OPENING OF THE LEGAL YEAR 2014

We were privileged to have Her Honour Chief Justice Warren open the Legal Year. The Chief Justice was extremely complimentary about the Opening and met with many of those who attended. We had approximately 80 people in attendance.

Thanks to Bronwen Charleson, a member of our Committee, who arranged to have the Geelong Advertiser present. There was a report in the Geelong Advertiser with a photo of the Chief Justice on Tuesday 14 January 2014.

The formal Opening of the Legal Year has been growing in popularity over the last four years due, in part, to the enthusiasm of His Honour Justice Croft.

 

Address by Anne O’Loughlin President of the Geelong Law Association

1. May it please the Court.

2. I appear on behalf of the Geelong Law Association and the Law Institute of Victoria – and through those bodies the solicitors of Geelong and the wider State of Victoria.

3. I extend a particular welcome to Your Honour Chief Justice Warren and Justice Croft, a regular leader and organiser of Geelong Legal Year opening ceremonies. I also welcome Your Honours Judge Mulally and Magistrate Coghlan.

4. 2013 has provided many reasons for the people of Geelong to be despondent. Significant industries and employers have decided to discontinue their operations in and around Geelong. Retrenchments will be inevitable in some sectors.

5. Notwithstanding impending and potential business closures, Geelong remains a vibrant community and is buoyed by the possibilities which lay ahead in 2014.

6. The Geelong Law Association is also buoyed by the possibilities which lay ahead for 2014 and shares in the hopes of the Geelong community.

7. It is important that the Geelong legal community continue to remain focussed on providing individuals and business owners with the legal services they need.

8. The local legal practitioners pride themselves on providing the best possible legal services to the community.

9. While we are geographically close to Melbourne, we also pride ourselves on being one of the largest regional cities in Australia. As a regional city we have a very important and palpable sense of community.

10. The commitment by local lawyers to the community often goes unheralded. There are many of our local firms who support local organisations by providing pro bono legal assistance and by encouraging their solicitors to sit on local Boards of Directors and charities.

11. Our Law Association remains committed to ensure that the legal practitioners in Geelong are provided with the assistance they require to meet the needs of the local community.

12. As an Association, we continue to provide continuing legal education to our members at little or no cost.

13. Our Association, through our association with Deakin University, enables us to provide low cost education to our members. The links we have formed with Deakin is a valuable alliance and the spirit of collaboration is appreciated. We intend to maintain and grow the alliance into the future.

14. We are committed to running our annual Deakin Day which provides our members with the opportunity to attend sessions which cover the three compulsory units and in the afternoon a total of two streams of three substantive law sessions all at no cost to members. The support we receive from local practitioners and not so local members of the Victorian Bar and academics is appreciated.

15. Deakin Day also provides local practitioners with the opportunity to meet with each other.

16. The students of Deakin University are an important part of the future of our city. It is hoped that students completing their law degrees at Deakin Geelong will be the solicitors of the future here in Geelong.

17. As part of our commitment to the local community, in particular to education and retaining Deakin law students in Geelong, the Geelong Law Association provides four scholarships to disadvantaged Deakin University students to assist them to complete their studies and hopefully remain in Geelong as solicitors in the future. The Association also provides prizes to students as recognition of their outstanding achievements in particular subjects.

18. In 2014 and into the future we will continue our commitment to Deakin students.

19. In 2014 we also plan to link with other professional groups in Geelong. We are part of a community whose members bring different and valuable skills. It is important to forge such links with groups such as accountants, doctors and real estate agents. We maintain that the links we forge will enable us all to provide better services to our respective clients.  

20. The Association plans to hold a forum with local solicitors and accountants to discuss our particular roles and where these roles may intersect and conflict.

21. Dialogue between professional groups assists with collaboration, respect and learning between the groups which will result in the provision of a better service to those who seek our respective expertise.

22. 2014 will be an exciting year not only for the people of Geelong but for our law Association and our members

23. We are privileged this year to have the Chief Justice, The Honourable Justice Warren together with Justice Croft to open the legal year. It is a sign of the commitment of Victorian Courts to undertake their business in Geelong which, in turn, removes one hurdle or barrier to access to justice for members of regional communities.  

24. We are very fortunate here in Geelong to have regular County Court and Supreme Court sittings. We are grateful to both courts for their willingness to sit locally for the benefit of many regional communities around Victoria.

25. The same can also be said of the Federal Circuit Court which conducts circuits here in Geelong.

26. Our Association continues to encourage local firms to take advantage of the sittings in Geelong to assist them in providing the best possible service to clients. It may often seem convenient to list in Melbourne when the needs of the client may be more appropriately addressed by listing locally.

27. Courts doing their work in Geelong has benefits beyond those enjoyed by litigants needing recourse to the judicial systems to resolve disputes. Sittings in Geelong also provide local young solicitors with the opportunity to observe cases locally which provides them with an invaluable learning experience.

28. The benefits for consumers of the legal system, and practitioners in it, through local presences of the Courts are profound and the Courts’ commitment to the continuing local presence, exemplified by the presence of your Honours here today, particularly Your Honour the Chief Justice is important and gratefully acknowledged.

29. May it please the court.