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Number 13

Secretary Summary

Matters covered in this Newsletter:-
   Commonwealth Law Conference September 2005
   CAPSL Meeting September 2005 & Topics
   Marlborough House meeting
   Kiribati needs staff
   Legal Professional Privilege Problem for the Australian Armed Forces
   Pro Bono Work for Government Lawyers
   Automated Administrative Law?
   Other Conferences

Commonwealth Law Conference September 2005 

The Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the Law Society of England & Wales have recently announced that they will jointly host the Commonwealth Law Conference 2005 to be held at The Queen Elizabeth 11 Conference Centre in Westminster, London from 11 Ė 15 September 2005 in conjunction with the Law Societyís own Annual Conference. This is the first time that the Conference has been held in London since the inaugural Conference in 1955.  

Up to 2000 lawyers representing 53 Commonwealth countries are expected to attend. To find out more and to register your interest visit www.commonwealthlaw2005.com or email commonwealth2005@lawsociety.org.uk

From my experience at Commonwealth Law Conferences I can only encourage anyone who can attend to do so. I have consistently found them intellectually stimulating, excellent for ongoing legal education and great fun.

CAPSL Meeting September 2005

In conjunction with the Commonwealth Law Conference CAPSL will hold its satellite meeting. At present arrangements for CAPSLís own involvement in the Commonwealth Law Conference are being refined.

Details, including venue, will be published here on the CAPSL web site and emailed to members as soon as plans have been firmed up.  

CAPSLís arrangements are being assisted by the firm Evershedís which has a significant public sector practice.

Topics for CAPSL Meeting

It presently looks like CAPSL will meet on Sunday 10 September 2005.Anyone with ideas as to what they would like CAPSL to try and arrange should advise the Chairman or the Secretary as soon as possible by email to mike.kendall@westsussex.gov.uk or capsl@bigpond.com 

Topics presently under consideration include:- 

  • Pro Bono Work and Government lawyers
  • Legal Professional Privilege in a Public Sector Context
  • Corporate Manslaughter
  • Problems for decision-makers in the public-sector: The law on bias and fettering discretion

Marlborough House Meetings 2004

CAPSL was recently invited to attend. Our Chair Mike Kendall was unavailable and the tyranny of distance forbad my attendance. Former Secretary, Christopher Robinson, was good enough to make himself available to attend and make a presentation about CAPSL.  The following is his report of how the meeting went.

Along with other partner organisations, CAPSL was invited to be represented at the recent meetings at the Commonwealth Secretariat of Senior Officials of Commonwealth Law Ministries and of Law Ministers and Attorneys-General of Small Commonwealth Jurisdictions.  

Each organisation had the opportunity to circulate in advance to the delegates a paper and also to address the meeting. At the first meeting there were 82 delegates from 42 different commonwealth jurisdictions and at the second 47 delegates representing 25 small jurisdictions. Attendance at the meetings therefore provided CAPSL with a unique high level opportunity to present itself. 

The Associationís paper explained its aims and membership structure and invited delegates to consider and comment on the future development of its web site and on the most appropriate programme for the Association to mount in conjunction with the Commonwealth Law Conference in 2005 and generally thereafter. 

It was good to see a number of current individual members and representatives of current institutional members of the Association at the meetings.  

The main drift of the Associationís presentation was encouragement to the remaining government legal departments to take up institutional membership of the association and to contribute information about their respective services to the web site thus making it more generally useful. Several delegates completed application forms on the day and others took them away to discuss the possibility of membership back at the office first.  

A number of new members have joined CAPSL flowing from Mr. Robinsonís presentation. Since the meetings the contacts made have all been followed up although a number of the email addresses in the delegate lists appear to be inaccurate and this has been somewhat frustrating. However it is to be hoped that we will get some feed back on the issues raised and also a steady if slow increase in the number of government legal departments taking up institutional membership.

Kiribati needs staff

This unique country, located in the central Pacific and already an Association member, was represented at the Marlborough House meetings by its Solicitor-General, David Lambourne.  He has advised the Association that he is currently experiencing severe staffing problems, that the British  NGO Voluntary Service Overseas no longer produces volunteers for his geographic area and he cannot afford the fees charged by government departments and private firms for out-sourced or seconded lawyers.  

He would therefore be interested to hear from any lawyer with at least some post qualification experience who might like to take a career break helping out in his office.  The pay would not be great but the experience, professional and otherwise, would more than make up for that. But beware! David points out that he was a Queensland lawyer who first went there on secondment and has stayed on and is now a Kiribati resident. Clearly it is a seductive place. Anyone remotely interested in helping David out might like to look at the Kiribati page on our web site but generally should contact him direct at sg.ag@tski.net.ki

Legal Professional Privilege Problem for the Australian Armed Forces

The recent decision of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory has made a decision which could have significant repercussions for legal professional privilege in Government practice and in the corporate legal context. 

In the case of Vance v McCormack [2004] ACTSC 78 the court denied a claim for legal professional privilege in circumstances where the relevant lawyers did not hold practicing certificates (and were not statutorily exempt). Similarly the Court held that the hierarchical nature of the Armed Forces involved the possibility of the independence which a practicing lawyer would be expected to have might be displaced where subject to orders from a superior officer.  

An appeal is anticipated. The case is one which, subject to whatever happens on appeal, has potential to cause a rethink of the structuring of legal service provision both in the public sector context and the in-house corporate lawyer sense.

Pro Bono Work for Government Lawyers

In Sydney on 29 October 2004, on behalf of the Australian National Pro Bono Resource Centre an information paper  "Government Lawyers and Pro Bono" was launched by Mike Napier, senior partner of law firm Irwin Mitchell and Pro Bono Envoy to the Attorney-General of England and Wales, The Rt. Hon The Lord Goldsmith QC.

The launch was held as part of a lunch, held at Blake Dawson Waldron in Sydney, and was attended by lawyers from State and Federal Government agencies and authorities and the NSW and Commonwealth Attorney-General's Departments as well as a number of the larger firms.  

Full text of the paper can be accessed at:-


Pro Bono and Government lawyer are words often thought to be at odds with each other. The paper raises many policy issues for consideration. 

Automated Administrative Law?

The Australian Attorney General, Phillip Ruddock, on 8 December 1004 launched the Australian Administrative Review Council's report on Automated Assistance in Administrative Decision Making in Canberra.

It discusses best practice principles for the progress and process of expert computer systems to make or assist in the making of administrative decisions.  A copy of the text of the paper can be accessed at http://www.law.gov.au/agd/www/archome.nsf/Page/RWPA3FCE99FA241BECDCA256F62001289A4

The Council believes the principles will ensure that decisions made using expert systems are consistent with existing administrative law values.

Other Conferences
19th Biennial LAWASIA Conference

The Queensland Law Society will be hosting the 19th Biennial LAWASIA Conference, in conjunction with the 34th Australian Legal Convention.

The LAWASIA Downunder 2005 Conference will be one of the biggest international legal events of the year. It will be held at the Gold Coast and will coincide with the Queensland Law Societyís 44th Annual Symposium, together with the Australian Legal Convention and the biennial conference of the Chief Justices of Asia Pacific. The website at
http://www.lawasiadownunder.com will detail speakers & topics as they are confirmed.