By virtue of their adaptability and collegiality, barristers in Australia will continue to make the most of the environment in which they operate, according to Jennifer Batrouney QC.
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly at the conclusion of her term as president of the Australian Bar Association, Melbourne-based silk Ms Batrouney said she is “certain” that barristers across the country will continue to thrive into the future.
“It is because barristers are independent, highly skilled and nimble that we are able to meet the needs of the public in a cost-effective manner. While we will always continue to provide pro bono assistance to those in need, the bar is continuing to evolve to seek out new and more efficient ways to serve the public and to promote the effective administration of justice,” she posited.
“The Australian Bar is a cohesive, collegiate institution and we will work together to make the most of the opportunities presented to us, for the benefit of the public.”
It is, and remains, of vital importance for the public to be able to obtain timely, high-quality, independent advice from the bar, Ms Batrouney continued.
“The bar is a pool of specialist advisers and advocates who can respond swiftly and economically to just about any type of legal problem in any area of practice. While the traditional areas of practice such as crime, family and common law remain an important facility for use by the public through solicitors, in the future more corporate counsel and other advisers such as accountants, will seek advice direct from the bar because it is often quicker and more economical to do so. It is also important to emphasise that the bar does a massive amount of pro bono work for those who cannot afford to represent themselves,” she explained.
“Many if not most barristers do a great deal of pro bono work at the request of the courts or through clearing houses, such as Justice Connect in Victoria. It is fair to say that the legal system simply could not function without this work.”
But there are looming challenges on the horizon for Australian barristers, she ceded, and as the legal marketplace becomes more globalised, “it will be important for Australian barristers to retain their recognition as exceptional advocates, mediators and arbitrators on the world stage”, she said.
“One way we do this is through providing Australian advocacy trainers throughout the common law world to showcase the talents of the Australian Bar. It is [also] a huge challenge for the bar to reflect the diversity of the Australian community it serves,” she said.
There also remains, Ms Batrouney mused, an imperative to ensure that such legal member associations remain trustworthy in the eyes of the broader public, in the wake of new findings that ethical perceptions of law societies in Australia had dropped for the second year running.
“Barristers are highly regulated and closely supervised but there is always room for improvement for the benefit of the public,” she said.
Reflecting on her time as president, however, Ms Batrouney feels privileged to have represented the nation’s barristers.
“It has been an honor to lead the Australian Bar and to seek to make a positive difference to the legal profession for the benefit of the public,” she said.
“The ABA’s main purpose is to maintain and promote the rule of law and the effective administration of justice. There are many ways we have sought to achieve this, from defending the judiciary against improper attacks to raising the standard of advocacy through the [world-renowned] ABA Advocacy Training Council.
“It has been a year of firsts for the ABA – from conducting its first international conference in Asia to holding its first joint conference with the New Zealand Bar. It was the fulfillment of a personal dream of mine to be able to convene the first-ever gathering of the National Tax Bar and Judiciary in October, hosted by the Federal Court, with a view to exchanging ideas on how to improve the management of tax cases throughout Australia.”