Statement by the President of the Law Society of NSW
Joanne van der Plaat
In NSW alone there are more than 4,000 NSW registered solicitors working for the federal and NSW governments.
That number represents only those who have current practicing certificates and does not include many lawyers exercising their skills for the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth’s lawyers advise on policy that can affect the entire Australian population, prosecute Commonwealth criminal cases, serve in Royal Commissions, negotiate free trade agreements, advise on the legality of military operations and perhaps most significantly, draft government legislation – which usually becomes the laws by which we as a nation are governed.
Every Prime Minister, every government, relies on lawyers to ensure they act within their constitutional bounds. To have ‘no truck’ with lawyers would make government unworkable.
The Law Society of NSW supports the remarks of the Australian Bar Association with respect to the Prime Minister’s comment about ‘barristers and lawyers’. They are applicable equally to the solicitor’s branch of the legal profession.
Every NSW lawyer is bound by an oath to make their paramount duty to the court and the administration of justice as well as an ethical code entrenched in legislation. Across Australia, lawyers recognise their duty to the community and the most vulnerable, contributing last financial year alone, 640,000 hours of pro bono legal work.
The Law Society also considers that integrity agencies such as the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption are important tools to keep governments, their agencies and employees acting in the public interest.
Therefore, we welcome the announcement by the NSW Premier of a new funding model for the state’s integrity agencies and look forward to examining the proposed model in detail.