The 60th Symposium saw hundreds of legal practitioners come together – both face-to-face and virtually – to enjoy Queensland Law Society’s marquee educational event on Friday 11 March.
Symposium was delivered in a hybrid format this year, with attendees able to view the day’s sessions and content either online, at the in-person conference held at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane, on demand via the EventsAir app – or, a mixture of these options.
More than 800 participants heard from expert speakers across seven streams throughout the day – family, succession, criminal, property, personal injuries, commercial and core – giving lawyers at all career stages the chance to sharpen their skillsets within their practice areas, or to further expand their legal knowledge in other areas of law.
Before Shannon Fentiman MP opened the event by virtual means, QLS President Kara Thomson offered a warm welcome, acknowledging the challenges being faced both across the state and further afield.
“The legal landscape has drastically changed in the last two years, and we have embraced the efficiencies that came from being able to use technology in new ways in our practices … for the benefit of clients, the community and of course to the improvement of access to justice,” she said.
“12 months on from our last Symposium, and we remain on the merry-go-round that is the pandemic. However, this year we are also now dealing with the aftermath of the devastating floods … (both of which) have caused upheaval for our members.”
Ms Thomson encouraged members to utilise the range of QLS support services available, including LawCare, the QLS Ethics and Practice Centre, and the Society’s Senior Counsellors.
The whole-day event also covered some broader issues impacting the profession, including lawyers’ ethical obligations in a changing world, mental health and the threat of ransomware attacks. And there were, of course, ample opportunities to network and connect with fellow delegates.
Chief Justice Allsop delivers the opening address. Image: Jon W / Event Photos Australia.
Symposium attendees were also treated to keynote addresses from Chief Justice James Allsop AO, former High Court Justice the Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG, and Chief Justice Catherine Holmes AC – a final Symposium address from her Honour in this capacity, before she retires this coming week.
Chief Justice Allsop delivered the opening keynote address, ‘The culture of the profession: lessons of the past’. His Honour spoke of the concerning rates of bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment within the legal profession and made reference to a 2019 International Bar Association report which stated that 73% of Australian female and 50% of male respondents had been bullied at work, and 47% of female and 13% of male respondents had been sexually harassed.
His Honour also discussed aspects of the profession’s culture and how, moving forward, the standards of behaviour and inclusiveness of women and those from diverse backgrounds could be improved. Encouraging safe and respectful relationships and supporting diversity in leadership positions were two of the suggestions his Honour proposed.
Michael Kirby addresses Symposium attendees. Image: Jon W / Event Photos Australia.
Michael Kirby later provided a timely address on the international Russia-Ukraine conflict, from a human rights perspective. Along with providing some background, history and its relevance to international law, he generously shared some of his experiences from throughout his career, including appointments with the United Nations and other international bodies, examining the meaning of the self-determination of peoples.
To wrap up Symposium, Chief Justice Holmes – one week out from retirement – gave an anecdotal review of her 40-year legal career, affording attendees the opportunity to celebrate her Honour’s valuable contribution to the profession and the community.
“When I began, women solicitors were a small minority, women barristers rare, and women partners in firms even rarer,” she said. “Women now are in the majority of the profession, and it’s advanced in leaps and bounds in terms of the representation at all levels, and in a much greater level of diversity generally.”
Chief Justice Holmes’ final Symposium address as Chief Justice. Image: Jon W / Event Photos Australia.
Along with witnessing practice become vastly more efficient in both the civil and criminal jurisdictions, her Honour said she had been pleased to witness a much greater willingness by lawyers to admit vulnerability and talk about mental health.
“It’s been assisted by some senior lawyers who’ve been prepared to talk about their experiences and help to normalise it, and the professional associations made counselling available – something which was beyond contemplation when I was a young lawyer.
“Another plus – this profession is more family-friendly than it was when I started in practice. Back then, if you had a baby, you were on your own … that’s improved out of sight.
“There’ve been ups and downs, but on the whole, it seems to me the profession is thriving … this is a great profession to belong to – I don’t think I’ll ever hold a practising certificate again, but I’ll always be a lawyer, and I’ll always be very proud of that.”
QLS Symposium 2022, Sofitel Hotel, Brisbane. Image: Jon W / Event Photos Australia.
‘Symposium by Night’ followed, with canapés and beverages served to in-person attendees overlooking Brisbane’s ANZAC Square.
Symposium’s major sponsors this year were PEXA and LEAP, with an additional 19 exhibitors present, face-to-face or virtually, to speak with practitioners on the day.
If you attended QLS Symposium 2022, please take a moment to send feedback on the event via the online attendee or in-person attendee forms. Recorded sessions will be available to attendees this week through the Auditorium or Agenda in your designated session, or in the Resource Gallery.