Dear Diary – A couple of months in my life as a Law Society Councillor

 
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During my six years as a Councillor of the Law Society of NSW, my most frequently asked question has been: What does a Councillor do? The short answer is that a Councillor is a director of the company known as Law Society of NSW. With the other Councillors I’m involved in directing or managing the company. This involves formulating and monitoring policy for the benefit of the Society’s members. It also involves making decisions to perform the Society’s statutory obligations to protect the interests of the public and, in the course of doing that, maintaining the integrity of the profession.

The long answer is that there are many small but important things that a Councillor does. Every Councillor’s contribution is different. It all depends on the Councillor’s interests, experience and availability[1]. Most Councillors serve on one or more of the Law Society’s policy committees[2]. The Society has regulatory committees[3] to which the Council of the Law Society delegates some of its statutory obligations; and Councillors also serve on these committees. There are committees which don’t require delegated statutory power but are important because they provide guidance on legal practice[4]. Then there’s sub-committees, working groups and enquiries.

As well, the Law Society is a member of Law Council of Australia, and Councillors are often members of committees, sub-committees and working groups of the LCA.

And, to give an even more detailed idea, this is my activities as a Councillor for the last two months:

21 July 2016 Chair the Working Group on Elder Abuse. We consider a suggested CPD program on Elder Abuse – a solicitor’s role, a Q&A forum discussing mental capacity, a workshop on understanding and interviewing a client, and a further seminar on fiduciary duties, undue influence and conflicts of interest – in the light of recommendation 8 of the NSW Parliamentary report Elder abuse in NSW
21 July 2016 Chair the Ethics Committee of the Law Society. The committee considers a member’s enquiry about the disclosure of information received under subpoena to a third party, amendment to Solicitors Conduct rule 33 around second opinions and the prohibition on referral fees in the age of vereins[5]
21 July 2016 Attend the Council meeting with other Councillors. The Council  nominates me to join the Law Extension committee at Sydney University
21 July 2016 Attend the Council dinner at which the guest is Judge Derek Price, Chief Judge of the District Court
23 July 2016  The Law Council of Australia’s Elder Abuse Working Group (LCA’s EAWG) is preparing a response to the ALRC’s Issues paper on elder abuse. I draft the submission on assisted decision-making
25 July 2016 Draft the LCA’s EAWG submission on superannuation
26 July 2016 Draft the LCA’s EAWG submission on family agreements
27 July 2016 Attend a meeting of the Working Group on Young Graduates. There is an update on the work with graduates. Information is provided about the timeframe for hard data to be obtained
28 July 2016 Participate in a telephone meeting with the President of the ALRC, Ros Croucher, other members of the ALRC, 2 representatives of LCA and the chair of the Elder Abuse working Group to discuss the ALRC’s Issues paper on elder abuse
1 August 2016 An urgent matter has arisen for the consideration of the Ethics Committee – two members seek guidance on whether one is prevented from acting against a former client. The information is provided to the Committee to consider and respond by email within two days.
2 August 2016[6] Attend a meeting of the Future Committee. The committee is holding hearings into the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP). There is discussion of the outcome of the latest hearings and the material to be gathered at the next hearings.
3 August 2016 After sorting the emails from members of the Ethics committee, I decided the approach that the committee would take to a member’s enquiry about conflict. This was an easy task as the committee’s position was unanimous.
4 August 2016 A sub-committee of the Ethics Committee is considering the redrafting of a rule of the Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules for consideration of the LCA’s Rules committee at the end of August, and I make comments for the subcommittee’s consideration.
5 August 2016 Attend the Accredited Specialist Board meeting by telephone to discuss, among other things, the mutual recognition of specialist accreditation in and by other Australian jurisdictions
5 August 2016 There is a national telephone hook-up of the LCA’s Elder Abuse Working Group to finalise the submission to ALRC’s Issues paper.
5 August 2016 A colleague emails me material from a prominent Not-for-Profit organisation which is wanting solicitors to prepare wills (whereby the charity receives a gift) but does so in 15 minutes. I forward this to the Elder Law and Succession Committee (EL+SC) for consideration at its meeting on Monday.
5-10 August 2016 Write comments on a policy paper prepared by a committee member of the Ethics Committee, and send the suggestions to that member
5-7 August 2016 Read the papers in advance of the meeting of the EL+SC
8 August 2016 Attend the August meeting of EL+SC where issues concerning elder law and succession are discussed
8 August 2016 Chair the Working Group on Elder Abuse, and receive a revised CPD program on Elder Abuse
10 August 2016 Send two relevant court decisions and the committee member’s policy paper for inclusion in the next papers for the Ethics Committee
11 August 2016 Various papers are reviewed and commented upon in setting the agenda for the Ethics Committee’s next meeting
11 August 2016 The last draft of the LCA’s submission to the ALRC’s Issues paper on Elder Abuse is considered for final comment
11 August 2016 Write a suggested policy for consideration of the Ethics Committee at its next meeting
12 August 2016 Pursue the minutes of the last Futures Committee meeting and new reading, including the ABA’s report on the future of the legal profession
12 August 2016 The papers for the next Ethics Committee meeting are finalised and sent to the committee
12 August 2016 Additional comments are given for inclusion in the LCA’s submissions to the ALRC’s inquiry
13 – 18 August 2016 Download and read the papers to be considered at the next meeting of the Council of the Law Society
18 August 2016 Chair the Ethics Committee of the Law Society at which various Guidelines, amendment to Conduct Rules and access issues are discussed.
18 August 2016 Attend the Council meeting of all Councillors.
18 August 2016 Attend the Council dinner at which the guest is Noel Hutley SC, the President of the Bar Association
20 August 2016 Vet the Minutes of the meeting of the Ethics Committee
23 August 2016 Attend the induction of new directors/board members of the Legal Aid Commission NSW[7]
26 August 2016 Drive to Orange and attend a function of the Central West Law Society[8].
29 August 2016 Read and consider the Powers of Attorney Regulations which will commence on 1 September 2016 for EL+SC
30 -31 August 2016 Read and consider the papers for the Specialist Accreditation Board meeting on Friday 2 September 2016
31 August – 5 September 2016 Read and consider the board papers for the Legal Aid Commission meeting on 6 September 2016
1 September 2016 Read and review the agenda for the next meeting of EL+SC, which I will chair in the absence of the regular Chair
2 September 2016 Ring into the Accredited Specialist Board meeting to discuss, among other things, re-accreditation applications and the program for 2017
3 September 2016 Give a 3 hour presentation on topical wills and estates issues to local solicitors on behalf of Orana Law Society (Dubbo)
5 September 2016 Write comments on a proposed letter to the Attorney-General about changes to Powers of Attorney Act
6 September 2016 Attend my first directors meeting at the Legal Aid Commission NSW.
7 September 2016 Attend the Special Council meeting approving the 2016 financial reports for the Law Society
7 September 2016 Attend the Executive meeting as a guest of the Executive. The deliberations of the executive are confidential
7 September 2016 Attend the Future Committee discussing, among other things, the ABA’s report on the future of the legal profession. The outcome of the latest FLIP hearings are discussed together with the material to be gathered at the next set of hearings
8 September 2016 Review and comment on the paper to be presented to the first Elder Abuse CPD on 21 September 2016
8 September 2016 Review the draft papers for the Ethics Committee meeting on 15 September 2016
9-10 September 2016 Read the papers for EL+SC ahead of the meeting on 12 September.
10 September 2016 Read the first tranche of Council papers ahead of the Council meeting on 15 September 2016
12 September 2016 Attend the EL+SC meeting and chair it in the absence of the usual Chair.
12 September 2016 Chair Elder Abuse Working Group finalising arrangements for CPD program and preparing list of useful contacts for solicitors and clients wanting more information about elder abuse
13 September 2016 Read the second tranche of Council papers
14 September 2016 Read the third tranche of Council papers
15 September 2016 Chair the Ethics Committee of the Law Society
15 September 2016 Attend the Council meeting with other Councillors
15 September 2016 Attend the Teal Games to raise money for the President’s charity, Ovarian Cancer
16 September 2016 Approve the Minutes of the Ethics Committee meeting
17-18 September 2016 Attend and present at Blue Mountains Succession conference
18 September 2016 Read material on the reaccreditation of a specialist and provide my opinion thereon

The forgoing is a relatively routine month or so for me. Certainly some part of almost every day is spent doing some thing or other for the Law Society.

All the Best

Darryl Browne[9]

[1] Many Councillors from the country have long periods of travel to attend meeting at the Law Society building in Phillip St, Sydney. Those Councillors secretly envy the short walk that city Councillors have to reach the same destination.

[2] The Law Society currently has 19 policy committees. They are Alternative Dispute Resolution, Business Law, Corporate Lawyers, Criminal Law, Diversity and Inclusion, Elder Law and Succession, Employment Law, Environmental Planning and Development, Family Issues, Government Solicitors, Human Rights, Indigenous Issues, Injury Compensation, Juvenile Justice, Litigation Law and Practice, Medico Legal Liaison, OSR/ Law Society Liaison, Property Law and Rural Issues.

[3] These are Disclosure; Professional Conduct, Licensing and Fidelity.

[4] There are two: Ethics and costs.

[5] I know this looks like a spelling mistake, but look them up: http://www.economist.com/news/business/21601555-recent-wave-giant-legal-mergers-has-yet-produce-financial-rewards-when-it-vereins-it

[6] This is one of those “two places at once” occasions. I’m the Councillor pair for my own region’s law society, the Blue Mountains Law Society. Its executive committee meeting was tonight. I sent my apologies and a report of the Succession Conference which I’ve organised for it for 17 and 18 September 2016.

[7] At the suggestion of the Law Society, at the end of June I was appointed by the Attorney-General as a director of the Board.

[8] This is the other regional law society with which I’m paired. Each of the 22 Councillors is paired with one or two of the 29 regional law societies.

[9] I’m a Councillor of the Law Society of NSW. I Chair of the Law Society’s Ethics Committee. I’m Deputy Chair of the Elder Law and Succession Committee. I’m a member of the Specialist Accreditation Board, the Futures Committee and the Nominations Committee, the Working Group on Future Prospects for Young Graduates and the Working Group on Elder Abuse. I’m also a member of the LCA’s Elder Law and Succession committee and its Working Group on Elder Abuse. I facilitate the Law Society’s online Wills and Probate Procedures for Solicitors. I designed and present the Law Society’s Masterclass on Powers of Attorney.

You’re in good hands.

There are over 33,000 solicitors in New South Wales.

There are only 67 Accredited Specialists in Wills and Estates.

Darryl Browne is one of them.

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