The Bar Council held an all-day meeting in the Common Room on Saturday, 4 February. Topics discussed included services for members, the Bar Associationâs role in public debate on issues affecting the administration of justice, diversity at the bar, governance and practice development. Listed below are the agreed outcomes from that meeting.
**PLENARY SESSION 1
1.ï¿½What more can /should the Association do for members?**
Cost recovery/Costs and Fees
- The Associationâs cost recovery assistance service should be regularly advertised to members via In Brief.
- An annual seminar should be held on cost recovery, primarily aimed at the junior bar. The New Barristers Committee should be involved in its preparation.
- The Costs and Fees Committee should consider the case for increasing the rate of interest on unpaid fees, which is currently set under the Legal Profession Act at 2% above the Reserve Bank Cash Rate Target, along with the suitability of current disclosure requirements concerning interest rates on unpaid fees. Once the Committeeâs advice is received, Bar Council should consider the need to lobby Government for any relevant changes in this regard.
- The Cost and Fees Committee should also consider how, if it can, the Bar can receive fees in advance without the need for a trust account.
- The Association take up with the Law Society the large firmsâ policies on delayed payment to the Bar.
- The Executive Director is to report to Bar Council on a possible model for a pilot programme for the provision of financial planning and superannuation advice to the members of the Bar, and on the financial implications of such a service.
- The Association should conduct several seminars a year for its members on financial management, including planning for retirement.
- The Executive Director is to provide Bar Council with a report on what can be done to involve retired members more in the affairs of the Association, both in terms of specific functions and services that could be offered, and encouraging their contribution, eg mentoring.
Member Services Committee
- A sub-Committee of Bar Council be established to examine and report back on what we are doing for members, and what more might be done.
- The Association should provide a service of connecting senior members with conference organisers for the giving of papers.
- The Education Committee is to consider whether there should be a series of seminars for those about 10 years out and who may in due course be candidates for silk.
2.ï¿½Should we do more to initiate/participate in discussion/debates on law reform/public issues?
- The process by which the Association brings issues to public attention and responds to significant public issues should be considered in detail by the Bar Council. The coming Criminal Law Committee report on drug law reform should be used as a trial on how the Association might initiate/encourage public debate on issues of public importance.
3.ï¿½Diversity at the Bar/Women at the Bar
- A Bar Council policy meeting to be arranged in the near future so that issues surrounding diversity at the Bar can be discussed, including there being exit interviews with practitioners leaving the Bar in order to obtain a better understanding of individualsâ reasons for ceasing practice, and the possibility of following a Bar Practice Course cohort for 5-7 years (Traill to provide a paper on this suggestion).
- The Executive Director is to have statistics taken out of the number of barristers entering/leaving the Bar over the past 5 years by gender.ï¿½ These statistics are to show separately the private/non private Bar.
SESSION 2: GOVERNANCE
1. Delegations/ Role of the Executive
- An induction package, including documents such as the Associationâs Constitution, Annual Report, Benevolent Fund Constitution, delegations in force, the senior staffâs duty statements and Committee membership, be provided to Bar Councillors before the first substantive meeting of each incoming new Bar Council.
- A register of all future written legal advice received by the Association (apart from advice relating to PCC matters) is to be established and be available for access by all directors, subject to any conflict of interest and privilege considerations.
- The Executive Directorâs statement of duties is to be considered at the next suitable meeting of Bar Council.
2. Meeting protocol
- The agenda for Bar Council meetings dedicated to policy issues should only include PCC matters if they are genuinely urgent.
- PCCs are to be requested to provide an Executive Summary for each Report where the Committee recommends that to Bar Council that a complaint be dismissed.
A brief statement, rather than a detailed report, is all that is required by the Bar Council when considering a PCCâs recommendation not to grant a request that a complaint be summarily dismissed.
- The question of whether Bar Council should delegate its functions in relation to the summary dismissal of complaints will be the subject of a note to Bar Council from the Director, Professional Conduct.
- Bar Councillors who wish to raise policy matters at Bar Council may consult with the chair of the relevant Committee before doing so, and should provide adequate documentation and notice in these circumstances, unless the urgency of the matter does not allow this to be done.
- The President and Executive Director will speak to a tabled âdot pointâ note for their reports to Council.
- Noted that all Committees provide a written report to the Council each six months.ï¿½
4.ï¿½Bar Association elections
Information about candidates
- The Bar Council considered three options in relation to the placement of election candidate information on the Associationâs website:
i.ï¿½the status quo, ie. labels made available to candidates;
ii.ï¿½candidates invited to provide a photograph and brief biographical information to be included on the Association website; and
iii.ï¿½candidates be permitted to include their policy platform on the Associationâs web site. Issues such as length, defamation, accuracy and the Associationâs liability need to be considered.
Most favoured option (ii). Agreed that Kylie Nomchong would prepare a paper proposing the kinds of candidate information that could be included.ï¿½ The Executive Director is to supplement that paper with a note on the cost and staffing implications of the proposal.
- Agreed that the arguments for direct election of officeholders do not outweigh the advantages of the present system.
One year Presidential terms
- Agreed not to support a change to the Associationâs Constitution to reduce the maximum term that can be served by a President to one year.ï¿½ Many spoke in support of one year Presidential terms, as a matter of convention that may develop.ï¿½ If a member of the Bar Council wishes to initiate a change to the Constitution,ï¿½ it is open to them to do so.ï¿½
Bar Council edited minutes
- Noted, the existing practice whereby edited Bar Council minutes, with PCC and other sensitive matters removed, are made available to members via In Brief, and are searchable on the website.
- Agreed that the 2012 AGM is to be held at 5.15pm on Thursday 8 November 2012.
SESSION 3 - PRACTICEï¿½DEVELOPMENT
1.ï¿½Marketing the Bar
- The Practice Development Committee is to prepare a report to Bar Council on its ideas for marketing the Barâs services to in-house counsel, including recommendations and the estimate cost of any proposals.
- The Treasurer said $25,000 could be accommodated in the 2012/2013 budget for this purpose.
- The ADR Committee is to be asked to identify further opportunities for promoting the Barâs expertise in ADR.
- The Practice Development Committee is to consider the Association assisting chambers undertaking their own marketing, rather than marketing being centralised in the Association.
- The New Barristers Committee is to be asked whether there is anything further that came out of its recent survey that needs to be done in the area of assisting new barristers to establish a viable practice.
- The Practice Development Committee is to consider the establishment and maintenance of a page on the Associationâs website describing what a barrister need do to be placed on the various âpanelsâ for Government business â e.g. for Legal Aid, the NSW Crown Solicitorsâ office.
- Association staff should monitor developments with the recently announced Commonwealth Legal Assistance review, with a view to the preparation of a further submission promoting the cost effectiveness of the Bar to the Commonwealth Government.
2. The future of the Bar
- It was agreed that Street SCâs proposals for changes to the way in which barristers practise be considered at a future Bar Council meeting, having in mind the effect of the new National Model Law and National Barristers Rules in this regard.
- That a note to the Bar concerning the circumstances in which monies can be received in advance in direct access matters be again published in In Brief.
- A Strategic Plan, setting out the Associations aims and objectives, is to be developed.
Counsel without chambers
- Agreed to consider further what the Association could do for those barristers who do not practice from established chambers, noting that a disproportionate number of complaints are received in relation to this group.
- The Executive Director is to prepare a list of practitioners who do not practise from chambers.
SESSION 4 â SILK SELECTION
- Bar Council agreed that its consideration of issues surrounding Senior Counsel selection be adjourned until the next policy meeting of the Bar Council in 2012.
- David Smallboneâs Standing Notice of Interest be tabled at the next Bar Council meeting.
Outcomes of strategy day
- A document noting the outcomes of the Strategy Day will be distributed to Bar Councillors.
- A short note will be published in In Brief noting that the Strategy Day has been held and providing a general list of the issues discussed.
View the agreedï¿½outcomes in pdf>
28 February 2012