What attracts you most to the profession of law?
A belief that the rule of law is fundamental to sustaining a free, just and civilised society. The conviction that everyone in need of the law’s protection should have access to justice led me to a career in legal aid.
What are your passions outside of the law?
My family, music (especially classical music and opera), cycling, reading, eating out at good but inexpensive restaurants, travel and growing bonsai. I’m not very accomplished at some of these but being an amateur doesn’t diminish the passion.
If you had your time again, would you choose to practice in law? If not, what else would you choose to do?
I’d choose the law again, but I’d also liked to have been an actor. I suppose I could have indulged the thespian in me to some extent by becoming a barrister but I was put off a career at the Bar when, as an articled clerk, I appeared in the Supreme Court to adjourn a client’s divorce application.
The scene is a courtroom. A nervous articled clerk is appearing before an irascible judge with a reputation for eating young lawyers.
Judge (gruffly): ‘This matter has been in the list awaiting hearing for some time.’
Clerk (feigning confidence): ‘Your Honour, my client wants to wait and proceed once the Family Law Act commences.’
Judge: ‘And when will that be?’
Clerk (with ill-advised attempt at humour): ‘I don’t know your Honour, perhaps we could ask the Attorney-General?’
Judge: ‘Don’t be facile Mr Crockett.’
Exit a red-faced clerk.
As you can see there were several indicators that I was not then, or probably ever would be, cut out to be a barrister.
If you could only give one bit of advice to new lawyers, what would it be?
Be principled, ethical and true to yourself. Compromising any of these will corrode your professional reputation and diminish you as a person.
What makes a lawyer a great lawyer?
Professional competence; commitment to social justice: high ethical standards, empathy and humility.
How do you balance life and work?
Underlying this question is an assumption that life and work are mutually exclusive. For many people work is their life and if that fulfils them who is to say their life is unbalanced? For most of us work is important and engrossing but we also need the diversion and refreshment afforded by recreational activity. Time must also be found to nurture family life and other relationships. As our individual needs and interests differ and change over time so does our preferred balance of work and other life activities.
What will the legal profession look like in twenty five years time?
Very different, and the indicators of change are already evident. Many law firms will cease to exist in the conventional physical sense and become virtual, buying in the expertise of lawyers to work in a Cloud-based team environment to service particular clients’ needs. Many lawyers will work from home or anywhere where there is access to the Internet. Generalist and local neighbourhood practices will decline while specialist boutique and multinational practices will grow. The monopoly enjoyed by the profession in many areas of practice will be further eroded as people demand less costly service options. The more transactional work of legal practice will be undertaken by paralegals, or offered online as ‘unbundled’ DIY legal services with lawyers only intervening at points in the transaction where legal expertise is required.1<\sup> Virtual courts and tribunals will conduct the short or less complex hearings via the Web and court documents will be filed online.
Andrew Crockett was CEO of the Legal Aid Commission of the ACT from 2006 until the end of 2013. Prior to that he taught professional legal skills and ethics at Monash University and worked in the Faculty of Law’s clinical program. Earlier he worked in legal aid, initially in the Australian Legal Aid Office and then in what is now Victoria Legal Aid. He was Director of Legal Aid in Victoria from 1989 to 1995.
Andrew now works part-time, teaching in ANU’s Legal Workshop and undertaking legal aid projects.