Embracing Change: How Queensland Lawyers are Pivoting to Address Disruption

In the ever-evolving landscape of the legal profession, change is the only constant. A recent study I co-authored sheds light on how lawyers in Queensland are adapting to disruptions such as technological advances, demographic shifts, and regulatory changes exacerbated by unforeseen events like COVID-19.

Understanding Disruption in Law

Disruption in the legal sector isn’t a one-dimensional problem. It’s a complex interplay of technological, demographic, disaster-related, and regulatory changes. Technological innovation, for instance, is revolutionising how we manage legal work, making processes more efficient and accessible. At the same time, demographic shifts are influencing the values and work-life balance expectations of the legal workforce, while regulatory changes are shaping the competitive landscape.

Navigating Unprecedented Times

Our research, which involved an extensive survey of 261 legal practitioners in Queensland, revealed an intriguing blend of readiness and resilience among lawyers when faced with upheaval. The majority reported coping well with the challenges posed by COVID-19, demonstrating a commendable level of adaptability and optimism for handling future changes.

However, this self-assessment might hint at bias, especially considering the significant seniority of many respondents and many participants’ association with the Queensland Law Society. As the industry continues to evolve, particularly with the rise of accessible generative AI technologies like Chat-GPT, ongoing research and adaptation are imperative.

Barriers and Strategies for Adaptation

Despite a general readiness, the study identified specific barriers impacting lawyers’ ability to adapt. Workload pressures, information overload, and operational tasks emerged as major obstacles, often leading to a significant time drain. This finding suggests a need for strategies that streamline administrative tasks, perhaps through technology, freeing up time for more critical, client-focused work.

Interestingly, the study also noted that many firms already employ innovative structures like incorporated legal practices (ILPs) to navigate these changes. There’s a clear indication that firms are recognizing the value of alternative business models in fostering a more adaptable and resilient practice.

The Way Forward: Collaboration and Technology

The study concludes with a compelling vision for the future, emphasizing the role of collaboration and technology in navigating the legal profession’s changing landscape. As practitioners, our most precious resource is time, and technology, when used effectively, can be a powerful tool to reclaim it and focus on strategic planning and client service.

The path forward is through embracing change, leveraging technology, and continuing education to remain agile and informed. It involves not just individual adaptation but also collective efforts from professional associations and industry stakeholders to support lawyers through these transitions.


The legal profession in Queensland, like many others worldwide, is at a crossroads of change and opportunity. The insights from our study not only highlight the current state of adaptation but also pave the way for future strategies, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning, technological integration, and collaborative efforts. As we navigate this journey, the focus remains clear: to evolve, innovate, and serve our clients with unwavering commitment and expertise.

A new sheriff in town? Section 596A of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and shareholders’ new found powers

In my article, “A New Sheriff in Town? Section 596A and Shareholders’ Newfound Powers,” I explore the transformative interpretation of Section 596A of the Corporations Act 2001, as articulated in the High Court of Australia’s ruling in Walton v ACN 004 410 833 Ltd (in liq) (Walton). This pivotal ruling has granted shareholders and former shareholders unprecedented powers to examine company officers about the company’s affairs for their own benefit. This marks a departure from the long-held belief that such examinations should solely benefit the company, its creditors, or contributories. My exploration delves into the implications of this judicial shift, emphasizing the potential for enhanced enforcement of the Corporations Act.

My analysis begins with an introduction to the issue, followed by a detailed examination of the legal landscape before the Walton decision, including key cases that previously interpreted the scope and purpose of Section 596A. I then meticulously dissect the Walton litigation, from its inception in the New South Wales Supreme Court to its culmination in the High Court of Australia, providing a critical examination of both the majority and dissenting judgments and offering insights into the various judicial perspectives on the scope and purpose of the examination powers under Section 596A.

One of the significant insights from my work is the acknowledgment of the evolving nature of corporate law and the judiciary’s role in adapting legal interpretations to contemporary needs. By empowering shareholders and former shareholders to examine company officers for their own benefit, the High Court has recognized the need for effective tools to uncover and address corporate misconduct.

I conclude by reflecting on the broader implications of the Walton decision for corporate governance and regulation. I suggest that the expanded examination powers under Section 596A will likely lead to more proactive shareholder involvement and a more robust regulatory environment, possibly instigating a cultural shift towards greater corporate transparency and accountability.

Overall, in my article, I provide a comprehensive and insightful analysis of a landmark decision in Australian corporate law, contributing valuable insights for legal practitioners, scholars, and anyone interested in the evolving dynamics of corporate governance and shareholder rights.

You can access a pre-print version of this article for free below.

My blog post about whip use in racing on Lawfully

I wrote a short piece summarising my article in the Adelaide Law Review, titled ‘Could existing anticruelty laws ban whip use in horse racing?’. Here is the link to the Lawfully website…

Gingko Writer as a way to plan IRAC/problem-based answers in law

I recently discovered the Gingko Writer app (https://gingkowriter.com/) when restructuring an article that was rejected by a journal. But, it occurred to me that it could also be used to digitally plan or organise answers to problem-based questions using the IRAC structure. Having tried using an Excel spreadsheet like this

late in my law degree and as a tutor preparing for a class, I find a structured approach helps ensure every legal issue has a rule (or law) that is then applied to some specific facts from the question.

The key benefit of using Gingko Writer is that it is a lot easier to add new content without playing around in Excel with adding rows and then merging cells, so it still looks pretty.

The other benefit of Gingko Writer is you can then export what you have produced into a Word document helping to avoid writer’s block.

I hope you find this useful.

Are you a #futureready lawyer based in Queensland?

Whether you own or are employed in a sole, micro, small or medium-sized law practice in Queensland, please spend a few minutes to complete this survey and help guide the future.

I am involved with this research, commissioned by Queensland Law Society (QLS) and being undertaken by the University of Southern Queensland and The University of Queensland which will provide recommendations to enable QLS to most appropriately respond to the future needs of your practice.

Please share through your networks.

Is the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Doing Enough?

Professor Paula Gerber and I recently published an empirical analysis of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (‘CRC’) and their relationship with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in the Human Rights Law Review. Specifically, we examined the CRC’s primary outputs, including its Concluding Observations for the last ten years (2010-2020), all the CRC’s General Comments to date and Views from Individual Communications. This involved an analysis of over 1500 records.

The final article is available at https://doi.org/10.1093/hrlr/ngab012. However, the pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in the Human Rights Law Review following peer review is available below.

In brief, several of our findings suggest that the CRC has become more sensitive to many of the issues facing LGBT children and children with same-sex parents. Quantitatively, the attention the CRC has given to LGBT issues has increased. The terminology used by the CRC also reflected greater inclusiveness over time.

However, our research found that there are several areas for improvement. In particular, it is recommended that the CRC avoid bundling LGBT children and children with same-sex parents

with a long list of other groups of vulnerable children in its Concluding Observations. The CRC should also take a more consistent approach to the consideration of State Parties anti-discrimination legislation and whether it adequate to protect the interests of LGBT children and children with same-sex parents. It is also recommended that the CRC pay closer attention to the Alternative Reports filed by non-government organisations when raising concerns regarding the violation of the rights of LGBT children and children in same-sex families. Concerning the CRC’s General Comments, it is recommended that the CRC publish a General Comment on issues facing LGBT children and children with same-sex parents.

With greater engagement and monitoring of human rights violations against LGBT children and children with same-sex parents, it is hoped that the CRC could continue its important and valuable work in helping to break down negative stereotypes these children face to prevent and minimise harms during the child’s development.

Justice at the Edge: Hearing the Sound of Silence

I am pleased to announce the publication of ‘Justice at the Edge: Hearing the Sound of Silence’ in the latest edition of the Adelaide Law Review.

My coauthors (Kim Economides and Leslie S Ferraz) and I created a short video presenting the significant findings. We hope this piques your interest in the topic and you decide to read the full article, which can be downloaded below.

In brief, we propose the next ‘wave’ in the access to justice is actually a counter-wave. This counter-wave can bring legal knowledge from the legal ‘periphery’ to the legal ‘centre’ to improve access to justice for all peoples. We use the granting of personhood to natural objects in Aotearoa/New Zealand as an example of this phenomenon in action. In particular, First Nations tribes (or iwis) in Aotearoa/New Zealand view these natural objects as persons in customary law. In granting the same natural objects personhood status under the general law, the general legal system can be seen as adopting or incorporating traditional legal principles from custom into the general legal system for the benefit of all peoples, including First Nations who have (and continue to be) marginalised under the general legal system.

The article goes on to consider whether the counter-wave could lead to similar legal developments occurring in Australia, Brazil and Canada, with promising signs in each of the respective jurisdictions.

How to identify the issue in IRAC problem-based questions for law courses?

In 2018, I wrote a post about how to use IRAC to answer a problem-based question in law courses.

This post builds on the previous discussion (you can read that post here) and looks at how to identify the ‘issue’ when using IRAC. IRAC stands for issue, rule, application and conclusion, and is a well-established method or approach to answering problem-based questions. Therefore, this approach is not appropriate for all assignments you are expected to do in law school. IRAC should only be used when you have a fact scenario and you are asked to advise one or more parties on their legal rights or obligations.

So, you have read the fact scenario. How do you identify the legal issue(s)?

Like most things in law, there is no ‘one’ correct way. These are just my recommendations based on my academic and professional experience. Your lecturer or tutor will have their own recommendations so you should check with them too!

The issue or issues are generally framed as questions. I encourage my students to use issues as a subheading to break up their essays. It is your job to then answer the legal issue, posed as a question, with the rest of the (I)RAC acronym. In other words, you answer the question you have posed by identifying and explaining the relevant legal rule(s), applying the rule(s) to the fact scenario to come to a reasoned conclusion.

One final note: in the steps below I talk mostly about contact law but the same steps apply to any area of law; be it criminal, constitutional or administrative law.

 Step 1: do the required readings

I am afraid this is unavoidable. Most trouble identifying the legal issues can be resolved by reading or re-reading the required readings. Which required readings, you ask? This will depend on the course and the fact scenario. The essay question may tell you. For example, I often include a sentence like ‘using only the principles of contract law…’ to tell students to only consider the contract law issues. If your assignment contains a sentence like this, then make sure you follow your lecturer’s advice. Even if you know that the problem could be answered using consumer law, for example, follow the instructions and only look for contract law issues.

If your assignment does not tell you what area of law to focus on and you are not sure what readings you are supposed to read, ask your lecturer or tutor. They are there to help. Personally, I would much prefer students to check if anything is unclear before they hand in their assignment. Don’t be afraid to ask – that is what we are there to do.

Step 2: re-read the problem question

Now that you have a high-level understanding of that area of law, re-read the fact scenario. Keep an open mind and highlight or note anything that reminds you of something you have read in your required readings. Maybe something in the fact scenario reminds you about the facts of a case you read about in your textbook. That is an excellent observation because it is an opportunity for you to use analogical reasoning to argue for or against the application of a legal rule based on the factual similarity or differences between the two cases. Usually, cases referred to in your required readings will only relate to one or two legal issues (for example, was there sufficient consideration in a contract) and, as such, if your hypothetical facts are similar to a case, will be able to identify the relevant issue(s).

Another approach is to identify parts of the fact scenario that seem ‘dodgy’, suspicious or unfair. If someone has been ‘ripped off’ or taken advantage of there is probably a legal issue there.

Step 3: what is the legal principle or area of law at the crux of the issue?

Hopefully, by this stage, you will have ‘rough’ legal issue that needs further refinement. Your legal issue might be something like ‘Is Barry bound by the contract?’ or ‘Is the contract enforceable?’

These are too broad. So, the next step is to dig deeper and narrow down the legal issue(s) until you can’t get any more narrow. In some cases, this may mean your one ‘rough’ legal issue has to be split into multiple legal issues. For example, in the second example above, there may be an issue about the capacity to contract and another issue about consideration.

This is where the required readings are again useful. Find the section of the textbook that discusses these ‘rough’ issues. Are there specific elements or requirements that need to be present? Are one or more of these elements/requirements missing? If so, this helps you to refine the legal issue.

With the capacity to contract example above, you may have identified one of the parties as being a minor (in Australia this is under the age of 18 years) yet they entered into a contract with another party. You are right to have identified that there might be an issue about the minor’s capacity to enter into a legal contract. However, not all contacts will be unenforceable against a minor. There are multiple exceptions. For example, contracts for necessaries will be enforceable against a minor.

Step 4: relate it to your fact scenario

Now, refer back to the fact scenario. Continuing with the previous example, you see that the contract in the fact scenario is for designer clothes. So, in this case, the legal issue is really about whether designer clothes are a necessary, and therefore enforceable, or a luxury, and therefore not enforceable. Rather than ask ‘Is the contract enforceable?’ a better legal issue would ask ‘Is the contact against Jack enforceable as a contract for necessaries?’

This level of specificity is important for two reasons. First, it communicates to the marker exactly what you are focussing on. There are potentially many reasons why a contract may not be valid. By framing the issue around the contract for necessaries you are telling the marker you understand the law of contracts well-enough to exclude irrelevant material. Any other issues will be dealt with separately. Second, when your legal issue is narrow and focused you are more likely to address the issue. As previously mentioned, there are many reasons why a contract may not be enforceable which have nothing to do with the capacity to contract. The risk with keeping the legal issue very broad is that you may identify some but not all of the relevant rules, which will affect the analysis in the ‘application’ section. If there are other reasons why the contract may not be enforceable, then these need to be considered separately.

How many legal issues?

Follow the above steps until there are no more issues you can see in the fact scenario. Due to the word count, you may not include all legal issues in your assignment. But, in your first draft, it is important that you follow the IRAC process for each legal issue you identify. You may then realise what you thought was an issue is not really an issue and can safely be discarded. Or, two issues are very similar and can be safely combined. Or, worse case, you have to exclude one or more legal issues you have identified. In this case, it is best to speak with your lecturer or tutor and ask for their advice. But, generally speaking, if you have identified two issues relating to contracts for necessaries that cannot safely be combined and there are other legal issues you need to discuss for the first time, you have already demonstrated your understanding on contracts for necessaries and so it is best to discuss the other issue.


I hope you have found this helpful! If you have any questions, please post them below. I will do my best to answer them.