Queensland Law Society is celebrating 150 years of advocating for good law and serving the public good by providing a clear and passionate voice for the state’s legal profession. In this two-part series, we look back on the Society’s positive impacts on the community, starting with the first 75 years.
The Society has a long and celebrated history of advocating for its members and the profession.
Today, 29 standing legal policy committees comprising volunteer committee members advocate for good law for the public good.
Their dedication enables the Society to develop sound and balanced submissions to government when seeking legislative policy reform, which will have a positive impact on both the legal profession and the Queensland community.
The Society also engages with the courts on procedural reform and practical issues affecting court users.
Advocacy as we know, today has been built over the course of 150 years on the core objective to advise the legislature on amendments to the law.
Through the rise and fall of the first Queensland law society between 1873 and 1883, and the establishment of the Queensland Law Association, to the present-day Queensland Law Society, advocacy has been an unwavering core pillar across all the iterations.
The Society’s relationship with parliament began with extensive debate in the late 19th century over various Legal Practitioners Bills introduced to amalgamate the profession.
The first decade of the new century was a turning point for the Association’s relationship with parliament. A major milestone occurred in 1908 when the Attorney-General allowed the Association to review drafts of bills affecting legal matters, which the government introduced in the House. In the late 1930s, a Legislation Sub-Committee was formed to review bills on legal subjects going before parliament and to suggest reforms of various kinds.
The Queensland Society Incorporation Act of 1928 legitimatised the Society as the corporate voice of the profession.
In the following decade preceding World War II, the Society sought to reform out-of-date Queensland statutes to simplify court rules and procedures, in pursuit of reducing costs and improving access to the law for all.
This agenda included advocacy to modernise statutes related to trustees and executors, the administration of estates, and commercial arbitration.
These endeavours were adjourned for the duration of the World War II, when the parlous state of the world required attention to be sent to the battlefields.
Here, the Society sought changes to the formalities for making wills for servicemen to make verbal and battlefield wills and to permit minors under the age of 21 serving to make formal wills.
The war years also saw the beginning of legal assistance in Queensland. Initially established as a wartime legal aid scheme for servicemen and their dependents, the scheme was gradually extended.
This culminated in the Queensland Legal Assistance Act, which came into force on 14 February 1966. The scheme was officially opened in May 1966 and operated out of premises next to the Society.
In 1941, the then Premier agreed with a QLS delegation that the government should allow the Society to see draft bills before they were introduced to the House.
With energies focused back on the home front after World War II, the Society contended an entire session of parliament was needed to eliminate Queensland’s backlog of outdated statutes.
The Society assisted by referring the profession’s nominations of out-of-date laws to the Legislative Sub-committee and new draft bills were considered by Council before being offered to the relevant Cabinet Minister.
The Attorney-General, William Power, commended the Society for its work in preparing draft bills at this time.
These bills addressed several Acts covering the law related to property, deserted wives and children, workers’ compensation, gift duties and antiquated procedures. A particular success was the Joint Tortfeasors Bill which was drafted by counsel instructed by the Society and then accepted in full by the Attorney-General.
Jaime Gunning and Caiti Betts are Law Clerks at the Queensland Law Society.