Lawyer ‘bashing’ is not the solution
30th Nov 2023
On Monday we sent a Letter to the Editor of The Age in response to John Silvester’s article ‘The single greatest failing in Victoria’s justice system’ published in The Saturday Age on 25 November.
I refer to John Silvester’s article ‘The single greatest failing in Victoria’s justice system’ published in The Saturday Age on 25 November.
Our spokesperson and previous National President Greg Barns SC was rightly identified as a barrister whose measured opinions are credible, considered and provide an expert perspective on legal issues, especially the risks associated with government overreach into the law. However, Mr Silvester’s overall view of the legal profession is unjust and does not reflect fairly on the many lawyers who work hard every day to ensure justice for their clients.
For plaintiff lawyers and criminal lawyers alike, lengthy delays and protracted cases are exactly what we work to avoid. Representing individuals whose lives are on hold until we have a result, and often working on a no win, no fee basis, means that we do our best to move cases swiftly through the legal system. It does not benefit us at all to engage in drawn out legal battles and to suggest otherwise is blatantly incorrect.
The work of lawyers has helped countless individuals seek fair and just compensation that they otherwise never would have had a chance to receive. Individuals who suffered horrific abuse at the hands of those who were often charged with protecting them are now finally seeing compensation and recognition for the harm they have suffered, often decades after the abuse. It is the combined efforts of courageous litigants supported by strong legal representation that means, after all these years, justice can be served.
It is also lawyers like Greg who challenge the government’s increasing involvement in, and complication of, the justice system. He is regularly calling out unnecessary new criminal offences proposed by governments and increasingly complex legislation that make sentencing and bail so much more complicated than is needed. Mandatory sentencing, adjustments to laws to address high profile individual cases and constant tinkering with legislation is not needed. It does not assist the people crying out for better access to free legal support, the people stuck in prison awaiting their trial and the people unjustly targeted by the ‘tough on crime’ mantra.
To suggest that the legal profession fails to deal with misconduct is wrong. No other profession has a stronger regulator than the law. The legal regulator is completely independent, and it is tough on lawyers. The legal profession is strictly monitored and regulated.
Lawyers might be an easy target but bashing the legal profession is not going to solve any of the challenges facing the justice system and is not helpful. Articles like Mr Silvester’s can unreasonably erode community confidence in the justice system, which serves no one. We welcome change when it is a step forward to helping our clients achieve a fair and just legal outcome.
Shaun Marcus is the 2023-24 National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, and a Partner of Arnold Dallas McPherson in Melbourne.