Annual General Meeting shines a light on plans for coming year

ADLS held its AGM on Thursday 14 March 2013 at the Society’s offices in Chancery Chambers, Auckland CBD. Among the attendees were President Frank Godinet, Vice President Brian Keene QC and ADLS Council members Joanna Pidgeon, William Spring and Mary Anne Shanahan. They were joined by CEO Sue Keppel and a small number of practitioners. AGM business took an hour and then the attendees socialised over drinks and canapés.

AGM - B Keene
Referencing the $450,000 surplus in ADLS’s annual report and the Society’s healthy financial position, Frank Godinet set the tone of the meeting by laying out plans to improve member services and continue its focus on providing a positive contribution to the profession. With its 134-year history, ADLS is a truly independent organisation. Membership as at the end of September 2012 was 2673.

With the advent of mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD), providing training and a means for tracking one’s training obligations is something ADLS is committed to in the coming months. Capitalising on what already works well, the revamped CPD service will improve ADLS’s existing portfolio and the delivery of a more relevant and easier-to-use service to members.

Reaching beyond the borders of Auckland to members throughout the country is another key priority for ADLS. The Society is proud to work with other organisations, such as supporting the Criminal Bar Association’s position on legal aid, and the Council is looking at further outreach opportunities. Notably, 2013 sees the annual Cradle to Grave conference being held in Christchurch as well as Auckland this year. Excellent delegate numbers point to the success of both: there were 285 registrations at the Auckland conference (following a 5-year average of 187 attendees), and over 160 at the inaugural Christchurch event.

ADLS currently has 16 committees, peopled by members who voluntarily give up their valuable time each month to serve the wider interests of the Society. In the last year they have submitted 14 submissions across a variety of subjects from Consumer Law Reform to Bail amendments to Immigration.

Referencing the ADLS’s keen interest in collegiality, Mr Godinet said “We know what it is, and we’re good at it,” citing last year’s dinner to honour the retirement of the Honourable Justice Dame Judith Potter as a particular highlight. ADLS will be putting on more social events over the coming year.

In recognising those who help to implement such progress, the President thanked previous Council members and officially welcomed the new Council members. It is anticipated that the three new Members (to be appointed by Council) will be announced by June 2013.

The Society is moving away from being seen as formal, bureaucratic and hierarchical, instead striving to be independent, supportive and member focused. Responding to feedback last year that the Society needs to improve its communication to members, it was announced that there has been considerable housekeeping internally, and an overhaul of the Society’s business systems is underway. The new-and-improved website will go live in the next few months, and ADLS is exploring more dynamic methods of delivering CPD electronically, together with providing practitioners with the ability to plan and track their CPD hours.

The Society is also planning a programme of events for members, and is looking into setting up an advisory service for lawyers who have complaints made against them.

The new Manager of CPD & Learning Solutions, Melissa Fini, spoke of three key drivers for change for ADLS:

1. The imminent arrival of mandatory CPD (10 hours per year);

2. Outreach (enabling ADLS to better serve the existing 25% of members who lie outside the Auckland region); and

3. Advances in technology.

ADLS already runs successful seminars with some excellent speakers, and webinars are proving an increasingly popular alternative to attending an event in person, with a recent session on Auction Practice for Lawyers & New ADLS/REINZ Auction form garnering 163 registrations. Happily, lawyers appear ready to embrace technology, opening up the way ADLS can provide services to them with greater ease and efficiency.

Vice President Brian Keene QC closed the formal part of the meeting by discussing ADLS’s goal and purpose over the coming months. He said “The Global Financial Crisis has forced lawyers, the Courts and government to change and ADLS needs to assist its members to meet these new challenges”. Reiterating ADLS’s mandate to support the profession nationally while retaining our commitment to Auckland, outreach is currently focusing on Christchurch, where the Society is keen to hear from members and other practitioners as to how it can support them. Leadership and standards are the critical values that ADLS adds for its members.

In opening the floor to comments, one member mentioned his concern over the lack of “commentary” which accompanied the financial statements in the Annual Report. The President and Vice President acknowledged the concern, and agreed that in future commentary would be desirable. It was explained that in previous years ADLS has produced financial statements without supplementary material, and many other organisations do the same. However, it will be considered for next year and future occasions, as context and annotation can be most useful.

Members are encouraged to send in feedback and responses to the matters raised at the AGM. Please send your thoughts to the Editor of Law News, Sarah Watt, by email: sarah.watt@adls.org.nz

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