PC and membership fees
COVID-19: A message from President Tim Game SC
I would like to draw the attention of members to a number of measures approved at a meeting of the Bar Council that has concluded just a short while ago aimed at assisting practitioners with regard to COVID-19 practice-related issues. The Bar Council is determined to do what it can to provide members with the support they need to help them through this challenging period, and to enable them to continue to serve the community. The Bar Council has heard from many members as to their current circumstances and difficulties.
Practising certificate and membership fees for 2020-21
The Bar Association is committed to taking such measures as it can to assist barristers in financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bar Council is deeply concerned about the negative effect on the practices of members, and in particular the members of the Junior Bar, of the reduction in court operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bar Council has resolved to waive 2020-21 practising certificates and membership fees for barristers of two years’ seniority or less.
Barristers of between two to five years’ seniority will be able to apply for a waiver of practising certificate and membership fees. Such applications will be considered on a case by case basis, depending on individual circumstances of hardship.
We will also introduce a system to provide the option of payment by instalments for the 2020-21 practising certificate year for all members. Members will be able to pay their practising certificate and membership fees in two equal instalments during 2020-21, however we encourage all of those able to do so to pay their membership fees in full.
Further details of the changes I have outlined above will be provided in the coming weeks.
Bar Practice Course
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken by Government in response to it, particularly those in relation to public gatherings, it has become necessary to cancel the May 2020 Bar Practice Course and the June 2020 Bar Examinations.
Steps will now be taken to deliver an additional Bar Practice Course, in either August 2020 or, alternatively, October 2020, with the format to be determined, and to deliver the September 2020 Bar Practice Course on the same basis.
The Bar Council will also consider, on a case by case basis, issuing those candidates who have passed the Bar Exams and had intended to take part in the May 2020 Bar Practice Course with a practising certificate subject to appropriate limitations.
The Bar Association understands that practitioners are faced with very significant challenges regarding the use of the various remote technologies being implemented in the courts. We encourage members to bring particular court technology issues to our attention.
The Bar Association’s Innovation and Technology Committee is available to provide email support to members having connectivity issues. (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org). This assistance is available to facilitate members ensuring that the technology is workable and the connection as efficient as possible if appearing via an online connection.
We will also share FAQs and documentation to help them connect to courts and tribunals variously via their preferred means: Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Zoom and others.
Advice regarding income protection
The Bar Association acknowledges that current court COVID-19-related arrangements may have an effect on members’ income.
In view of this we have established a pool of experienced insurance counsel who will be available to answer questions from members regarding income protection insurance.
Members seeking assistance with income protection matters should email the Association at email@example.com and provide a scanned copy of their policy and a short outline of their circumstances and their particular question or questions.
Guide to court arrangements
Finally, as I have mentioned previously, we are maintaining a consolidated guide to the various COVID-19-related Court arrangements in NSW and federal courts and tribunals. The guide covers information for those attending court as well as up to date information on procedural changes being made in view of the coronavirus pandemic in the various jurisdictions. The guide has been updated in terms of recent developments and includes:
Today's statement from the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court regarding parenting orders;
Updated Guidelines from the Supreme Court of NSW regarding Equity Duty List Matters;
District Court of NSW – a Virtual Court Practitioner User Guide, a note on procedural changes , along with an updated Arraignment List with Timeframes for tomorrow, Friday 27 March (link) and Guidelines for the conduct of the Friday Arraignment List in the Downing Centre, Court 3.1;
An update from the Fair Work Commission.
Members are advised in this regard that, although the Bar Association is regularly updating the COVID-19 page of its website as information comes to hand, please always double-check the latest court resources directly as developments are changing quickly at this time. Do not make any assumptions regarding your case without first doing so. Links to the various court and tribunal pages are provided in the body of the guide.
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