In this edition:
- Launch of our sexual harassment reporting tool
- LIV sexual harassment framework policy and charter for the advancement of women
- New guidance – lawyers offering non-legal services
- LPCL guide for Barristers
- Resources for lawyers – view the range of resources available
- CPD audits – a new approach
- Victorian Bar Pro Bono Awards
- eCase tool now available for all divisions of County Court
- Changes to Supreme Court rules
It’s been a difficult 18 months and we have all experienced significant disruption and upheaval in our lives. However, Victoria’s COVID-19 roadmap has given us hope for greater freedoms and more certainty. While the end is in sight, we need to continue to ensure the health and wellbeing of our community by following the directions of the Chief Health Officer as they apply to you and getting tested if you have any symptoms.
In early October the Premier announced that all authorised workers will be required to have their first COVID-19 vaccination dose by 22 October 2021 to continue working outside of their ordinary place of residence. All authorised workers need to be fully vaccinated by 26 November 2021. You can read the direction here.
Under the direction, Australian legal practitioners are considered 'professional services workers' where they provide services 'in connection with the administration of justice where the services cannot be provided by an online communication, teleconference or by means of an audio-visual link facility’. If you fall under this category and if you are working outside of your ordinary place of residence, this mandate applies to you.
I encourage you to visit the LIV’s COVID-19 Hub where they have provided answers to frequently asked questions and information about the changes.
The health and safety of the community lies at the heart of these directions. Our profession has worked incredibly hard over the past 18 months to support clients through what has been one of the toughest periods of our lifetime. These directions are key to making sure we can get back to work and continue this vital support.
Board CEO + Commissioner
Sexual harassment reporting tool launched
In recent weeks we launched a new online tool for lawyers in Victoria to anonymously report instances of sexual harassment.
The tool, available on our website, enables both targets and witnesses of sexual harassment to report what happened, where, when and to whom. Reporters can provide as much or as little detail as they feel comfortable.
Our sexual harassment report released last year revealed this type of behaviour was widespread, with more than 1 in 3 lawyers experiencing sexual harassment at work. For female respondents this rose to nearly two thirds.
Worryingly, 81% of people surveyed said they did not report their most recent incident of sexual harassment. Some of the reasons for not reporting included that it was easier to keep quiet, they feared not being believed or wanted to avoid confronting the harasser. For many who didn’t report their most recent incident they thought the complaints process would be embarrassing or complicated.
Our new tool is aimed at reducing the barriers to reporting and encouraging more people to come forward and tell us about their experiences of sexual harassment at legal workplaces.
Reporters can remain anonymous throughout the entire process if they like. Or they can switch on, or off, their identity as they progress.
All reports are reviewed by our dedicated Sexual Harassment Complaints Team, who are specially trained to deal with these matters and will guide people through their options.
Find out more about the tool on our website. You can also watch a video explaining how to use the tool below.
LIV launches new sexual harassment framework policy and charter for the advancement of women
The Law Institute of Victoria has released a Sexual Harassment Framework Policy and Model Template, to assist those law firms that don’t already have a policy in place.
They have also released a Charter for the Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession, open to all firms, employers and institutions across the profession and within the Victorian justice sector to sign.
The Charter promotes and supports strategies to retain women from all backgrounds in the profession over the course of their careers and provides practical guidance on steps that firms can take.
One of those barriers is the persistence of sexual harassment in the profession.
LIV president Tania Wolff said the Charter is a demonstration of the LIV’s commitment to advancing women in the legal profession and providing avenues for members to articulate and demonstrate that support.
“If we are to maintain the trust and confidence of the community and remain relevant, the legal profession must reflect the community it serves,” Ms Wolff said.
“Key to that being achieved is for legal practices and workplaces around the state, and country, to be fair, inclusive and safe.”
The LIV Model Policy calls for zero tolerance towards sexual harassment and seeks to educate the profession and support vulnerable employees with avenues to address complaints.
Law firms and other members of the legal profession can access the Model Policy and Charter for the Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession on the LIV website.
New guidance - Lawyers offering non-legal services
As law firms seek to become more closely focused on the needs of their clients, they may consider offering services that are outside the ordinary business of a law practice.
We have published new guidance to assist law practices navigate this area. It covers frequently asked questions including defining the difference between ‘legal’ and ‘non-legal services’ and the guiding rules and regulations.
There is also information on insurance and complaints.
Access the information on our website here.
New from LPLC — a risk management resource for barristers
Good Counsel — Practice Risk Guide for Barristers provides recommendations for barristers to use to avoid mistakes that may lead to insurance claims. The guide looks at the types of mistakes seen in professional indemnity claims made in Victoria since LPLC began insuring barristers in 2005. The guide also provides links to handy risk management checklists and a list of cases relevant to conflicts and personal costs orders.
For more information or to discuss the content of the guide you can contact the LPLC’s Chief Risk Manager or any of the LPLC Claims Solicitors on 9672 3800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources for lawyers – view the range of resources available
We have a range of resources available to help you manage your regulatory requirements. You can view these resources on our ‘Resources for lawyers’ page and within the 'For lawyers' section of our website.
Recent additions include:
- Lawyers offering non-legal services
- Complaints about lawyers by lawyers operational guideline
- Innovation in pricing – subscription and value pricing guidance
- Making the most of your CPD
- eConveyancing guideline
- Lawyer conduct in providing information to police - Regulatory Guideline
You can also watch a video explaining how we manage complaints by lawyers about lawyers below.
CPD audits – a new approach
Each year we asked the LIV and the Victorian Bar to conduct an audit of a small group of lawyers to check completion of the mandatory 10 CPD points for the previous year.
The audit process tells us whether you do your 10 points - but not how you benefitted from doing them. While the 10 point threshold is an important demonstration of compliance, we think that just as important is the value and relevance of the activities to your practice and your professional development. We want to ensure there is a wide variety of opportunities for you to access relevant, nuanced and engaging CPD.
Our recent independent review of CPD in Victoria “Getting the Point” identified an opportunity for us to explore a new approach to auditing CPD compliance, which gives more focus to supporting your learning and development. For the 2021/22 CPD year, the audit will include a short survey aimed at better understanding the value of your CPD and the role of your employer in supporting your development.
This approach will allow us to develop a deeper understanding of your engagement with CPD so that over time we can identify issues and guide our work over the next few years to further improvements and support a culture of lifelong learning.
And just a reminder that there is six months left of this current CPD year, meaning you still have plenty of time to carefully consider activities that are going to be of the most benefit to your growth and development. Visit our website for information about getting the most from your CPD.
Law Library survey – have your say in how the Law Library supports you
The Law Library of Victoria is looking for lawyers to participate in research to help them understand:
- how lawyers use the library
- how and where lawyers get information outside of the library
- how they can help more lawyers to access their services
- barriers to using the library
There are several options for providing feedback. Lawyers can take part in:
- one-on-one in-depth interviews of up to 45 minutes
- telephone survey of up to ten minutes
- an online survey
If you would be interested in taking part in either the in-depth or telephone interviews please contact the Law Library to express your interest.
Contact the law library here.
A link to the online survey will be distributed in the next Commissioner Update.
Victorian Bar Pro Bono Awards
Nominations for the Victorian Bar Pro Bono awards are now open. In a change from previous years, the nominations will remain open from September 2021 until November 2022.
The awards ceremony is scheduled for March 2023.
If you are aware of a barrister who is making an outstanding contribution representing parties on a pro bono basis, please make a nomination. Nominations can be made using the nomination form here.
You can find out more about the nomination categories on the VicBar website. You can also watch the Honourable Chris Maxwell AC, President of the Victorian Court of Appeal, explaining how pro bono assistance provided by barristers makes a difference to vulnerable people in our community. Watch the video.
eCase tool now available for all divisions of the County Court
eCase, the County Court’s online tool for subpoena submissions, objections, and inspections, is now available across all divisions of the County Court. Improvements have also been made to the portal, including:
- An upgraded process for addressees to respond to subpoenas
- The ability for respondents to produce material in accordance with a judicial order made pursuant to s.32C (6) of the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1958
- The ability to make payments for inspections electronically using Visa or Mastercard.
- Increased security through multi-factor authentication.
eCase also allows users to be automatically associated to the law firm they are registered as practicing at with the VLSB+C by entering their practitioner number.
Solicitors can use eCase to lodge and withdraw objections to inspection, request inspection, make payments and view or download approved subpoenaed material. Updated practice notes are available on the County Court website.
For any questions or feedback regarding eCase, please contact the County Court’s subpoena team on 8636 6525 or at email@example.com.
Changes to Supreme Court rules
The Supreme Court of Victoria has new rules relating to court file searches and affidavits which took effect from Friday 1 October 2021.
Evidentiary documents filed in a proceeding may not be inspected by any non-party until the document has been read or relied on in open court or for an application determined without a hearing. Prior to a hearing or determination, parties to proceedings will be required to provide details to the Court of any evidentiary documents they intend to rely on.
There is no change to the process for submitting a file search request, but multiple exhibits or separate affidavits and exhibits will no longer be accepted. They are now required to be filed as a single paginated document with a maximum one exhibit, or an exhibit bundle if more than one document is referred to in the affidavit.
These requirements do not extend to affidavits filed with the Registrar of Probates, which remain unchanged.
Further information is available on the Supreme Court website, including a practice note and notice to the profession.