Fresh air and fresh perspectives — Piddington goes to the South West

Rick Cullen delivering a CPD session on mediation over lunch at the Cullen Winery.

There’s something about getting out of Perth and into the South West that is rejuvinating and refreshing. There is a certain clarity that comes from the fresh air and peaceful surrounds.

Catriona Macleod thinks these are important things to do personally, and professionally. That’s why she chaired The Piddington Society’s first South West Conference this past weekend.

“For the same reason people have ‘weekends away’ with friends or partners, it is just as successful in a work-related environment,” said Macleod, who is also a director of Cullen Macleod Lawyers.

Kathleen McNally, the principal director of McNally & Co, says there is nothing better than hitting the open road and staying at small country towns.

Kathleen McNally helped lead the Bacon and Ethics session on Sunday morning, and is the principal director of McNally & Co.

She sees this as a way to engage with the breadth of the profession. “Often lawyers don’t see the diverse range of ways other people practice law in Western Australia,” says McNally, “from lawyers in large law firms who practice in a discrete area to country law firms where the lawyers need to cover all areas from say, commercial to crime”.

McNally, who helped lead the Bacon and Ethics session on Sunday morning, says that lawyers should always be honing their skills. Part of this revolves around how decisions are made.

“The practice of law is a profession first, and a business second. Your moral compass and ethics must pervade everything you do as a lawyer and every interaction you have.”
— Kathleen McNally

McNally says there are two scenarios where people have ethical dilemmas.

Nicholas van Hattem delivering Bacon & Ethics with Kathleen McNally.

The first is where the lawyer has identified a problem themselves and then sought guidance on how to deal with it. “Half the battle is identifying there is a problem, which the lawyer in that scenario has.”

The second scenario is where a lawyer is seeking help after the event. “That is, an ethical issue was identified by a third party. Concerns in this case would include why didn’t the lawyer identify the problem, and if they did why didn’t the lawyer escalate it?”

It’s in this seeking of advice where continuous learning sits. Professor Lisa Young says that “none of us can be expert on every aspect of the law, even where it’s our specialty”.

Professor Young, who led a session on family law at the Conference, says that “the law is dynamic and lawyers are held to a high standard, so it’s vital to keep educating oneself on legal developments. This is particularly true in family law, which is constantly reformed and has extensive case law”.

Young, who is the principal of Young & Young Lawyers in Bunbury as well as a Professor of Law at Murdoch University, says that CPD outside the city lends itself to more meaningful connections. “It is really helpful to build more personal relationships with a broader sector of the legal community and this is really facilitated by getting away as a group in a more casual, relaxed atmosphere.”

Macleod, a director of Cullen Macleod Lawyers, says that much of our professional lives are based on these deeper relationships, and building them, over traditional networks. “Depending on what end of the spectrum you are at from barrister through to junior lawyer, the kinds of relationships that you need to build may vary, however the essence is the same. We are dealing with people every day; our own clients, lawyers on the other side of the matter, the decision-maker that we are seeking to persuade. Building relationships on a real level is critical to this.”

We all relax a little more and connect on a different level. If you add in blue skies, green grass and trees and clear water, I think human beings just feel better. And if that’s not a great environment for learning and creating new relationships, I don’t know what is.
— Catriona Macleod
Bennett Greenhalgh, of Lindsay Street Partners, updating the conference on technology in the law.

The make-up of the South West Conference saw junior and senior practitioners from varied backgrounds come together. “It means that people with greater and lesser experience can help each other out, as happened at the conference, where people would ask specific questions, and a variety of more experienced practitioners would discuss their own experience and how they handled a specific matter,” said Macleod.

It’s in these interactions, free from the pressure of daily practice and amongst a calming and social environment that fruitful interactions happen.

I have a strong belief in ‘better together’ in life, law and business — and Piddington collegiality is at the very core of that concept.
— Catriona Macleod

Sometimes getting some fresh air, and crossing paths with people we normally wouldn’t, offers us a unique perspective and builds bridges across the profession.

The speakers and organisers of The Piddington Society’s South West Conference. Back row — Bennett Greenhalgh, Nicholas van Hattem, Catriona Macleod and Paul Yovich. Front row — Annabelle Caska, Professor Lisa Young, the Hon John Chaney SC and the Hon Neil McKerracher QC.
The Piddington Society’s first South West Conference was held from 19–21 October 2018 at Caves House Yallingup, and was sponsored by Cullen Macleod Lawyers and Young & Young Lawyers.