Piddington in 2020

A letter from the Hon John Chaney SC, Chair of The Piddington Society

Dear friends and colleagues,

This morning, The Piddington Society hosted our last event of the year, with the Chief Justice of Western Australia, the Hon Justice Peter Quinlan, Chief Judge of the District Court, her Honour Judge Julie Wager, and Chief Magistrate, his Honour Magistrate Steven Heath. Their words of encouragement and support for the profession made it an apt way to round out the year.

As a friend and colleague, I am writing to update you on our 2020.

It has been a big year for us, as it has for everyone. Both successes and challenges have taught us a lot.

In this year where collegiality could have been tested, Piddington has been heartened by your support for us and inspired by how the profession worked together.

Each decision we make at Piddington is done with consideration of what the profession wants and needs, and how these advance our Objects. In 2020 we have never been more thankful for your support and goodwill.

We held 47 events, covering both professional development and social activities, with over 1200 attendees and dozens of speakers contributing their time. We saw 26 new lawyers complete Piddington PLT with all of them either having been admitted, or on track to be.

While we are proud of those statistics, Piddington has always been more than numbers.

One of the results of the pandemic is that it forced us to embrace online CPD more. This has given us a great opportunity to better support practitioners in the suburbs and regions. It has given us an opportunity to elevate the voices of some exceptional emerging practitioners in Western Australia and bring in leaders nationally. We thank them all for their contributions.

Our growing bank of these sessions online will be available in the new year for those who missed them.

Our Moorditj Mia series is becoming a standard Friday-afternoon activity, bringing junior and senior lawyers to deliver sessions on their areas of expertise. These sessions are important to us because they meet several of our objectives: high-quality professional development, occasions for senior and junior practitioners to mix and discuss mutual interests in a collegiate environment, opportunities for junior lawyers undertaking Piddington PLT to attend, and enhancing our ability to make financial contributions to access to justice. We are now trialling these sessions in suburban areas, supporting practitioners outside of the CBD.

When Felicity McLeish approached us for a child friendly CPD event we couldn’t say yes fast enough. The response from the profession to PidKids has been outstanding and this has become one of our favourite events. There is nothing quite like seeing a senior practitioner being handed a sticker by a toddler mid-presentation or Santa joining with a Court of Appeal judge for a picnic.

On Piddington PLT, we are delighted each the 26 graduates have been, or is on track to be, admitted. They have been distinctly challenged this year by COVID-19 but prospered and are models of collegiality with a sound understanding of practice. We are confident they will do good work as lawyers. Nicholas van Hattem and Sunili Govinnage, supported by Mayble Parker, have delivered a great program improving on the quality of previous years and are charging ahead with 2021. We are thankful for the many practitioners who present and deliver the course who make it what we consider the best pathway for admission in Western Australia. We also thank the Hon Justice Robert Mazza and A/Professor Kate Offer for their guidance and support in the development of the course.

For the first time we hosted Jammin’ for Justice, a battle of the bands event. This was the sort of event we all needed, it was a lot of fun in a very supportive environment. Each band was impressive, but I don’t think I’ll forget some of my former judicial colleagues performing ABBA to a crowd going absolutely wild for it.

It is events like this that support our collegiality aims. As Convenor, Nick Malone leads these for us, and these are some of the most special and impactful activities we undertake. He rightly focuses on how we can do these better, especially for junior practitioners.

Because of all of this, we have been able to launch two new justice projects in 2020: the Piddington Justice Fund for community legal centres and Kaartidjin, the First Nations Legal Education Fund. These projects are a culmination of effort over years to fulfill our aim of improving access to justice.

I want to thank Katherine Swann for her hard work on our reconciliation activities. One of the highlights of our year was an event attended by practitioners across the country on Indigenous interpreting and language in the justice system, which she ably led. Her practical focus on embedding reconciliation within Piddington has made us a better organisation. Katherine is moving on to progress her career now, and we are delighted that Briony Whyte will be taking on those responsibilities.

These projects and our contributions to access to justice can only exist because of your support.

Though we missed going to Bali for our WA Day long-weekend conference this year, and what currently seems like 2021 too, we intend to update you on an event in its place.

Chairing the Committee of The Piddington Society is a great joy. The members of the Committee embrace their responsibilities and want to get their hands dirty with hard work. I thank Shaban Azad, Anna Courtman, Tom de Bes, Catriona Macleod, Rhys Meakins, Briannen Morrow, Sophie van Hattem, Nick Van Hattem and Daniel White for their contributions this year. The enormous number of undertakings by Piddington this year would not however have been possible with the tireless efforts of Conrad Liveris, out Executive Officer. Conrad’s calm, methodical, unassuming and efficient approach to implementing our activities cannot be praised highly enough.

Much of this is enabled by our sponsors, both single-event and year-long. They are an essential part of our organisation, and we thank Pitcher Partners and Shadforth Financial Group, specifically Daniel Bredenkamp and John Rowbottam, for their continuing support.

In the darkest days of 2020, I was personally proud to see professional collegiality shine brightly. Practitioners sought to support each other and make sure everyone was doing, at least, ok. This is an important part of our profession and something we should all seek to uphold into the future.

Our 2020 was big, in 2021 we plan to build on this momentum.

Thank you for your support in 2020. Stay safe over the summer and we look forward to seeing you in 2021.

Yours sincerely,

The Hon John Chaney SC

Christmas with the Chiefs, 9 December 2020.

Lawyers promoting collegiality, seeking access to justice.