Dear legal profession,

I’m due to be admitted to the profession in October. I feel that all the time, resources and effort I’ve spent in the last four years have been leading up to this moment. I write to you now because I need your help.  I’m becoming more disillusioned with our justice system, particularly with the difficulty some people have in accessing legal services.

We are proud to live in a country governed by the rule of law; with joyful strains we sing to that we are the land of the fair go. Are we really? I have a growing sense of dread that our legal system is going to a place it won’t return from; where only those that can afford, get.

Protecting the system should be our first concern because we are oath bound to do so but it’s not just about us.  It’s about our clients; it’s about our community, this town, this country, all of us! A fair system is what distinguishes us from tyranny and protects us from those who rule only by power.

If I haven’t won you over with grand and lofty ideas about justice and fairness then remember if there is no justice system then that means that as professionals we will be a lot less in demand. If we don’t rally to protect the system, there will be no system for any of us. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about me wanting a job post admission.  It’s just that you are the best person to protect the system because you work in it every day, and that’s why I’m writing to you. I am desperately looking for innovative solutions.

I’ve got to be honest; I get really disillusioned when we only talk about the lack of funding; even if the funding was unlimited it will never be enough. We need to start being creative and work as a collective on possible solutions. Increasing funding for Legal Aid and CLC’s would go some way to easing the pressure but it has to be met by innovative ideas from our end.

To the young lawyers and students amongst you this is your time!  As young lawyers (and students like me) we certainly don’t have the experience that comes with age, but we have enthusiasm as bright as a thousand suns.  It’s too easy to think that the solution to this lies with someone else.  Which would be fine if it was true, except everyone is thinking exactly the same thing. I think that any one of us who doesn’t want any business in defending justice probably has no business in being a lawyer.

I didn’t really understand how happy it makes me that I will soon call myself one of your learned friends until I read the following quote by Lord Rawlinson of Ewell.  I hope that it reminds you, like it did me, why you became a lawyer in the first place. He describes the profession as  ‘…[A] great and noble calling… upon which depend in no small degree the rights and liberties both of individuals and nations. To elicit truth by intellectual struggle and conflict, to supply just weights and balances to the scales of justice by laying before justice all the considerations on every side of every question that ought to weigh; to stand forward for the weak, the miserable, the degraded, and even the guilty; and on great occasions, when public liberties are in question, to assert the same right, the privilege, and duty of free, undaunted, open speaking of truth – that is the right, that is the duty, that is the privilege of our profession’.

In closing, don’t forget you are oath bound as an officer of the court to protect and defend the rule of law. Now that it needs protecting and defending, what will you do?

Recently, the LIV and the VicBar joined forces to launch a petition calling for the Federal and State governments to significantly increase legal aid funding. To share your voice, tell your story in the forum and make sure you sign the petition.

Originally published by the Young Lawyers Section of the Law Institute of Victoria: http://www.liv.asn.au/YoungLawyersBlog/August-2013/An-open-letter-to-the-legal-profession

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