In an email seen by Lawyers Weekly, Arthur Moses SC and Anne Healey of Sydney’s Frederick Jordan Chambers challenged the validity of proxy votes in determining the right of barristers to incorporate.
Three senior silks had previously sent an open letter urging members to appoint Bar Councillor John Hyde Page (pictured) from 5 Selborne Chambers as a proxy and direct him to vote in favour of the motion.
Hyde Page revealed to Lawyers Weekly that more than 200 proxy votes supporting the motion have already been cast.
But Moses and Healey argued that the proxy form did not accurately describe the motion that would be before the meeting.
The barristers also commented that member proxies were being sought before the issue of incorporation had been the subject of advice and members had been given the benefit of that advice. They referred to minutes of a Bar Council meeting in June that stated: “The Bar Council resolved to commission a legal opinion from a senior member or members of the Bar about the consequences of barristers providing their services through single-member corporate entities.”
Moses and Healey recommended that any decision on this issue or the appointment of a proxy await the receipt of commissioned advices.
“The issue of incorporation is a matter that requires consideration based on the facts of the law,” the email stated.
In a memo dated 23 August, NSW Bar Association president Philip Boulten SC, who has consistently opposed moves for incorporation since Hyde Page first floated the idea, encouraged members to read advices before casting a proxy. He also offered barristers an opportunity to withdraw or amend an existing proxy, but did not disqualify the proxy votes that had already been cast.
Hyde Page said the move by opponents of incorporation to potentially exclude more than 200 of their colleagues from the ballot was uncalled for.
“I don’t think that sort of behaviour has any place at the NSW Bar,” he added.
Barrister Geoffrey Slater of Melbourne’s Seabrook Chambers, an advocate of incorporation, launched a website called Barristers Incorporation ‘YES’ Vote Campaign on Friday (23 August) to provide an online facility for members to make proxies.
Members will vote on the motion calling for individual barristers to be permitted to offer legal services through a single-member, sole-director company formed under the Corporations Act 2001 at a general meeting of the Bar Association on Tuesday 17 September.