-Est 1999-
  •   

 

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – July 2020

Australian states agree to overhaul of ‘outdated’ defamation laws

Australian states have agreed to a dramatic overhaul of “outdated” defamation laws in a bid to protect public interest journalism and curb escalating damages payouts. The New South Wales attorney general, Mark Speakman, announced sweeping changes, outlining a plan to “reset” laws which he said had resulted in “crippling damages payouts, chilling public interest journalism and clogging courts with minor claims”. Read More

September looming potentially large for insolvencies

Absent further government changes, September is set to be a turning point for the Australian economy and in particular the restructuring and insolvency sector. Much is being written about the looming wave of insolvencies and what will trigger them.

According to Hamilton Locke partner Nicholas Edwards, there are three key events slated to happen in September that will have a significant impact on the economy, as well as the number of insolvencies in this country. As it currently stands and as testament to the government measures, the volume of formal insolvencies has been down significantly month-to-month since March, “which for many people on the street is surprising”. This, however, is not a sustainable position. Read More

Crown moved to CBA when ANZ shut ‘money laundering’ accounts, inquiry hears

Crown Resorts opened accounts with the Commonwealth Bank using “misleading” names that masked their use for gambling and accepted high-risk cash deposits, despite ANZ shutting down similar accounts over money laundering concerns, an inquiry has heard. Crown’s chief legal and regulatory compliance officer Joshua Preston told the NSW government probity inquiry into the James Packer-backed casino group on Friday he could not recall why CBA then also shut down the accounts in late 2019, but it “would not surprise” him if it was also due to fears about dirty cash. Read More

NSW Law Society appoints new CEO

The NSW Law Society has appointed Sonja Stewart as its new CEO for the term beginning 31 August. Stewart is the interim CEO of KPMG joint venture Arrilla Consulting, and has much experience working with state and Commonwealth governments. She has worked not only within the legal industry, but also in the academe and the not-for-profit sector. Read More

The Australian legal marketplace will never be the same again once the age of coronavirus has passed.

COVID-19 brought about not just a global pandemic and economic turmoil, but substantial change to the ways the modern legal marketplace operates. These changes are myriad, still unfolding and even yet to emerge. Whilst practitioners have different views about the extent and consequence of such an upending of the established order, one perspective rings true across the board: #auslaw is shaping up to look vastly different to pre-pandemic conditions. Read More

 

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – June 2020

Big change to Victorian class actions passed amid political warfare

A major change to class action law in Victoria could make it easier to bring litigation against big corporations for wage theft and consumer harm. Hotly-contested laws passed by State Parliament will allow lawyers running class actions to charge contingency fees, enabling them to take a cut of multimillion-dollar class action settlements.

Contingency fees are said to increase access to justice because the scheme forces lawyers to bear the cost for plaintiffs if they lose. At the moment, lead plaintiffs are liable for defendant’s costs if they lose, meaning class actions are usually brought by lawyers on a “no-win, no-fee” basis with most plaintiffs forced to obtain insurance or the backing of a litigation funder. Read More

Here are the latest updates from Australia’s courts and legal bodies as the coronavirus pandemic continues

The majority of courts have resumed normal operations, although health and sanitation guidelines will be followed in courtrooms. The latest protocols are as follows. Read More

Amazon reveals plan to build huge robot warehouse in Western Sydney

Online retail giant Amazon is building one of the largest warehouses in Australia in its latest efforts to expand its operations in the country. Construction on the 200,000 square metre robotics fulfilment centre has already begun at Kemps Creek in Sydney’s west, close to the under-construction Western Sydney airport.

The advanced storage and distribution facility is expected to create 1,500 warehouse jobs, in addition to 700 jobs during its construction. Read More

Legal groups advocate to #RaiseTheAge

A coalition of legal and advocacy groups has launched a campaign calling for a major law change to prevent young children from spending time behind bars. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal, medical and human rights groups launched the #RaiseTheAge campaign to call on the Australian government to change the laws that are currently seeing children as young as 10 sent to prison for minor offences.

According to the advocacy groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were disproportionately impacted, accounting for 70 per cent of these younger children as a result of “differential treatment”. Read More

South Australia to reinstate title of QC

In an effort to offer greater flexibility to senior members of the legal sector, the South Australian government will reintroduce the Queen’s counsel title.

Since 2008, barristers in South Australia taking silk have been appointed with the title of senior counsel, after the then state government ceased the appointment of QCs, in line with other state and territory jurisdictions that had discontinued its use.

However, with jurisdictions such as Queensland and Victoria having already moved to reintroduce the QC title, South Australia Attorney-General Vickie Chapman will similarly bring back the title, a move she says has “strong support” from the legal profession in the Festival State. Read More

Becoming a cross-jurisdictional lawyer

While the future of Australia’s legal sector is, at present, uncertain, one thing is clear – the way legal professionals will work has changed drastically, writes Matthew Kay.

Prior to lockdown, the sector was in the midst of significant change, with law firms realising the benefits of implementing new technologies. Of Australia’s 50 largest law firms, half have now implemented a formalised innovation function according to Thomson Reuters’ “2019 Australia: State of the Legal Market” report, which looked at data across the whole of 2019.

And, following this year’s significant shake-up of the status quo, law firms are even more fixated on implementing technology that can aid with agility and remote working. Ensuring clients receive a seamless service amid lockdown has, for most, been priority number one. Read More

 

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – May 2020

The Intersection Between COVID and Responsible Business

As the crisis continues to unfold, ESG topics will continue to grow in importance. Companies will be judged by their ability to withstand financial shocks, but also by how they’ve treated their employees, clients and communities. Over the past decade, interest in how companies manage environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues has grown considerably. Investors, consumers and employees increasingly expect companies to account for issues such as worker safety, climate change and financial transparency. As the world finds itself in the midst of a pandemic, these stakeholders are now adding a company’s response to COVID-19 to the list. Read More

Legal assistance sector gets $63.3m boost

The federal government will provide an additional $63.3 million boost for the legal sector to ensure support and advice can be accessed amid COVID-19 concerns.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced new measures from the national cabinet, including the $63.3 million injection into the legal assistance sector. The government has also committed to providing $2 billion over the next five years to help with legal issues.

Almost $50 million will go towards additional frontline legal services, including advice and representation. Forty per cent will be used for matters involving domestic violence. Read More

New rules for litigation funders after jump in class actions

A surge in class-action lawsuits has triggered a crackdown on companies that fund litigation in the pursuit of massive financial settlements, forcing the sector to submit to tougher federal law. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will impose new rules on litigation funders after a 325 per cent rise in class actions in the Federal Court over the past decade. Read More

New Hong Kong security law an “unconscionable” threat to judicial independence, says IBA

The International Bar Association (IBA) has condemned the new Hong Kong security law passed through by the National People’s Congress in Beijing.

The Law Society Gazette reported that congress had approved a “draft decision on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security.” A total of 2,878 deputies from all over China voted in favour of the proposed legislation, with one opposing. Six deputies abstained from voting on the matter. Read More

 

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – April 2020

Australian Travel & Tourism Lawyers hearing enquiries on travel-related matters in light of COVID-19

With the uproar surrounding the Ruby Princess cruise ship controversy, the firm told Australasian Lawyer that many Australians are considering their options. “We have received enquiries concerning cruise ships, including in relation to the Ruby Princess. Those matters are very much at an early stage; nonetheless, we have no doubt that, particularly in relation to that ship, litigation will follow,” said paralegal Bronte Sellers.

Australian Travel & Tourism Lawyers has also been working with US lawyer Debi Chalik, who has commenced proceedings against operator Princess Cruises in the District Court of California for the death of American Ruby Princess passenger Chung Chen from the coronavirus following the ship’s March voyage.

Insurance claims and refunds are common matters that have been brought before the firm by clients over the past month. Read More

Lawyers find creative ways to sign papers in COVID-19 wills rush

Witnessing wills through car windows and over back fences are among the creative ways lawyers are helping clients to get their affairs in order during the COVID-19 crisis.

More people are wanting to create or change their wills or powers of attorney in response to the deadly pandemic, Melbourne lawyers say. Read More

Here are 10 steps to build a stronger Australia after coronavirus by Travers McLeod – Chief Executive of the Centre for Policy Development

  1. Never underestimate systemic risk again: Pandemic or coronavirus weren’t new words when Covid-19 began. This risk was foreseen.
  2. Don’t focus on the last war: The war analogy used for Covid-19 can help us plan a better future.
  3. Align our growth agenda with a zero carbon future: The first two steps will reinforce what should be obvious, that locking in carbon-dependent growth is a recipe for greater disaster.
  4. Revalue care: We can restructure our federation to guarantee care for all, especially in early childhood education. This is the moment to secure a new consensus for care.
  5. Rewire business for the long term: Australians want business to back long-term value creation for a larger set of stakeholders, especially their employees and their suppliers, and to broaden what we mean by capital. Covid-19 has signalled a capacity to do both. We must sustain this spirit to rewire capitalism for good.
  6. Work differently: It’s time to create more secure work and job guarantees through a Covid-inspired accord between government, unions and business.
  7. Back places, people and the public service: We need to invest more in our public services and grow talent across them.
  8. Get serious about substantive equality: An Australia that strives for equality not just of opportunity but of outcomes will be a healthier, more prosperous nation.
  9. Influence the world stage: We must be on the right side of history and seek to shape it positively, helping to reform institutions to tackle 21st century challenges.
  10. Walk the talk: How we act during and after Covid, whether it’s for sporting stars or international students, will speak volumes for our national integrity.

Read More

Survey reveals traditional legal priorities normally considered as challenges have become less urgent.

In-house legal leaders have shared the biggest challenges they are facing amid the coronavirus pandemic in a survey conducted by a global law firm. In a survey of 110 in-house general counsel from global corporations, Morrison & Foerster found that the biggest personal challenge faced by GCs is providing advice on unprecedented issues, with 64.5% indicating the answer.

The next-biggest issues faced by GCs are making decisions in an uncertain environment (55.5%), protecting the company from risk (39.1%), and supporting the business (36.4%). As remote working has been widely adopted across industries, 27.3% of GCs indicated that managing a remote team was their biggest challenge. Read More

Sports contracts in the age of COVID-19

The in-house legal function will be fundamental for the sports and entertainment sectors as we emerge from the global coronavirus pandemic, argues one professional.

In-house counsel hold a unique place in any business or organisation, but in the age of coronavirus, they are more integral than ever. This is especially true, regulation legal manager Cassandra Heilbronn says, in the sports and entertainment sectors.

“In my experience, many clubs do not have the support of an in-house team, rather they have a strong HR function (which is generally where a lot of their legal issues arise), and the forward-thinking clubs already have a developed suite of precedents for their commercial contracts that were drafted by a law firm,” she explained. Read More

 

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – March 2020

COVID-19: Australian courts and legal bodies updates

With COVID-19 spreading across Australia, courts in the country are announcing their respective plans of action across all states and territories. Here are the latest updates.

  • High Court to cease sittings until June
  • Federal Court of Australia: Public facing counters are closed and face-to-face services suspended as of 24 March
  • Family Court of Australia: Mediations will continue electronically via video or telephone
  • Federal Circuit Court: Only urgent matters will be addressed in person pursuant to face-to-face protocols
  • Fair Work Commission: Applications in hard copy will no longer be accepted

Read More

$130 Billion Jobkeeper Payment to keep Australians in job

The Morrison Government will provide a historic wage subsidy to around 6 million workers who will receive a flat payment of $1,500 per fortnight through their employer, before tax. The $130 billion JobKeeper payment will help keep Australians in jobs as we tackle the significant economic impact from the coronavirus.

The payment will be open to eligible businesses that receive a significant financial hit caused by the coronavirus.

The payment will provide the equivalent of around 70 per cent of the national median wage. For workers in the accommodation, hospitality and retail sectors it will equate to a full median replacement wage.

The payment will ensure eligible employers and employees stay connected while some businesses move into hibernation. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the JobKeeper payment would bring the Government’s total economic support for the economy to $320 billion or 16.4 per cent of GDP. Read More

Family property disputes to be fast-tracked through the courts

Former couples fighting acrimonious family law battles will be able to fast-track disputes over property worth less than $500,000. The initiative is particularly aimed at women who have been subjected to family violence, and who are most at risk of losing their share of property in a separation or divorce.

The pilot program will be run in the Federal Circuit Court, which hears family law disputes, in Melbourne, Parramatta, Adelaide and Brisbane. Read More

Government to pay $212.5m to victims of toxic chemicals used in firefighting foam.

Three communities will receive $212.5 million from the Morrison Government in a landmark settlement over the use of toxic firefighting foam. Residents in three Australian communities who had their groundwater contaminated by toxic firefighting foam will receive hundreds of millions of dollars after winning a class action against the Australian Government.

The Department of Defence will pay $212.5 million to the communities of Williamtown in NSW, Oakey in Queensland and Katherine in the Northern Territory. The landmark settlement comes after thousands of properties became contaminated by per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the area, which is used in firefighting foams at Australian defence bases. Read More

Human rights sanctions under microscope

Federal politicians have been urged to introduce a regime that would ban human rights abusers from entering or investing in Australia and freeze their assets.

A parliamentary committee has heard evidence about whether Australia should enshrine a so-called Magnitsky Act. The laws are named after lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail after accusing Russian officials of tax fraud.

The legislation would allow the government to name people linked to breaches of international law or corruption, and see them banned from travelling to or investing in Australia. Read More

New workplace manslaughter laws a timely reminder to reassess OH&S risks

The recent release of the Dreamworld coronial inquest findings is an important reminder to businesses about their duty of care to protect the health and safety of their employees, and the public, when undertaking business activities, writes Alastair Phillips.

The “systematic failure to ensure the safety of patrons and staff” which contributed to the death of four people on the Thunder River Rapids Ride in 2016 demonstrates the severe consequences that can occur when organisations lose sight of the safety of their employees and their customers.

For Victorian businesses, the introduction of the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Industrial Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019 (Vic) that comes into force on 1 July 2020 will increase the severity of punishment for failing to ensure workplace safety and mitigate risks. Read More

 

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – February 2020

Gartner Predicts That by 2023 “Lawbots” Will Handle a Quarter of Internal Legal Requests

Legal departments are turning to virtual legal assistants (VLAs) because of extreme pressure to improve efficiency and provide a responsive service to their organisations.

Intense pressure on legal departments to increase their responsiveness and efficiency is leading them to look toward automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language processing, according to Gartner, Inc. In fact, Gartner predicts that “lawbots” will handle a quarter of internal legal requests by 2023.

VLAs can help legal departments improve efficiency by streamlining matter intake, triaging legal requests, determining the necessity of legal review and automating routine legal workflow. According to a Gartner survey of legal professionals increasing productivity in these ways is the top driver of automation.

VLAs can also ease employee concerns about anonymity in situations where they perceive a risk in simply asking for information, such as whistle blower reporting and harassment claims. Read More

US-style class action fees poised to come to Victoria

Victoria is poised to introduce US-style fee arrangements for law firms running class actions. Contingency fees arrangements would allow plaintiff lawyers to take a percentage of the settlement or judgement amount, instead of charging clients an hourly rate or a fixed fee.

Supported by the Victorian Law Institute and Victorian Law Reform Commission, this change could increase access to justice because it reduces financial risks to clients. Read More

Data retention ‘ambiguity’ allows cops to view your browsing history

Law enforcement agencies are being given the full URLs of web pages visited by people under Australia’s controversial data retention laws, despite government assurances the practice wouldn’t occur.

Commonwealth Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe called out the “ambiguity around the definition of content” at a parliamentary committee reviewing the laws. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security will continue conducting a review of controversial metadata retention laws.

In the 2018-2019 financial year, 295,691 authorisations to access metadata were issued across all state and federal law enforcement agencies. Read More

An unsent SMS, a message on a tractor, a poem: bizarre ways people have written their wills

An unsent SMS, a message on a tractor, a poem – needless to say, wills of the 21st century are taking increasingly ridiculous forms. The courts have had to consider whether DVDs and digital videos, iPhone notes, Microsoft Word documents, encrypted computer files and other digital artefacts count as valid wills or amendments.

Except in very limited exceptional circumstances, a will is a document. To be a valid formal will, there are certain requirements: it must be in writing, on paper, signed by the testator, witnessed by other people, and formally executed. Specific formal language is encouraged. In law, documents – more than witnesses or physical objects – have become the most important form of evidence. But in the digital age, the distinction between a document, a witness and real evidence is becoming more difficult to perceive, and pointless to sustain. Read More

NSW to introduce ‘nation-leading’ child abuse reforms

A significant barrier preventing child sex offenders from being held to account and leading to “unwarranted acquittals” will be removed under landmark reforms being introduced into NSW Parliament.

The Attorney-General for New South Wales, Mark Speakman, said that the proposed reforms will help deliver justice for survivors of child sexual abuse, which he described as “one of the most despicable and damaging crimes” in the criminal justice system. Read More.

 

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – January 2020

Victoria welcomes new Solicitor for Public Prosecutions

Victoria has appointed a new Solicitor for Public Prosecutions to oversee staff budgets and to brief counsel on serious, high-profile crimes.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC welcomed Abbey Hogan as the Solicitor for Public Prosecutions (SPP) in Victoria, crediting Ms Hogan with understanding the “challenges and importance” of the work of the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP). Read More 

2019 earnings: What lawyers were worth and what this means for 2020

The average salaries of lawyers at all levels and across many practice areas increased exponentially in 2019, with further growth predicted for 2020.

According to Beacon Legal’s Private Practice Salary and Market Report 2020, lawyers experienced “record-level” salaries, particularly in the areas of litigation, public M&A’s, construction and banking. The firm predicts 2020 will be a “great year” for solicitors to seek a new role and achieve further growth in their salary brackets.

However, this means law firms will see tougher competition in securing talent as there are more opportunities – and higher signing bonuses – offered across the profession. Read More

EU countries averaging 278 GDPR breach notifications per day: DLA Piper

According to new data from global firm DLA Piper, breach notifications under the GDPR are trending upwards.

In its “GDPR Data Breach Survey: January 2020”, DLA found that for the period between 28 January 2019 and 27 January 2020, there were 278 breach notifications per day on average across the European Economic Area, which covers all 28 member states of the European Union.

That amounted to a 12.6 per cent increase from the period from 25 May 2018 to 27 January 2019, which had an average of 247 breach notifications per day. Read More

5 emerging issues for in-house counsel in 2020

Corporate lawyers always face myriad issues day-to-day in their respective businesses, but according to one senior in-house counsel, certain trends are emerging that can and will shape how in-house teams engage with their businesses this year.

Climate change liability risk, professional negligence claims, increases in pro bono work undertaken, increases in IR claims and transparency around the gender pay gap are all shaping up to be key themes for corporate lawyers this year, according to non-executive director and senior in-house counsel Claire Bibby. Read More

Should firms move towards fixed pricing in the wake of FWC requirements?

Movement away from billable hours is the best way to breed a better, more hospitable environment for overworked juniors, according to five NewLaw practitioners – including one who called the new FWC requirements a “sad indictment of the old law model”.

Late last year, new industrial regulations were handed down requiring law firms to log the quantum of hours worked by graduate lawyers and paralegals to ensure that junior staff are being properly compensated for work completed. Read More

Family law system has been ‘neglected, underfunded and under-resourced’

Australia’s judicial system for family law is a “critical piece of social justice infrastructure” that desperately needs greater resourcing and commitments to specific improvements, according to the NSW Bar Association.

In its submission to the joint select committee on Australia’s family law system, the NSW Bar Association said that Australia’s “once world-leading” family law system is “not currently serving the best interests of children and families as well as it could or should”, creating “much frustration” with the current state of affairs. Read More

Trivago misled Australian customers on hotel pricing, court finds

Travel website Trivago misled consumers about cheap hotel deals on its website and in advertising, a federal court judge has ruled. The Netherlands-incorporated company didn’t actually show customers the cheapest deals for hotel rooms but promoted advertisers who paid the biggest fees.

“Contrary to the impression created by the relevant conduct, the Trivago website did not provide an impartial, objective and transparent price comparison service,” the federal court justice Mark Moshinsky said on Monday. Read More

 

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – December 2019

Digital adoption and the shake-up of legal practice

Last year Thomson Reuters, in partnership with Lawyers Weekly, launched the inaugural “Tech and the Law” report, shining a spotlight on how law firms are incorporating technology into their business offering.

Lawyers Weekly spoke to James Jarvis, VP of product design and delivery at Thomson Reuters legal professionals, Asia and emerging markets, on some of the results gathered from the report, how these have changed or remained unchanged since its launch and where to next in the world of all things tech and law. Read More

Federal Government to crack down on tech giants

A $27 million investment into the ACCC and a brand new code of conduct are part of the Federal Government’s raft of reforms intended to crack down on unregulated American tech giants.

The reforms come in response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Digital Platforms Inquiry, which slammed tech heavyweights like Google and Facebook for their impact on the Australian media landscape. Read More 

Volkswagen slammed with record $125 million penalty

German car manufacturer Volkswagen has been ordered to pay $125 million in penalties by the Australian Federal Court after breaching consumer law by making false or misleading representations.

Volkswagen’s $125 million fine is the largest total penalty order ever made by the Federal Court for contraventions of Consumer Law.

The penalty follows Volkswagen’s admission that it lied about its compliance with Australian diesel emissions standards. Read More 

The legal aid crisis is real – and it’s families who are in the firing line

Unlike state funding for criminal, child protection or mental health matters, legal aid funding for family law relies on the commonwealth. Legal aid has traditionally been a shining example of commonwealth-state cooperation, with both levels of government contributing to make assistance available for a range of serious legal problems.

But the commonwealth’s share of legal aid funding has dropped dramatically over the past two decades from an almost equal share to less than 30% in Victoria today. The legal aid scheme for family law in Victoria is teetering on the brink. Read More 

Peak legal and medical groups push to lift minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14

The Australian Medical Association has joined a Law Council of Australia push to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 to prevent the jailing of children as young as 10.

In a joint policy statement, to be released on Tuesday, the country’s peak medical and legal bodies argue that increasing the age to 14 will help reduce indigenous incarceration rates and fulfil international law obligations. Read More 

Western Australia legalises voluntary assisted dying after ‘momentous process’

Under the scheme, terminally ill adults in pain and likely to have less than six months to live – or one year if they have a neurodegenerative condition – will be able to take a drug to end their lives if approved by two medical practitioners.

WA follows Victoria in enabling voluntary assisted dying, with the scheme expected to be implemented in 18 months’ time. Read More

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – November 2019

Victoria’s landmark gender equality laws to improve workplaces

Landmark laws are being introduced to Victoria to hold workplaces responsible for the treatment of women and ensure they are afforded the opportunities they deserve. Read More

New challengers arise

In the not-too-distant future, Australia’s law firms could be up against stiff competition when it comes to serving SME clients. According to NAB’s inaugural Legal Services Industry Survey of 70 law firms and over 750 small and medium-sized businesses, SMEs are much more likely to view the big accounting firms as better placed to offer them complex and diversified advice about their whole business. Read More

Sydney’s lockout laws to be relaxed but will it save the city’s nightlife?

The NSW Government has made the decision to wind back some of the controversial lockout laws that have decimated the city’s once-vibrant nightlife. Extended trading hours for venues and bottle shops, a relaxation of after-midnight drink rules and other changes will be introduced from January. Read More

Westpac CEO and chairman step down amid AUSTRAC allegations

Westpac Group (ASX: WBC) CEO Brian Hartzer and chairman Lindsay Maxstead will step down in the wake of legal controversy surrounding the bank. Hatzer’s resignation follows allegations from AUSTRAC that the banking group contravened the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act) on more than 23 million occasions. Read More

CBA’s CommInsure pleads guilty to 87 counts of hawking

A subsidiary of Australia’s largest bank has pleaded guilty to making unlawful and unsolicited phone calls in breach of the Corporations Act. Commonwealth Bank (ASC: CBA) subsidiary Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited, trading as CommInsure, has pleaded guilty on 87 counts of the practice known as “hawking” between October and December 2014. Read More

Hold your horses: Body Corporate ban on Airbnbs unlikely to impact most Queenslanders.

A landmark legal decision upholding a ban on Airbnbs in certain strata title complexes is unlikely to impact the broader industry. For the first time in Queensland, a by-law banning short-term letting or Airbnb within a Gold Coast community has been successful. Read More

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – October 2019

 

The ‘Uberisation’ of lawyers is picking up pace

Professional services firms, such as legal entities, are now operating in a buyer’s market where digital technologies have fostered new customer expectations, according to a new Westpac report. Read more 

Police want faster data from the US, but Australia’s encryption laws could scuttle the deal

Australian police could quickly access data held by companies like Google and Facebook under a planned deal with the United States. Read more

ACCC takes Google to court over misleading use of user location data

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (‘ACCC’) has launched proceedings in the Federal Court against Google, alleging the Silicon Valley giant misused users’ location data. Read more

Public servants should be punished for failing to report misconduct, legal experts say

Recommendation adds to a growing push for reforms to Australia’s whistleblowing laws, which fail to prevent reprisals against those who speak out. Read more

Will law firms record overtime of more than just their grads?

New industrial regulations will see 20 law firms record the hours undertaken by their most junior legal professionals. But, given that lawyers with a few years of experience are most dissatisfied with their employers, wouldn’t it make sense to monitor the work this demographic is burdened with, too?  Read more 

NSW trumpets ‘record’ number of female magistrates

Women now make up 47 per cent of magistrates in NSW, marking a 7 per cent increase from one decade ago, according to the state’s attorney-general. Read more

3 in 10 in-house counsel get asked to advise on matters that make them ethically uncomfortable

The “In Collaboration” report is titled “Which way is the wind blowing? Recalibrating the moral compass of in-house legal practice”, it highlights the “tightrope” that in-house lawyers are walking when it comes to business and ethical interests. Published by LOD  the report showcases findings from a period of five years. Read more

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – September 2019

New Chief Magistrate appointed in Victoria

Her honour Judge Lisa Hannan has been elevated to Chief Magistrate of the Victorian Magistrates Court, having served for eight years as a magistrate and coroner, and 13 years as a County Court Judge. Read More

The Law Institute of Victoria has called for legislative change to increase organ and tissue donations in the state.

LIV president Stuart Webb has written to the state’s Attorney-General Jill Hennessy, asking her to refer the Human Tissue Act 1982 to the Victorian Law Reform Commission. Read More

NSW passes bill to decriminalise abortion

NSW parliament has passed a bill decriminalising abortion, overturning a 119-year-old law and achieving what advocates say is a “massive step forward for women” in the state. Read More

Australia must do more to attract international arbitrations

The world of international commercial arbitration has not yet been “adequately penetrated” by the Australian Bar, but there are ways to bring such arbitrations to our shores, argues a former Federal Court judge. Read More

The future of the governance professional

Increased regulatory scrutiny, business complexity, and technological disruption will define governance practice for the foreseeable future. And the digital skills and ethical mindset of millennials will mean that they will be more sought after on boards. Read More

Finalists revealed for 2019 Women in Law Awards
Lawyers Weekly, in partnership with Taylor Root has announce the finalists for this years’ Women in Law Awards. Read More

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – August 2019

 

NSW: looming legal aid crisis

NSW is on the brink of a legal aid funding crisis and risks replicating the United Kingdom experience where strikes by lawyers over low fees have plunged the justice system into chaos, according to a confidential report to government. Read more.

Australian worker wealth gap grows

Today, millennial workers globally have less wealth compared to predecessors at the same age. Although Australian household assets have tripled since 1990, “the wealth bonanza has been far from equally spread,” with increases concentrated in “older households.” Read more.

Algorithms and big data are entering the often shrouded world of alternative dispute resolution. 

Robots and artificial intelligence seem worlds away from the sensitive and nuanced area of international mediation. Here, battles are largely settled behind closed doors and skilled mediators pick their way through sticky negotiations. Algorithms and big data, however, are fast entering the often mystery-shrouded world of alternative dispute resolution. Read more. 

Are micro-practices the boutique firms of the future?

Micro-practice law firms – which refer to legal practices that employ only lawyers, who undertake all of the financial and administrative tasks themselves rather than hiring or outsourcing to others – are shaping up as increasingly popular and attractive for boutiques across the country. In an increasingly modern legal marketplace, it is integral for lawyers to consider every vocational option and opportunity to ensure success and productivity. Read more. 

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry. July 2019

Are the big four accounting firms a threat to traditional legal service or are traditional legal firms taking over the market share of the big four?

Several lawyers have spoken out about whether the big four accounting firms present a genuine threat to the traditional legal service offering, showcasing mixed opinions.

Here is a report from Lawyers Weekly who spoke to five lawyers, with varying levels of expertise across the business of law, to find out whether there is a perception that the big four is something the legal profession should be concerned about. Read More

Do organisations need to do more than just comply with the Modern Slavery Act? If so, what?

For companies, going “beyond compliance” might mean implementing new strategies or adopting new approaches:

The commitment of the company’s leadership to making change is key. Allocating responsibility and setting metrics are ways that the leadership team can make clear how seriously it is taking the problem.

Undertaking assessments of the likely social impact of any actions that the company takes. For example, a “compliance” mindset might be to terminate a supplier contract the moment that modern slavery is identified. A kneejerk reaction like this might be more detrimental (it might force the immediate closure of a factory, pushing workers further into poverty). A more positive approach might be to work with the supplier on remediation and improving standards.

Building relationships with NGOs who work in high-risk markets where companies source goods. NGOs can help with risk identification or assessment, and be a source of local advice on remediation if modern slavery is found.

Raising staff awareness and understanding through training and internal communications. Some companies have organised for staff to visit areas from where products are sourced, to gain first hand experience of the problems. Staff who understand the “why” of compliance are more likely to be motivated to push for change and improvement.

Read this complete article written by Michael Milnes, head of commercial and competition law at Practical Law Australia.

Whistleblowers in Australia have reason to rejoice – so long as they are in the private sector.

Thanks to new laws that came into effect this month, private-sector whistleblowers have a range of new protections. This includes, in certain prescribed circumstances, the prospect of being compensated if they experience adverse outcomes after taking their concerns to the media. Read More 

Crowdfunding litigation: A problem or a solution?

The reality, however, is that the rise of crowdfunding litigation has prompted complex professional, ethical and practical questions that the community, courts and the legal profession must carefully work through. To ensure what is done with good intentions does not have the unintended consequence of undermining the rule of law, the merits of a case, or public confidence in our courts or justice system. Read this article by Arthur Moses SC,President, Law Council of Australia . Read More

ACCC: Facebook and Google’s power distorts companies’ ability to compete

The long-awaited Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) report into the out-of-control growth and dominance of digital platforms has been released, with the watchdog critical of giants Facebook and Google.

The overarching theme of the report can be distilled into the ACCC not trusting the platforms to self-regulate, with “holistic reform” required to stop them from growing further out of control. Read More