Below is the full text of Judge Rinaudo’s keynote address. Minor edits have been make for clarity.
“Thank you President and Symposium Committee for inviting me to address you today.
Some of my colleagues seemed to express surprise that I had been invited to give this keynote address. Not sure why. Possibly because I haven’t been in practice for 18 years. Initially when asked, I wanted to decline. At the end of my talk, you may think, “wish he did”. But then I thought, it is an honour to be asked to give this address, particularly about Queensland Law Society, which has had such a significant impact on my career, and so here I am.
A lot of what I say will have a “me” sound about it, but I was supported by a magnificent Council and Society staff, without which I could not have achieved what I did.
I attended my first Symposium in 1976. I was a 23-year-old Articled Clerk. The Symposium was held at the Chevron Hotel in Surfers Paradise. The Pink Elephant Bar, with its “Ladies of the Night” lurking in dark corners, was the place to be seen!! Later, I chaired the organising committee for three years in the late 1980s. By then, the Symposium was held at the Conrad’s Casino at Broadbeach.
I note that I am to explore the evolution of the Society and the legal profession, reflecting on history, celebrating the present and looking to the future.
I will endeavour to fulfill this task by talking from the perspective of my career in law and my experiences as President. In this way, I hope to show that the experiences of the past, have not changed and will likely not change in the future. It is how we deal with the challenges that matters most.
I am going to speak to you today, in part, about events that occurred over 30 years ago, during my term as President of QLS from July 1991 to June 1992. I think it’s fair to say that minds will differ about some of the detail, but these are my recollections.
In any event, I am reminded of what Winston Churchill said: “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.” Like him, I made some mistakes. Unlike him, I won’t try to justify my mistakes in hindsight. More about that soon.
Judge Rinaudo addresses attendees at Symposium.
My career in the law started 52 years ago. Things were very different then. The Society had about 1200 members, most in the greater Brisbane area. Most were in small firms, one and two-man practices. I say “man” because that was the way it was then. At that time, there were very few women in the profession. That, thankfully, was quickly to change.
I started working for the firm MG Lyons and Co. in Queen Street in December 1971. It was an era of Gestetner copying machines, carbon paper and manual typewriters. In 1974, the flood damaged the plant room in our building, the Hibernian Building (long since demolished to make way for the Commonwealth Bank, corner Queen and Edward Streets). We had no lights, no lifts and no phones. I had to take the files and a pocket full of five-cent coins across Queen Street to the GPO and make calls from the public phones there, to arrange settlements etc.; that went on for a couple of weeks.
I was very lucky to have three significant influences on my early career. My parents, Dad was senior partner (yes nepotism was alive and well), and Mr Gerry Murphy who was my master. The firm was full of talent and a great place to learn the role and responsibility of practice as a solicitor.
Initially, I was a reluctant lawyer. My ambition was to play Rugby. That, ambition was dashed in 1975, when I broke my leg playing at Ballymore – co-incidentally, the same leg I broke last year!!
From that point, my energies were put into completing my studies and becoming an admitted Solicitor. That happened in 1979. In 1980, Gerry became President of the Society. I was responsible for his files while he was President. I learned a lot about practice and the Law Society. Gerry was the last of the two-year Presidents.
From my admission things moved quickly.
I was President of the Young Lawyers in the early 1980s where I really cut my teeth, so to speak, on legal politics. Trying to compete with the “know-it-all” young lawyers from NSW particularly, but also Victoria.
In discussions with then President, Rob Hill, the Young Lawyers supported and assisted with the development and publication of the Society’s Proctor magazine. Rob was responsible for the name, ‘Proctor’.” I involved myself in the activities of the Society where I could. One such involvement occurred as follows.
I represented the Law Council with others to follow the Senate Cost of Justice inquiry. We flew to where the inquiry was sitting, listened to proceedings and reported back to the Law Council. It was quite good fun for a young lawyer. But I fully understood the seriousness of the inquiry.
Some of you will recall that this was the time of the so called “dingo fence”. For those of you who have not heard of the dingo fence, it was broadly a set of rules which precluded southern lawyers practising in Queensland.
Of course, southern lawyers wanted access to the work that was available here in Queensland. Whilst the protections worked well for a long time, pressure was coming, particularly from the big firms, to allow cross-border practice.
There were a number of interstate committees set up to examine ways of overcoming the barriers to cross-border practice. I was sent to Sydney to attend a meeting of the Trust Account Committee, with instructions to agree to nothing!! I was very nervous to avoid anything which might interfere with the status quo. So, I devised a plan. I went to the Government Printing Office and purchased six copies of our Trust Account Act and Regulations, all in paper form of course, and took them with me. I said to the meeting, after a lengthy lecture, about how wrong the situation was, “if you are that keen to come and practise in Queensland then you can get one step closer by simply adopting the Queensland Trust Account Act and our job will be done.” End of meeting. I knew there was no way these southerners would ever agree to something from Queensland. Now, I’m not trying to suggest that my strategy set back the push for reciprocal admission years, but it was sometime after that before the dingo fence came down.
During my talk today, I will refer to the brilliant history of Queensland Law Society written by Helen Gregory and published in 1991. That book, above, tells the history of the Society from the time the Queensland Law Society Incorporation Act came into force in 1928. The first Queensland Law Association came into existence in 1873. Hence, our celebration of 150 years of the Society this year.
Helen notes that,
“76 solicitors had been admitted by the Queensland Supreme Court between Separation in 1860 and foundation of the Society in 1873.”
The Society’s history notes that:
“15 influential solicitors attended a meeting on 7 August 1873 at the Supreme Court to form the Society”
It is noted that the initial objectives of the Society were:
- Protection of the public by suppressing dishonourable practice among solicitors
- To advise the legislature on amendments to the law
- To facilitate the amicable settlement of professional differences so that solicitors could present a dignified image to the public.
I will come back to the development of these aims in the years since then. They are important to the message I am trying to convey.
Helen’s book is full of references to great Queensland Solicitors over the years, who she rightly talks about in glowing, and indeed, reverential terms. They made significant contributions to the development of the Solicitors’ branch and to the Law Society in Queensland.
I only rated the following sentence:
“Ray Rinaudo, Deputy President in 1990, served articles under G.A. Murphy who was President in 1981 and frequently carried bundles of Law Society material around the city during the years Murphy was a member of Council.”
Yes, it is true that Gerry would ask me at the request of Beryl Donkin, the long-serving and I suspect long-suffering Secretary and chief Administrative officer of the Society, to walk up Queen Street to the then Qantas Building on the corner of Queen Street and Isles Love Lane where the Society had its offices, and carry boxes of envelopes over the road to the GPO for posting to practitioners.
To be fair, that limited reference was, partly because my rise in the Society ranks came quickly, so there was little else to write about me. I was elected to a casual vacancy on the Council in 1986, when Denis Byrne was President. I don’t recall standing for re-election. I’m pretty sure I was elected unopposed the next two times I stood for Council and again when I stood for Deputy President.
At the time I was one of the youngest Presidents and I was the youngest post-war President and a sole practitioner. I was 38. At a symposium at the Casino on the Gold Coast that year, the talented lawyer and comedian Campbell McComas, noting I was the youngest President since the war, quipped that a precedent that hadn’t been followed for 45 years, probably wasn’t worth following. The laughter and applause from the audience was a little disconcerting.
After Denis Byrne, Elizabeth Nosworthy became President, the first female President of the Society.
Elizabeth invited the then Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson, to lunch with the Council. To this day, it was one of the most entertaining lunches I have ever had. A number of the councillors didn’t attend based on political grounds, so there were only about 10 of us. He was so interesting. Didn’t say, ‘You know’, or ‘don’t you worry about that’, ‘feed the chooks’ or ‘one leg on either side of a barbwire fence’, or any of the other silly sayings he was famous for. You have to remember, he became Premier when I was 15 in 1968. He provided stable and economically progressive, albeit wholly corrupt, government over his reign of 19 years as Premier. Not long after the lunch, it all started to unravel for him and his government with the establishment of the Fitzgerald Commission of Inquiry in 1987.
Fitzgerald’s landmark enquiry and report led to significant reform to the way politics was conducted in the state, ultimately, leading to the demise of the corrupt National Party government in December 1989.
At the time, Legal Aid was my thing. I was a member of the Law Council’s Access to Justice Committee and was appointed to the Legal Aid Queensland Board in 1986 and served till 1994. Later, I served on the National legal Aid Advisory Council under the leadership of the then Honourable Justice Alan Barblett AO, Deputy Chief Justice of both the Family Court of Western Australia and the Family Court of Australia.
In the dying days of the National Party government in 1989, the then Attorney General, Ivan James Gibb, refused to reappoint me to the commission. He was under the misguided impression that he could appoint his choice. No amount of telling him the Act required him to appoint the Law Society’s nominee, which was me, would change his mind. Ultimately, Peter Short and I had lunch at the society with Russell Cooper, then Premier. A couple of days later, I was reappointed. To be fair, Attorney Gibbs didn’t really have time to settle into the job. He was Attorney from 31 August 1989 to 25 September 1989.
The change of government in December 1989, meant that, for the first time since 1957, we had a Labour government.
The Labour government, led by Wayne Goss, was ready to change the State in a way not seen since the election of Gough Whitlam in 1972 changed the nation. Goss’ achievements were many, progressive and timely. Queensland was brought into the modern era.
Inevitably, attention shifted to the legal profession. It was a time of unprecedented attack on the lawyers. It was relentless. I took the view that, if we were to have our views heard, I would need to build a media profile. I was later described as having the highest media profile of any President. My own assessment is that a lot of what I said and did was good and in the best interests of the Solicitors’ branch, some was bad. When I look back through the newspaper clippings of the time, compiled for me by the wonderful Nina Psaltis, I simply shake my head. I suspect the simple answer is, “You had to be there”. We were so concerned that I arranged a meeting with the then Editor of The Courier-Mail, Jack Lunn, at his office in Bowen Hills. I said why? His reply was, “Don’t worry, Ray. The wheel turns, It’s just the lawyers’ turn at the top”. Very helpful. You have to remember we were spending substantial amounts of our Members’ money on advertising in that paper.
When I was getting ready to succeed Peter Short, it was arranged for me to give a press interview, a sort of introduction to the profession and to the people of Queensland. With a combination of youthful exuberance, cunning on the part of the interviewer, and mis-reporting, the article read exactly as the interviewer had wanted, and not as I had intended. I accept it was a significant error in judgement on my part. It was an excellent learning experience. Be prepared and look out for traps set by the reporter.
I was plagued by a number of issues besides attacks about the cost of legal services.
Interestingly enough, the cost of legal services was driven largely by a disgruntled “business woman” who had, she said, been significantly overcharged.
Heading an organisation called “Australian Small Business Association”, the woman was President. She said she had a dossier of case histories alleging overcharging or other legal misconduct for submission to the Justice Minister Mr Milliner and Attorney General Wells. She said,
“We have 10 cases involving costs of $40,000.00 or more already”.
She went on: “How on earth does the legal profession expect small business people to pay those kind of bills, particularly where legal incompetence has cost them dearly already? It is ludicrous that the profession, churning out more and more lawyers and looking for new areas of work, now are promoting themselves as small business advisers in competition with accountants. Most of them don’t live in the real world. They haven’t a clue about the pains of small business.”
We had a television campaign going on at the time, promoting lawyers as one-stop business advisors.
Newspaper reports from then note that I responded that she should “put up or shut up”. I said, apparently;
“Ours is the most over-regulated profession in the world with a very strong complaints department and a willingness to look at specific complaints. We won’t shy away from any problems; if we find a lawyer misbehaving, we will take action. As it is, I cannot believe there is a big problem out there. If there was I would know about it. But I don’t want to debate in the media unsubstantiated allegations.”
Bold!! That was the way things were, allegations and response on the run, a grab for the paper, and move on to the next issue.
Another issue that plagued my Presidency was a Gold Coast solicitor, Peter Palmer, who stole around $10m of client’s money. He had a passion for fast cars, women and gambling. I’m told he would be seen at the track in Southport in his Rolls Royce with the boot full of cash, drugs and guns. We had been advised by the Casino that a solicitor had lost a substantial amount of money at the tables. We sent our best trust account investigator, Dudley Austin, to investigate. At that time, it had been reported that he had lost around $2m in the casino. Our investigators were satisfied it was his own money. Unfortunately, Palmer couldn’t stop and started using his clients’ money.
He was on the run for a fair while and, I’m told, had plastic surgery to try and avoid arrest. Eventually, he was found after an observant country motel owner spotted a resident leaving in the early hours of the morning with shovels and picks in the boot of his car. Palmer was digging up buried cash, no doubt in anticipation of absconding permanently. Police attended the room at the motel and found cash stuffed into the draws. Palmer was arrested and sentenced to 10 years, if my memory serves me correctly.
The issues for the Society were, of course, about the integrity of solicitors generally, and who was going to pay the money back. The Fidelity Fund did not have $10m. A substantial special levy was going to be required.
However, thanks to the clear thinking of then Society CEO Scott Carter (who unfortunately, passed away recently), and advice from the Solicitor-General, we were able to convince the Attorney-General, Dean Wells, that the Assurance Fund was responsible for repayment of the bulk of the funds, as most of Palmers’ transactions involved mortgaging clients’ properties, by fraudulently signing powers of attorney and transfers.
Another issue for me was the antics of a North Coast Practitioner who took a dislike to me, for what reason, I do not know, and decided to set up a “rival body” to the Society to be known as “Lawyers Queensland” to represent small time lawyers. The solicitor, The Courier-Mail reported had, “waged a one-man campaign against the Law Society’s compulsory indemnity insurance scheme, he said favoured big-city, high turnover legal firms over sole practitioners.”
He wanted greater representation of sole practitioners and country firms on the Council. Interestingly, I was a sole practitioner and my successor, George Fox, was from Toowoomba.
I don’t name the practitioner as, ultimately, he went too far in his personal criticism of me, and I had to institute proceedings against him for defamation. I withdrew the proceedings, at no cost to him, after receiving an unqualified apology. He seemed to shy away from public comment after that.
There were two major issues involving the new government which bear repeating.
Not long after the election I received a call from the Principal Policy Advisor to the then Attorney-General, asking if I was free for lunch. We arranged a time and we met at a restaurant in New Farm near my practice. I was told that the government wanted the Society to abolish the conveyancing scales. For those who don’t know, the Society published a recommended scale of professional fees to be charged for property transfers. One for vendors and one for purchasers. The scale was supposed to be the benchmark, considering all work that was to be properly done in a conveyance. One for buyers and one for sellers. Deviation above or below, except for good reason, was frowned upon. At lunch, I was told that unless the scales were abolished the government would legislate away our monopoly by introducing conveyancers.
When I reported this to the Council, I thought I wouldn’t get out alive. I said,
“Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just telling you what I was told.”
I had told my lunch guest that there were two things I could foreshadow immediately. Taking away a source of profit would have an effect on solicitors’ ability to do pro-bono work, particularly for Legal Aid, (I had been on the LAQ for some years by then and understood the reliance on solicitors to provide both services at legal aid rates and pro bono services); I also said that an unregulated system would inevitably reduce consumer confidence and lead to financial loss for some.
The first of my concerns came to pass. Legal Aid was affected. Legal Aid was formed by solicitors and funded from solicitors’ trust accounts. It relied on solicitors agreeing to work for Legal Aid rates and to do pro bono work as well. The Council abolished the scales, which led to price wars and very cheap conveyancing indeed. Progress, I suppose.
The second issue which arose was the proposal for the establishment of a Court of Appeal. The Society was not opposed to a standing appeal court, although we were concerned it was being brought into existence because the Premier was having a feud with the then Chief Justice, John Macrossan. It was being played out in the press and Goss was very unhappy. The Society’s concerns were further heightened when the draft legislation was published. The legislation provided for the President of the COA to have effectively seniority over the Chief Justice in so far as the COA was concerned. It also curiously provided that the Chief Justice could also be the President of the COA. We raised our concerns in the press. I was summoned to the Premier’s Office in Parliament House one evening. I knew Goss reasonably well and had for some years worked with his wife, Roisin, as employed solicitors at M.G. Lyons and Co.
I was a little surprised when all of a sudden, he sat up, banged his desk with his hand and shouted, “I want your support”. Not to be outdone, I slammed my side of the desk and said, “well you can’t have it”. Thinking that I may have gone too far and trying to defuse the tense situation, I told him I would go back to Council to discuss it further. I left.
A couple of weeks later he was the guest speaker at the Annual Law Society Dinner. Things were frosty between us. To make matters worse there was a bomb scare and we had to sit in a room, at the then Crest Hotel, together for about an hour, whilst searches were undertaken.
Eventually we moved to the dinner table, above. I told him that I would be delivering a speech criticising that part of the legislation. He reached into his shirt pocket and handed me a sheet of paper. On it were four names. Fitzgerald, Pincus, Macpherson and Davies.
I asked if they had all agreed. He said “Yes”. I knew, given the composition of the court, criticism of the legislation would fall on deaf ears. My speech was never given and Goss announced the new Court, to tumultuous acclaim by the profession.
The legislation was amended in 1997, when the Chief Justice was returned to the position of first judicial officer and the appeal court became truly a division of the Supreme Court.
Next came an interaction with the then CJC. Sir Max Bingham was the first Chair of the Commission which was the centrepiece of the Fitzgerald anti-corruption reforms. An issue arose over the conduct of the then Police Commissioner, Noel Newnham, who was accused of misconduct over his failure to repay the cost of an airfare for a couple of thousand dollars. The Misconduct Tribunal found the misconduct proven and recommended he be sacked. The Supreme Court upheld an appeal by Newnham and he returned to work. The head of the Misconduct Tribunal made his views known about the involvement of the CJC in the appeal and suggested this was because of a friendship between Bingham and Newnham.
As you can imagine, all hell broke loose, fuelled, of course, by The Courier-Mail, which was running its own agenda. The Bar and Society, and some senior Barristers, called for an inquiry into the allegations. Bingham came out swinging. He called us “hypocrites”, adding that he was forced to break his “dignified silence” following attacks on him by “evil and irresponsible” people. He added that the head of the Misconduct Tribunal had triggered off a “Pavlovian reflex” amongst sections of the legal fraternity, which he said were like “pariah dogs snapping at the chariot wheels of the community as it goes about its business”. He did add that his criticism did not extend to the entire profession and that he held a large proportion of lawyers in high regard. Ultimately, no inquiry was held and everyone retreated to their respective corners.
When I was later appointed as a commissioner, to the CJC, Sir Max had gone.
There was little new in my experiences. Indeed, Helen Gregory makes the following comment in her history:
“Complaints against solicitors were often publicised. Some newspapers drew attention to instances of malpractice; others made sarcastic remarks which did nothing to elevate the image of lawyers in the public eye. The Ipswich Punch published a disparaging account of a court action under the headline ‘Court partial’ and followed it with a series of jokes in this vein;
‘Why are lawyers likely to be restless at night? Because they lie first on one side, and then upon the other and are wide awake all the time.’”
When I was a young lawyer, I would often be called upon to make speeches. I would usually start by saying I was a lawyer and make the comment that that way the audience could take an instant dislike to me. I would intersperse my talk with lawyer jokes. You know the ones:
- “What’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish? One is an ugly, scum sucking bottom-feeder and the other is a fish.”
- Why should lawyers be buried 100 feet deep? Because deep down, they’re really good people.
- And, the one about laboratory experiments and rats, which doesn’t bear repeating.
I stopped using these jokes when it occurred to me, that like Shakespeare’s Henry VI line delivered by Dick the Butcher, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”, they were demeaning of an honourable and important profession. I realised that there were enough commentators out there who were determined to demean the profession without me adding to it.
The work of solicitors is hard enough without self-criticism.
The Society is the peak body of the solicitors’ branch of the profession. It has been for 150 years. Notwithstanding substantial attacks on it from within and without.
It is well known that the hallmark of a profession, as opposed to other callings, is the imposition of rules which maintain a level of ethical behaviour and a willingness of the members to conform to the highest standard of behaviour.
In 1918, the Society restated its aims in a circular to members as follows:
- ‘To represent generally the views and wishes of the members;
- to afford greater opportunities for acquirement and diffusion of legal knowledge;
- to preserve the integrity of their branch of the legal profession;
- to watch any illegal or dishonourable practice;
- to promote good feeling and encourage proper conduct amongst the members of the profession;
- to afford means of reference for the amicable settlement of professional differences; and
- to consider and determine upon matters affecting the interests of the profession generally.”
In 1987 these were restated as follows;
- ‘to preserve and maintain the integrity and status of the legal profession,
- to determine matters of professional conduct,
- to promote awareness of the law in the wider community,
- to promote law reform,
- to provide services and facilities to solicitors both in their practice and at a social level, and
- to speak on behalf of the profession, to foster legal education for solicitors.
On its website the Law Society currently notes that:
QLS holds specific statutory responsibilities under the Legal Profession Act 2007. QLS empowers good lawyers, advocates for good law and services the public well by providing a clear and passionate voice for solicitors and the legal profession in Queensland.
The Society’s objectives are noted as:
- Advocate for the role of solicitors and for balanced laws and the rule of law for the benefit of the profession and the community.
- Regulate solicitors in Queensland to protect the community and to foster, promote and protect the good reputation of the profession.
- Partner with solicitors in Queensland to guide, advise, promote and support their role as trusted advisors.
- Develop and deliver leading education experiences to advance the expertise and accreditation of solicitors and their businesses.
- Connect the profession with each other, stakeholders and the community to foster relationships, collegiality and cooperation.
- Grow the member centric capability of QLS and embed a positive workplace culture, technological resilience and financial stability.
In a feature article in The Courier-Mail on my retirement from the presidency, the following was written:
“Mr Rinaudo sees the 1980s as an extraordinary time of development and change in the legal profession and says the blame must be shared for the steep rise in a price of justice during that decade, you can blame the public for being too litigious, lawyers for running cases to ensure costs were maximised, courts for not changing outdated practices and the Government for not providing the resources for change. He says, (referring to a Justice of the Supreme Court who had made some public comments about legal fees being out of the reach of many), “I get cranky though, about people who think themselves very smart and articulate, about what’s wrong with the system but have no suggestions about what the answers are. We’re not living in a perfect world. Not everybody will be able to get access to justice – nowhere in the world is that happening. What we must do is make sure the greatest number of people possible are getting access to the justice system.”
I left practice in 2003, when I started a mediation practice, which I conducted till 2005 when I was appointed a magistrate. During this time, I was engaged by the Society to help out in practices of solicitors who were having a difficult time coping. The work was rewarding, in as much as I was about to see first-hand the difficulties experienced by sole practitioner solicitors at the coalface.
The Society was supporting them and helping them get back on their feet. This was for me, a concrete example of why the Society exists. The pandemic has seen this support of the profession taken to a new level and I commend the recent Presidents In particular, I refer to Presidents Luke Murphy (current President of the Law Council of Australia), Elizabeth Shearer and Kara Thompson.
I am disappointed to see too many lawyers in the press for alleged criminal activity.
I am positive the Society is addressing those issues.
I am also extremely pleased that the President, Chloé Kopilović, and Vice-President, Rebecca Fogerty, have been so outstanding in presenting the Society’s response to proposed changes to the youth justice laws, and their support for what has been recent unfair criticism of the judicial branch, and particularly, an issue that arose in Townsville recently.
I am reluctant to descend into the arena, as I am, until 2 June 2023, a serving member of the District Court of Queensland, but I can assure you, that when I was Chief Magistrate, I was extremely grateful for the support of the Society in response to unfair criticism of members of that Court.
I will say two things. Children should not be in adult watch houses. This issue was brought to my attention when I was Chief Magistrate. I wanted to see for myself what was happening. So, I contacted the Brisbane Watch house keeper and went down to Roma Street. What I saw was truly appalling. To be fair, the police were doing all they could to support the children. I made my views known privately but was precluded from speaking publicly. It became public shortly after.
It is simply a distraction to blame the courts for lawlessness; just as it is to blame the courts for failing to stop domestic violence. When the courts get involved, offences have been committed and domestic violence has taken place.
Our responsibility is then to apply the statutory rules to the situation, sentence in accordance with the Penalties and Sentences Act or apply the Domestic and Family violence Protection Act, and make decisions according to law.
I wish the President and the Council well as they negotiate the issues of the day. They can take heart that it has all happened before.
What has changed is the sophisticated and professional way that the Society now undertakes its roles and tasks. I commend them for it.
It hopefully, is abundantly clear that the date changes every day, but the issues remain substantially the same.
The Society’s responsibility for the wellbeing and reputation of its members is still paramount. It is exciting to see that we have the third female President in a row and hopefully a fourth next year. We have a young and vibrant council who understand their objectives and acts fearlessly in furtherance of them.
Thank you for inviting me to address you today.