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June 30, 2015

Social Change Lawyers; Fiona McLeod SC speech

by dankrogers

On the 8th of March of this year, I published a blog concerning the choices we make during our career, and that a rewarding career in the law only comes from pursuing broader objectives. In June of this year, the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference was held in Sydney, at which time a number of prominent solicitors and barristers spoke on the topic of ‘Disruptive and dynamic lawyers: the gatekeepers of justice’. These sorts of lawyers are commonly known as ‘social change lawyers’; they seek to push the boundaries of current law and policy in the pursuit of justice.

Fiona McLeod SC, President of the Australian Bar Association and Treasurer at the Law Council of Australia gave a particularly inspiring speech on the topic. See this link for a media article of it. Ms McLeod argued that it is imperative that lawyers work to expose the injustices occurring on our doorstep in Australia, and that lawyers have a duty to ‘be creative about how we solve problems using laws that exist, using processes that exist and exploring the edges of those.’

You may, in your career, encounter an individual who has been wronged where the expected outcome in the situation seems absurd. It is at that point that you should put yourself ‘out there’, ‘think outside the box’ and ‘make visible what is otherwise invisible’, as Ms McLeod phrased it.

Young lawyers should always seek to change the law for the better, case by case. As an example, Ms McLeod commended the increase in class actions in Australia as a promising sign for protecting the smaller parties when facing multinationals. The lawyers that drive these actions have constructed a creative way for the law to recognise injustices which were not responded to on an individual basis.

Ms McLeod further noted that engaging in the broader aspects of the law also comes from political debate and discussion. Point out the bad laws and make the potential consequences of such laws known to the public. It is important that those with a greater understanding of the law pass this knowledge to the voters and those that will be affected by the proposed laws.

Your legal career can be the most rewarding part of your life. Embrace the opportunity you have as a trained legal professional and use the skills you have. This is the way to ensure your career is as rewarding as it can be.

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