There is great anticipation and buzz within the firm this week as we prepare to host the Australian Defence Lawyers Alliance (ADLA) conference on Friday 20th February. This will be the sixth annual ADLA conference and will be attended by 40 criminal lawyers from each state and territory of Australia.
ADLA was formed to initiate dialogue between firms from each state and territory and create a platform to regularly meet and discuss the practice of criminal law. ADLA’s advantage is that we are not competing in each other’s area, so we are able to discuss practice management and share details of how we run our firms in a completely transparent manner. This has enabled us to learn a lot about the best practise of running a criminal law firm.
Along the way, we have recognised the importance of the ADLA conference in giving us all excellent CPD and hearing speakers with the perspective of different states. While there is a startling similarity amongst criminal defence lawyers, there are often markedly different ways we approach issues.
This year’s conference promises a wealth of information from the impressive group of speakers we have lined up. All are particularly well-known in their respective fields and will provide very informative insights relating to the practice of criminal law.
Professor Adrian Evans from Monash University will discuss Ethical Challenges for Criminal Lawyers. This is extremely valuable; we place a great deal of importance on our lawyers understanding their obligations both to the Court and to their clients. There are endless permutations in the practice of criminal law where you can very quickly move into an area of ethical dilemma, so having a framework in which to place that dilemma is crucial.
Dr Schatz, Adjunct Associate Professor at Queensland University of Technology, will also join us to discuss Interpreting the Digital World. Clearly, the harvesting of digital evidence from PCs, telephones and other media is one of the more important features criminal lawyers need to understand and be able to do promptly. He will also impart information about the chain of custody of material that needs careful consideration before undertaking analysis of digital media.
Peter McMillan, a private investigator whom our firm employs regularly, will speak on the subject of Investigation and the Pre-Charge Stage. This topic, of particular significance to ADLA members, covers the circumstances where a person or company has an indication that there will be some investigation occurring. The speaker will cover the planning and staging of getting statements, documents and other information from witnesses parallel to or before a police investigation.
Shane Richardson who is the principal forensic engineer at DELTA-V will be joining us to talk about Crash Scene Investigation and his critique of how this is done by the Major Collision Squad. Any practitioner in Victoria who has much to do with crime scene investigation, in particular relating to crashes, will know Dr Richardson and the excellent manner in which he conducts these processes. Our firm has engaged him in a number of large accidents, including certain fairly notorious cases of trucks crashing into trains. His rational, logical and clear explanation of what the facts truly are, rather than what the police want them to be, has often been the deciding factor in the acquittal of our clients.
The next speaker is Phil Dunn, QC of the Victorian Bar. It is interesting to reflect on the briefing habits of the ADLA members because they represent, in our regard, the best firms in each state. Almost without exception they brief Phil regularly, reflecting the high regard in which he is held by the defence lawyer community across Australia. He will be talking to us about Briefing Counsel – what can we do to improve our practices and what the best looking brief would be.
Paul Higham of the Victorian bar will then take the floor and will speak on Royal Commissions, Commissions and Enquiries. Paul has a wealth of experience in this area and is acting on behalf of our clients in the current Securency case involving charges of bribery of foreign officials.
Paul will explain some of the pitfalls of these enquiries and about the derivative use of evidence arising from Royal Commissions and Enquires. We are looking forward to hearing from Paul, he is always a very engaging speaker.
Our final speaker is Nerida Wallace who is the new Chief Executive of the Law Institute of Victoria. Nerida has a long and distinguished work history and brings an enormous amount of practical knowledge with a theoretical basis to her new job. She is very keen to discuss the challenges and future approaches of legal practice in Victoria and Australia. Having previously heard some of her thoughts about these topics, it is likely to be a thought provoking speech. And particularly relevant, given the spread of firms involved in ADLA.
Organising this conference serves as a reminder that there is so much information a criminal lawyer needs to know to perform well at their job and involves an attempt at constant improvement. Everyone needs to be open to the idea that they have more to learn at any time. It is also a pertinent reminder of how interesting and exciting it can be to acquire knowledge and skills that can enhance how you do your job and spark a little more fervour in your vocation.