Message from the President


Practising certificate and membership fees for 2020-21

This is a very challenging time for our Bar and the community. The NSW justice system is built on the principle that justice is best served when a fiercely independent Bar is available and accessible to everyone, to ensure all people can access independent advice and representation, and specialist advocacy.

The Bar Association is committed to assisting barristers experiencing financial and other difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bar Council continues to be deeply concerned about the effect on members’ practices, in particular members of the Junior Bar, and consequent impacts on the clients and community we serve.

We have listened and will continue to listen to members’ feedback. Late last month I advised members of a number of measures approved by the Bar Council aimed at assisting practitioners with regard to COVID-19 practice-related issues.

Those initiatives involved:

• The waiver of all practicing certificate 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; and

• A system to provide the option of payment by instalments for the 2020-21 practising certificate year for all members.

In addition to the above relief measures, the Bar Council has today approved a second package of measures in this year’s practising certificate renewal process to further alleviate some of the financial burden on members. These measures do not apply to statutory office holders.

These additional measures are as follows:

  1. Membership fees will be waived for all junior members for 2020-21;

  2. Practising Certificate fees for members who have been practicing for 2-5 years at the Bar will be at the set rate with the option of a full waiver on the basis of hardship, that hardship to be self-assessed (rather than by way of application as previously envisioned); and

  3. Practising Certificate fees for juniors of over five years’ seniority will be at the set rate with the option of a 25% discount on the basis of hardship, that hardship to be self-assessed.

While the hardship measures in 2 and 3 above are to be self-assessed, this will be based on criteria to be published at the time that renewals are issued. Those who are able to pay the full fee should do so. Those who do not fulfil the above criteria will continue to have the option to pay their practicing certificate fees in two instalments.

The Bar Council will continue to monitor the situation, with ongoing consideration being given to this issue, including at the time that second instalments are due.

The Association is currently building an on-line platform to give effect to these resolutions of Bar Council. Members will be advised in the near future when renewal notices are expected to be sent out, as soon as the platform is operational.

COVID-19 Stimulus Measures for Barristers Chambers

The Association has today been provided with a very useful high level summary of COVID-19 Stimulus Measures for Barristers Chambers, prepared by Interactive Accounting Pty Ltd. The document provides information to Barristers Chambers on Federal and State Government stimulus packages in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how they may apply to Barristers' Chambers generally. The document is for information purposes only and should not be taken as advice. Barristers chambers should confer with their accountants for specific advice.

I would like to thank Ernest Chunge of Interactive Accounting and Jeh Coutinho, the clerk of Banco Chambers, for arranging the summary.

Remote court technology

As I have mentioned over the last few weeks, the Association has continuing concerns regarding the operation of remote technologies in the courts. We are working in conjunction with the courts on what steps can be taken to improve the efficacy of remote hearing arrangements and I will continue to keep members informed of developments.

In this regard, as I mentioned in In Brief earlier today, the Association has received a communication from the Chief Justice of NSW, the Hon T F Bathurst AC, regarding procedures in the Supreme Court which outlines variations to the Court’s manner of dealing with matters at the present time.

As always, we welcome members’ input regarding their experiences with remote hearings, and I would encourage you to continue to bring concerns in this regard not only to the attention of the courts, but also to that of the Association.

Policy Advocacy

The Association’s role in holding government to account and scrutinising legislation and regulations made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be important, especially during the current period while the State and Commonwealth Parliaments are sitting infrequently.

The Association continues to raise legal policy issues of concern to the community with Government, and offer its assistance and expertise in working through these issues in the public interest.

Public safety must be the Government’s paramount consideration during this difficult time and maintaining public confidence in the continued operation of the State’s criminal justice system is essential. However, the health and welfare of staff, inmates and detainees in prisons and juvenile detention centres must also be a key consideration in crisis management and forward planning.

The Association has written to the Attorney General and other key NSW Government Ministers proposing, among other things, that the State Government form a COVID-19 prisons taskforce, to draw together key decision-makers and relevant stakeholders, to facilitate the ongoing protection of both the community and management of COVID-19 risks to prison and youth detention centre populations.

In the last week I have also written to the NSW Attorney regarding the need to address relevant limitation and other statutory time periods in the light of the response of the NSW Government and the Courts to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These issues are currently with the NSW Government for consideration and we will continue to engage on these and other important matters and keep members informed.

COVID - 19 : Information for Attending Court

The New South Wales Bar Association’s consolidated guide to COVID-19-related court arrangements has again been updated in terms of recent developments and includes:

Amendment No 93 to the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules, which takes effect today and includes changes regarding deeming of judgments as entered in certain circumstances and the assignment of certain matters commenced under the Public Works and Procurement Act 1912 to the Commercial List in the Equity Division of the Supreme Court; and

Amendment No 433 to the Supreme Court Rules which takes effect today and includes changes regarding filing of bail applications and the new email address for applications to the Supreme Court under the Service and Execution of Process Act 1982 (Cth);

Update to the Profession from the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court; and

• Local Court of NSW – Reissued and updated Chief Magistrate's Memorandum (No.4) EAGP COVID-19 and Chief Magistrate's Memorandum (No.9) - Updated and Consolidated Listing Adjustments, which extends existing arrangements in relation to defended hearings and consolidates and clarifies those arrangements previously published in separate memoranda.

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 refer to 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.

Easter break

Finally, I wish you all the very best for this Easter weekend and hope it will provide you all with an opportunity to find some time for rest and recuperation.

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