Over 500 members of the legal sector gathered in Hardware Lane this morning to celebrate the new legal year at the 17th annual Legal Laneway Breakfast.
The diversity of Victoria’s legal sector was well represented as the laneway filled to capacity and guests heard the inside word from Attorney General the Honourable Jill Hennessy, Legal Services Board CEO and Commissioner Fiona McLeay, and Victoria Law Foundation’s Executive Director Lynne Haultain.
Attorney General praises the community legal sector’s support of those affected by bushfire
Considering the impact bushfires have had on so many lives this summer, the Attorney General expressed appreciation to the people of the legal sector, which helps so many Victorians in need during what is for many an uncertain and financially challenging time.
‘To those of you that work with organisations that bring a perspective on the law that is not just about the legal system in the abstract, but about the humanness, about the dignity of your clients, about the social and economic contributors to how people live full and dignified lives, it is those of you that I want to give a particular thanks.’
The Attorney General went on to encourage all attendees to get involved in the recovery of bushfire affected communities.
Legal Services Board Commissioner calls for action on sexual harassment in the sector
Fiona McLeay also acknowledged the fantastic response to the bushfires from Disaster Legal Help and the wider legal community, but also provided insight on areas where the sector should strive to improve. Ms McLeay updated the crowd on last year’s announcement of a new initiative against sexual harassment in the legal sector.
‘The results of the survey are not great. What we found when we asked the profession was that almost two-thirds of female respondents to the survey had experienced some form of sexual harassment. Around 12% of men had also experienced harassment.
Ms McLeay emphasised the profound effect that the experience of harassment often has on the lives of lawyers, the culture of the profession, and by extension the experience of consumers of legal services.
‘In the same way that the profession has united together to respond to the bushfire crisis, we are going to be exhorting the profession to join together to respond to the challenging findings of this survey.’
Victoria Law Foundation Executive Director shares our 2020 plans
Victoria Law Foundation Executive Director Lynne Haultain looked back on the year that was, which saw VLF launch its first research report, Law… What is it Good For, and a new grants structure aligned with the new research function.
‘Our new grants structure supports the great need across the sector for stronger use of data to inform services and advocacy.’
The next research undertaking by VLF will continue this work by ‘mapping the data collected across the civil justice system in Victoria.’
Ms Haultain also remarked on the success of Law Week in 2019 and looks forward to 2020 which will be its 40th anniversary.
‘We’ve had a fair bit of reflection about how society has changed over that period of time, but also how much has remained the same. We had a look back at the original documentation around Law Week, and it’s just as relevant now as it was in 1980. It was all about making the law easier for all of us to understand, and it still is.’