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Commissioner Update October

In this issue

  • Commissioner message
  • Mental health – getting through this together
  • IBA Mental wellbeing survey
  • Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts review
  • County Court electronic subpoena process
  • Law Library of Victoria online training in legal research

Commissioner message

The Premier’s announcement on the weekend had welcome news for us all, and particularly for lawyers who now have some greater freedom to attend their workplaces where it’s necessary. The LIV and the Victorian Bar have worked closely with the government to ensure this easing of restrictions is done in a safe and sustainable way. New guidance for lawyers has been issued which you can view on the LIV COVID-19 Hub FAQs.

COVID-19 has hit many lawyers very hard.  For some there has been a significant decline in income while expenses have not reduced. Despite the financial issues that you may be facing, please remember that many people are also doing it tough right now.  You still have an obligation to pay service providers fees or payments that are owed to them, including to barristers. 

While there is still a lot of disruption from COVID-19, external examiners have successfully completed most of the annual trust account examinations remotely or via ‘virtual’ examinations.  I thank all the lawyers who were responsive and adaptive and enabled these important audits to be completed, despite the circumstances.

If you are moving jobs, or you change your contact details, you need to update these in LSB Online. We are required to keep an accurate record of all registered lawyers in Victoria. Maintaining up-to-date details allows us to contact you about regulatory issues, and allows consumers to check that you are entitled to practise law in Victoria. Keeping your record up-to-date will also save you time when you come to renew your practising certificate next year.

Targeted CPD audits and CPD rectification plans continue to be undertaken remotely by the Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar on our behalf. CPD rules for 2020/21 have again been eased and the cap on private study has been removed. You will still need to complete 10 units of CPD by 31 March, but this can be done by online and/or private study.

You may have read that we recently applied to the Supreme Court to have Nicola Gobbo struck-off the roll of legal practitioners. On Tuesday the Court made an order to remove Ms Gobbo’s name from the roll. Removal from the roll is reserved for the most serious cases of misconduct, where the character and conduct of the practitioner is assessed to be inconsistent with the privileges of further practice. The Court’s written reasons for the decision will be published in due course and until they are, we will make no further comment on the proceeding.

Finally, I encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at the courts or tribunal to take part in the Review of Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts. Submissions close on 30 October and you can share your experience anonymously. More information about the review is provided below. You can also talk to a member of our Sexual Harassment Complaints Team if you’d like to make an official complaint about sexual harassment by a lawyer, or to talk to someone confidentially about your options. We recently updated our website with information about how you and your law firm can respond to sexual harassment in your workplace, which I encourage you to read and share.

Be well,

Fiona McLeay
Board CEO + Commissioner

Mental Health – Getting Through This Together

In September, the Minds Count Foundation Annual Lecture featured key note speaker, Commonwealth Mental Health Commissioner Lucy Brogden AM. The Minds Count Foundation (previously the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation) aims to decrease work related psychological ill-health in the legal community and to promote workplace psychological health and safety. The lecture highlighted the critical point that "there is no health without mental health" and that mental ill-health is preventable and treatable.  The lecture noted the progress that’s been made, but also highlighted how important it is to keep the mental health conversation going as we live through the new and varied challenges presented by COVID.

Read more here.

IBA Mental wellbeing survey

The International Bar Association (IBA) has launched two global surveys as part of a project aimed at addressing the mental wellbeing of legal professionals as Covid-19 exacerbates tensions in professional and personal lives. One survey is for individual lawyers, while the other is for law firms and other legal institutions, including bar associations, law societies and in-house legal departments. Available in both English and Spanish, the surveys are anonymous and take approximately ten minutes to complete.

The IBA Individual Lawyer Wellbeing Survey can be accessed here.

The IBA Institutional Wellbeing Survey is available here.

The data gathered from the completed surveys will provide insight into: 

  • the pressing mental health concerns of legal professionals;
  • the support they can expect to receive from their workplaces;
  • how the wellbeing of lawyers and other stakeholders in the legal profession are affected by their work and working environments;
  • identifying problems that each might have faced in getting the help they needed; and
  • what law firms, bars and law societies should be doing to support those in distress.

You can read more on the IBA website.

Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts review

Submissions are now open for the Review of Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts. This independent Review has been established by the Victorian Government and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria.  It will address how our courts and VCAT can better support people who experience sexual harassment, increase reporting and accountability in these workplaces, and prevent future occurrences. Submissions close on Friday, 30 October 2020.

Read more here.

County Court electronic subpoena process

The County Court of Victoria has announced the implementation of the first stage of the new electronic subpoena submission and inspection portal called ‘eCase’. The first stage includes civil subpoenas, which allows subpoenaed addressees to respond to a subpoena, and lodge and withdraw objections. eCase Stage 2 will include criminal/appeal subpoenas and is currently scheduled to be implemented in late 2020.

Read more here.

Law Library of Victoria releases online training in legal research   

The Law Library of Victoria provides access to a wealth of legal information, can assist you to improve your research skills, and provides valuable research support. Victorian practitioners have exclusive access to: 

  • Free CPD Legal Research eLearning on Australian and UK case law and legislation  
  • Quick reference tools such as research and subject guides  
  • Exclusive legal publications and databases  
  • Curated digital case law and legislation collections  

Read more here.

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