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Presidency a balancing act

Queensland Law Society President Chloé Kopilović shares a snapshot of the role. Photos and video: Geoff McLeod

As Queensland Law Society President, Chloé Kopilović has been the face of the Society in 2023.

One of her focuses for the year was collegiality and remaining connected as practitioners to the profession, clients and community, not to mention for the next generation of lawyers.

On top of her duties, Chloé Kopilović is a director of FC Lawyers, leading the Wills and Estates team based on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane.

Before Chloé steps down from the role this month, Proctor asked about her year in the top job.

What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at work in the morning?

By the time I have reached the office I normally know what the day has in store. However I often check in with Felicity Culnane, the executive assistant at the QLS for both President and the CEO. It is not uncommon for things to change overnight with QLS commitments.  If there are any speaking events for the QLS, I will generally go through any speech notes first thing in the morning.

Is every week different as President?

Absolutely, every week is different and will depend on travel requirements, speaking events, networking functions, submissions to Government and conferences.  As I am still practicing, if I am based in the CBD for a few days, I will generally move between our FC Lawyers office in the CBD and the QLS depending on client appointments. However, other weeks might have a couple of days in Cairns such as well I attended the North Queensland Law Association Conference, followed by a few days on the Gold Coast for the Gold Coast conference for the DLA.  For me, the key is to prepare on the weekend so I feel ready for the week ahead.

How do you balance your director role at same time?

Although it is a constant balancing act, I enjoy running a business and practicing law.  This year I will be 10 years admitted, so for me, it has been critical to maintain a practice.  However, whilst there have been some challenging times, being able to return to practice and maintain client contact has, in my view, balanced me.  I love working with clients and practicing law.  My business partner, Glenn Ferguson is a former President of QLS, and he has been a wonderful support in assisting me through any challenging periods.  Also, I have a great team at FC Lawyers who have been exceptionally supportive this year knowing there would be some time constraints with my calendar.

What are your main tasks and daily duties as QLS President?

There’s no doubt that a lot of people think the role of President of the QLS, means just attending a lot of networking functions and speaking at a lot of conferences! However, the role goes a lot deeper than that. QLS is responsible for hundreds of submissions to Government on new legislation or amendments bills, as QLS is a key stakeholder.  The QLS policy committees work extraordinarily hard.  Each submission comes from the office of the President and is personally signed by the President, so one of my main tasks each day is reading these submissions. Sometimes Parliamentary Committee hearings are held and the I will attend those if appropriate.  The QLS Council sits around 10 times a year, and given QLS is a statutory body, our board meetings generally extend over four hours and have some 800 – 1000 pages of material.  The President chairs these meetings so a huge amount of work goes into preparing for smooth and productive meeting.  Furthermore, the President has a crucial role in both the Executive Committee and Finance and Risk Committee of the QLS.  Then there’s all the networking events and conferences!

Is the nature of the job unpredictable?

Yes and no.  There is certainty in what events and conferences are in the calendar and where you are expected to be.  However, there are elements of the job that are unpredictable, for example, there may be a Bill announced that requires urgent attention from QLS.  Also, one of the great parts of the job is being able to speak at the valedictory and welcoming ceremonies of our newly appointed, or retiring, judicial officers.  These ceremonies are often scheduled at short notice.  However, the key is to approach each week with an open mind to take things as they come, and be flexible. 

On the types of events in the regions:

So I’m generally guided by the DLA in the regions, so for example the North Queensland Law Association conference which they designed the layout, so they had welcome drinks which obviously I participated in, they had a day and a half of conference, some networking drinks on the first day, followed by the Carbolic Smoke Ball on the Saturday night which pulled a phenomenal amount of 350 people which was huge.

So, if I’m visiting the regions and visiting a DLA, I’ll be guided by whatever their conference format is and try and participate in as much as possible.

On regularly meeting new people:

For me, this is one of the best parts of the role.  For me, I am very happy to pop on a pair of flats at an event and move through the room meeting everyone.  I think you’d be hard-pressed if you were in this role and you didn’t like meeting new people, for sure!

Other highlights?

Being the President of the Law Society is an honour and a privilege and an opportunity I will be grateful for, for the remainder of my career.

On the function of QLS President within the broader legal profession:

The profession in Queensland look to the Law Society for guidance, support, education, enforcement of regulation. In the role of President of the QLS, you’re the face of that role in the broader legal profession. When you are in the community or representing the QLS at different meetings or stakeholder events, you are representing all of those aspects of the profession. The wider profession look to you to ask questions where there are concerns whether they’re minor or major, they come to you.

Obviously I’m not able to answer or deal with all of those things in the wider profession, but I certainly am able to facilitate and I take it upon myself to make sure I facilitate those queries and try and get back to that practitioner, or get back to that stakeholder to provide a response.

Have you been able to apply your knowledge as a wills and estates lawyer to role of President?

They’re very different roles. However, there are definitely elements of my personal practice that have complemented me being able to carry out this role this year. Wills and estates law you have to be able to “read the room”.  The area is client-facing, and in some circumstances, there has to be a level of empathy, with an appropriate boundary to respect the client’s demeanour. In my view, that aspect from my personal practice has complemented me being able to carry out this role this year.  Everyone you meet has a different background, different concerns and a different sized practice.  The skills you acquire in practice especially in a heavy client-facing practice assist with being the President of the Law Society.

What challenges have you faced on a work day?

As President of the QLS you’re exposed to so many different areas of law.  If the submission or concern is relating to wills and estates and succession law, I am able to navigate it.  However, often, there are matters relating to criminal law, environmental law, property law, immigration etc.  When matters arise outside your expertise, it is important to seek the guidance of others.  QLS has an amazing number of volunteers who give their time to the policy committees.  It’s important to ask the questions and raise concerns and ultimately be guided by their expertise and knowledge.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to the first day as President?

‘Get ready’. I don’t think you can be ready for the role, until you’re in it.  However, if I could go back to my first day as President of QLS I’d probably tell myself ‘don’t be too hard on yourself’. QLS is a big machine and there is a lot of support available to the President.

What are your interests outside of law and where would you rather be?

I am from the Sunshine Coast.  Being in this role this year, I have been based in Brisbane.  Whilst I have enjoyed being in Brisbane, I am looking forward to getting back to the Sunshine Coast to climb some mountains, head to the beach and get out for some fishing!

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