Young lawyers and other practitioners interested in pushing the boundaries of traditional legal practice might like to consider some of the new and emerging areas of law. Report by Kathryn Smith.
Kathryn Smith is a solicitor with Came Reidy Herd Lawyers and member of the Queensland Law Society’s New and Early Career Lawyers Section.
Animal law TLG Lawyers, founded by principal Tracy-Lynne Geysen, top, in August 2009, specialises in family and animal law, and is the only specialist animal law firm in Australia. Tracy-Lynne and solicitor Jenni Weick share their experiences practising in this emerging area.
What is animal law’? Animals are an important part of our lives, whether they are our companions or farm animals, and for this reason their treatment and wellbeing is of great concern to many of us.
We say animal law is: taking action where animals have been harmed and abused defending animal activists wrongful death nuisance veterinary negligence/malpractice by Kathryn Smith administrative law (challenging ministerial and departmental decisions as well as agency rules and regulations that affect animals fundamental interests) body corporate exclusion of pets litigation for farm animals and animals used in sport or entertainment dangerous dog cases family law pet custody battles, and estate planning (for pets).
Animal law also incorporates many areas of law such as torts and contracts.
What interested you in animal law? Jenni and I were part of the group that formed BLEATS (Brisbane Lawyers Educating and Advocating for Tougher Sentences). We worked with RSPCA CEO Mark Townend and media manager Michael Beatty to form a group of lawyers who advocate for tougher sentences to be imposed by the courts in cases of animal cruelty and neglect.
Since BLEATS (bleats.com.au) was formed in October 2007, we have had more than 170 lawyers on the panel including four Senior Counsel and two Queens Counsel, and it appears the penalties are increasing slowly but surely.
As a result of my involvement in BLEATS, I have been lucky enough to become associated with many other animal organisations, including Voiceless (voiceless.org.au).
In May 2009, I went to one of the Voiceless annual seminars with Bruce Wagmans (he is known in America as a “super lawyer’) as their speaker. He was inspiring and motivational, and has a real passion for animal law. It was around this time I was thinking of starting my own family law firm. Afew of us went to dinner after the seminar and sitting across from me was Steven White, who was Australia’s first undergraduate animal law lecturer, teaching at Griffith University. Steven agreed to come on board as our animal law consultant.
Do you think the numberoflegaipractitioners pra ct/sing in animal law will grow? We have received so much interest from fellow practitioners, and newly admitted graduates who have studied animal law at university. We receive about one inquiry every two weeks from fellow legal practitioners interested in practising in animal law. Given the interest from fellow practitioners, the number of legal practitioners is likely to grow.
What developments have taken place recently in animal law, or are expected to take place soon? We heard from a New Zealand practitioner that recent cases have been handed down in which the courts awarded compensation to parties for emotional loss after a pet had passed away. We are hoping we can pursue cases like this in the not too distant future.
It is also acknowledged that animals have feelings and the treatment of them as property is no longer acceptable. The status of animals
as “property” is something that I would like to see changed.
What tips would you give young lawyers interested in practising in animal law in the future? We suggest that any young lawyer interested in practising in animal law should try and study it at university more and more universities are offering it as an elective course do a research paper on animal law and volunteer with an organisation like BLEATS.
Energy and resources law Louise Bell is a young lawyer working in the energy and resources team within the corporate group at Norton Rose Australia. Due to Queensland’s mining growth, energy and resources law has emerged as one of Queensland’s fastest growing areas of law.
What interested you in energy and resources law? There is a broad variety of work to be undertaken in the energy and resources sector for a diverse range of clients. There are also many exciting developments taking place in this sector, so it’s a dynamic area of law.
How did you come to practice in energy and resources law? I joined the corporate group in the Brisbane office of Norton Rose (formerly Deacons) as a paralegal in 2007 and was given the opportunity to work with the energy and resources team.
Do you think the number of legaipractitioners practising in this area will grow? There is a high demand for legal services in relation to the energy and resources sector, particularly in Queensland. The continued expansion of the Australian resources sector will lead to a corresponding growth in the number of practitioners involved in this area.
What developments have taken place recently in energy and resources law? As new areas of the energy and resources sector emerge and existing areas change, the legal services which we provide must grow and adapt to our clients’ needs.
The development of new coal technologies such as coal seam gas and underground coal gasification are some of the recent developments in this sector. There have also been changes proposed to the taxation systems in relation to the energy sector which may impact on the energy and resources sector more broadly.
Do you think that working in an emerging area of law is different from working in a more established area of law? Working in an emerging area of law allows new and early career solicitors to exercise creativity in finding solutions to new issues which arise as that particular area of law develops.
What tips would you give young lawyers interested in this field? It is important to have a commercial understanding of the context in which energy and resources clients operate. This knowledge gives context to developments in this area and provides insight for better client support.
Islamic law Dr Ann Black is a lecturer at the University of Queensland. As the demand and interest in Islamic law grows at a university level, it is anticipated there may soon be increased demand for practitioners. Dr Black provides us with a snapshot of Islamic law.
How did you come to teach Islamic law? In 2000, the then head of the law school, Professor Tarr, was supportive of a course on Islamic law being created and offered to law students as a final year elective. He predicted the significance of Islamic law in our region and felt that different perspectives on law were important and relevant for lawyers in the 21st Century.
At that time, Iwas completing doctoral studies on dispute resolution in the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, which included research on the nature and operation of Islamic law. Hence, I was given the opportunity to establish and teach a course introducing our students to Islamic law. Fifty or so students elected to take this course when it was first offered in 2001, which was in the semester prior to the events of September 11. Since then student numbers have increased, with 130 enrolled this semester.
What interested you in Islamic law? The research I undertook in Brunei on Islamic
law its methodology, substantive, law, dispute resolution processes, particularly those taking place in the Syariah Courts opened my eyes to a new possibilities. As a comparativist, I have always found other legal systems fascinating and Islamic law provided a viable, coherent, complex and quite distinctive approach to regulating society and to legal problem solving.
It also became clear that the significance of Islamic law was not diminishing but increasing both in Muslim societies and in the West.
Islamic law is the third biggest legal system in the world, after common law and civil law.
It is at least part of legal systems of nearly 60 countries including Muslim majority nations and a number of non-Muslim countries.
Do you consider Islamic Law to be an emerging area of law? Muslim migration to countries like Australia and the United Kingdom has meant that many of our Muslim citizens and residents adhere, as far as is possible, to Islamic law as well as to the laws of Australia or the UK. Essentially we have become pluralistic with official state law co-existing with unofficial Islamic normative ordering. How accommodating can and should our legal system be to these unofficial systems of law, including faith-based ones, is a question reverberating in all common law countries.
I think this is a question for all Australians, Muslim and non-Muslim, to consider and, in particular, that members of the legal profession should engage in the debate from an informed viewpoint.
Do you think the numberoflegalpractitioners practising in Islamic will grow? Yes, I think that legal practitioners will increasingly be asked for advice on compliance between the two systems of law, for example, for wills to be drafted giving effect to Islamic inheritance distributions as well as meeting local succession law requirements, for advice on Islamic financial products, and for resolving marital and family law matters where one or both parties are Muslim.
What developments have taken place recently in that area, or are expected to take place soon? Currently the Board of Taxation is reviewing the taxation treatment of Islamic finance products and it is anticipated that in the next 12 months there will be amendments to Australian taxation law to enable greater parity.
This could see growth in Islamic finance, banking, insurance and commerce generally.
Also, given developments in the UK supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chief Justice, it is possible that Sharia tribunals could be established by Muslim groups here in Australia to arbitrate family and inheritance issues as they now do in England.
What tips would you give young lawyers interested in Islamic law? Read, think critically, gain knowledge and seek different perspectives. Islamic law is not monolithic there are different interpretations and approaches. At the moment much is being written on Islamic law, particularly its intersection with secular law, and increasingly you will find Islamic law featuring as a stream or topic at local and international conferences.
Queensland Law Society has been proactive in this regard and recently held a seminar for its members: Shari’a law in Australia’s secular system essentials for legal practitioners.
What other areas of law commonly intersect with Islamic law? As Islamic law represents a blueprint for life, it covers aspects of what we think of as law” as well as other aspects outside of legislative and common law, such as political, economic and social matters. Scholar Abdullahi A An-Na’im explains that the Shari’a is the “whole Duty of Mankind” which means that in addition to theology, ethics and the spiritual relationship with God, it encompasses “all aspects of public and private law, hygiene and even courtesy and good manners”.
This article is presented by the Queens/and Law Society’s New and Early Career Lawyers Section. If you are interested in joining the section, or finding out further information about emerging areas of law, p/ease email us at young/awyersqld.com.au.