Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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Welcome to New Silks Print E-mail

silks_intro.jpgThe Honourable Chief Justice Keane gave the following address at the Silks Ceremony held on 13 December 2012.

Mr Morzone, Ms Hogan and Mr Looney

On behalf of all the judges of the Federal Court, but especially those resident in Brisbane, I warmly congratulate you on your attainment of the highest rank attainable at the Bar.

Days like today are very special for the legal profession. By the legal profession I mean the grand profession of lawyers and judges.

For as long as there has been a Bar, with the peculiar exception of the extinct Serjeants, there have only been two ranks of barrister, viz junior and Silk.

This flat structure reflects the egalitarian and meritocratic features of the Bar that, notwithstanding its medieval origins, have characterised it over the centuries of its evolution from the Inns of Court.

You have crossed the only divide, in terms of status which, as a matter of history, divides those barristers and judges who were of the inner bar from the outer barristers.

And crossing that divide is concerned solely with a claim to recognition as belonging to the first rank of barristers by reason, not of heredity or patronage, but solely on the basis of your own proven merits.

Proving your merits, and having them tested in the crucible of legal practice, is a challenge unique among the peacetime professions in its level of difficulty.

Apart from the profession of arms, no other professional has to deal with a live opponent determined to confound one’s best laid plans. Lord Atkin once said of the Bar that it is the only profession in which one goes to work each morning knowing that your workday will involve a highly intelligent individual doing his best to prove to another highly intelligent individual that you are a congenital idiot.

Taking silk is a great achievement for each of you. It means that you have met great challenges of personal dedication, integrity and diligence. You have given faithful services to your clients and to the Courts. That service has not only been competent, it has been distinguished.

It is a great thing to be recognized by the Judges and colleagues as leaders of the profession. We are sure that you will serve with distinction, enjoy such service, and incidentally, manage to keep the wolf from the door, or perhaps do a little better than that.

Your new dignity leads to additional responsibility to the public and the profession.

In any group of people, leaders must emerge and be recognized, simply because groups need leaders. In many groups, leadership is accompanied by authority.

However the Bar is a profession made up of hardy individuals, not actually under authority, and not likely to submit to its defacto exercise.

Thus the leaders of the profession must lead by persuasion and, above all, by example. In this context leadership is not primarily about who runs the Bar Association or who sits at one end of the Bar table. It is much more about the relentless task of maintaining professional standards by example. Your leadership position requires that you set an example of appropriate diligence and behaviour, both in and out of court.

Your leadership role also dictates that you engage actively in professional development. The law has long been recognized as one of the learned professions raising the questions, “What do we mean by ‘learned’?” and “What do we mean by ‘profession’?” This is neither the time nor the place to explore those questions in detail. But clearly, learning is something more than mere technical skill.

Learning involves a broad understanding of the human condition, of its history, its customs, values and culture.

The law is, in the end, about people and how they organise their affairs at the highest and lowest levels. Learning is about the law, but it must also be about the people to whom the law is to be applied and those who seek its protection. You must attend to your own professional development and also assist in the development of others.

A third area of leadership is in the management of the profession. It is very easy to leave this responsibility to others, but the profession needs the support of all of its senior members. You should not seek to avoid this aspect of your new responsibilities.

You will face great challenges in the future; but the letters which now appear after your names are the profession’s guarantee that you are more than up to those challenges.

Mr Morzone, you have worked with our judges. I can claim the pleasure of having appeared with and against you – and I enjoyed the former role more than the latter.

Ms Hogan, your merits have already been noted by the Executive Government of the Federation, and you will soon be joining the Family Court. We wish you every success in your judicial role.

Mr Looney, the judges of this Court have long been impressed by the industry and learning on display in the cases you have conducted in this Court.

You will, no doubt, notice that the cases will get harder and the judges more testing – but perhaps also a little more polite.

But this is not the time to contemplate the rigours that the future holds. It is a time to celebrate. Although we can only offer you tea, we invite you to join us.

The Honourable Chief Justice Keane


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