Standing for re-election

 
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I am a candidate for election to the Law Society of NSW Council. The election is conducted from 27 September to 24 October 2016.

Why stand for re-election?

I have been a Councillor for the past 6 years. I have put my name forward for re-election as there is still much to do; there is much unfinished business. This includes maintaining, improving and developing legal work for solicitors, preparing the profession for the stresses and demands of the future, especially with technology and globalisation, improving collegiality and presenting a strong united front to challenges to the rule of law, the legal system and the profession.

Maintaining work

Vital areas of legal work are under continual and increasing threat. This is most obvious with CTP personal injury compensation where the government is actively promoting changes which disadvantage injured motorists. The changes would reduce compensation payments for most persons injured in a car accident and reduce their access to skilled legal practitioners who could maximise their claims. There are murmurings of reduced eligibility for family provision claims. There’s been a slow burn on taking away probate work for years. These areas of law are essential for the financial viability of many solicitors, especially in country and suburban areas.

Facing the future

The legal profession is facing unprecedented changes, driven largely by rapid advances in technology. One of the reasons I asked to join and have been keen to be involved in the Law Society’s Future Committee is to get ahead of the curve on these changes. It is hugely important that the Law Society help prepare the profession for the stresses and demands of the future practice of law, especially in coping with technology and globalisation. Technology has upsides. It has the potential to make more information more available more easily to more people. But it creates a pressure for instant responses and raises the threat of greater competition. There is a need for many solicitors to have more and better support from their representative body, the Law Society, to prepare for and cope with these changes. One way is to have advanced skills. I’ve enjoyed my involvement as a member of the Specialist Accreditation Board because it helps develop and recognise solicitors with those skills.

Developing work

I want to maintain, improve and develop legal work for solicitors. This is one of the reasons why I’ve tried to get evolving estate planning issues, like superannuation and advance care directives, brought into the main stream thinking of solicitors. These are areas of developing work that solicitors have the skill-sets to perform. However, sometimes we’re slow to realise or grasp these opportunities. I’ve continually pressed their importance within the Law Society and to the profession at large. One way I try to get the message across is by regularly writing on these subjects in the Wills and Estates Case Notes in the LSJ and speaking on them to solicitors whenever I’m given the opportunity. In doing this, my aim is not just to raise awareness of this potentially growing area of legal work but to up-skill colleagues to embrace the opportunities provided. It’s a quiet revolution, in which I hammer away in near silence, but it’s starting to produce results.

Representing the disadvantaged

Legal disputes are being directed to administrative tribunals where solicitors do not have a right of representation. Administrative tribunals are attractive to government because they are less expensive. But they are an arm of the executive government. They are not divorced from the executive as is the judiciary. The potential for abuse, whether covert or unintended, is large. The rule of law is being eroded, little by little. Who is there to champion the disadvantaged and vulnerable? One of the reasons I’m pleased to be a member of the Legal Aid Commission Board is to help to do so. One of the reasons I wrote in the June LSJ on the anniversary of Mabo was to encourage colleagues to take up those cudgels. It’s one of the reasons I’ve promoted action by the Law Society to arm the profession with information on elder abuse.

Improving collegiality

We are a profession. We each have more in common with our fellow practitioners than we do with non-lawyers. The rule of law, the legal system and the profession is under challenge. We need to work together to counter these encroachments. I would like to foster a greater collegiality around these ideas and goals. A part of the Law Society that can play a role in that is the Ethics Committee which I have the pleasure to chair.

My current involvement

There are lots of things that I’ve been involved in with the Law Society over the years. My current involvement is this:

  • Chair of the Law Society’s Ethics Committee
  • Deputy Chair of the Elder Law and Succession Committee
  • Member of the Specialist Accreditation Board
  • Member of the Future Committee
  • Member of the Nominations Committee
  • Member of the Working Group on Future Prospects for Young Graduates
  • Member of the Working Group on Elder Abuse
  • Member of the Regional Law Society Working Group
  • Member of the Law Council of Australia’s Elder Law and Succession Committee and its Working Group on Elder Abuse
  • Member of the Legal Aid Commission Board
  • Member elect of the University of Sydney’s Law Extension Committee
  • Council Pair to Blue Mountains Law Society
  • Council Pair to the Central West Law Society.

How did I become a Law Society Councillor?

I was first elected as a Councillor in 2010, but the journey started before then. It started in 2007 when I attended a meeting of Blue Mountain solicitors who were concerned that we create a viable local law society. Unbeknown to me before hand, on attending the meeting I was told that my colleagues wanted me to be the President. (Thank you Vicki Diamond!)

I was elected unopposed. The rest is history. That history includes a wonderful committee – no one can revive an organisation on their own – and receptive colleagues. We gave local solicitors social events combined with the opportunity for legal learning. I attended the Regional President’s quarterly meetings in Sydney, and unashamedly picked their brains about what they did in their regions and how they did it.

I was fortunate in two ways. Firstly, the opportunity came to me at a time in my career when I could give sufficient time to make the reactivation of the local profession a priority. Secondly, my actions were noticed by others. Prime among them was Justin Dowd, then a Councillor of the Law Society, and later the Law Society’s 2012 President. In 2010, when I had handed the reins of the BM Law Society to Sandra Morey, Justin asked if I was interested in joining a group of solicitors running for election to the Council. Before then I had no ambitions to join the Council. The rest is history.

All the Best

Darryl Browne[1]

[1] I’m a Councillor of the Law Society of NSW and a member of the Future Committee. The opinions expressed are my own.

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

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