-member Council last week (14 November). She replaces retiring chair Melanie Sloss SC, with Jonathan Beach QC and William Alstergren stepping into the role of joint-vice chairs.
Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, McLeod claimed today’s barristers, many of whom are grappling with downturns in sectors of the economy, must not ignore the rapidly-changing legal environment.
“Competition for advocacy work requires us to respond strategically – to focus on and promote our expertise in advocacy and case management and to preserve our special relationship of trust with clients and the courts,” she said.
McLeod listed a number of priorities for 2013, including: improving the Bar entry process, the curriculum for the readers’ course and continuing professional development; communicating regularly with members via the Council’s website; supporting the health and wellbeing of barristers, and encouraging diversity at the Bar.
She also plans to facilitate greater collaboration between the state-based Bars across Australia.
“We need to continue to develop and promote our strengths in strategic and cost-effective advocacy, not just in Victoria but nationally, with our colleagues to ensure our competitiveness,” she said.
Last month, McLeod was recognised for her high-profile work on the 2011-12 Queensland Floods’ Commission of Inquiry when she won the Barrister Award at the inaugural Lawyers Weekly Women in Law awards. Her involvement as Commonwealth Counsel before the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission was also highlighted.
In addition to her role at the Victorian Bar, McLeod is also a director of the Law Council of Australia, the chair of the Council’s Equalising Opportunity in the Law Committee and a member of the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s International Legal Services Advisory Council.
She practises as a barrister in the areas of human rights, commercial law, common law and administrative law, and completed a Masters in public and international law this year.