Proctor : March 2019
32 PROCTOR | March 2019 A letter to newly admitted lawyers First of all, congratulations! You have survived many years (or was it many lifetimes?) of law school, completed your practical legal training and endured the thrilling spectacle of admission. You can now throw caution to the wind and safely declare that you’re a lawyer. Regardless of whether you are working in a firm, in-house, in government, with a pro bono organisation or in any number of other worthwhile pursuits, you will find that a new mantle of responsibility has settled upon your shoulders. We have reflected on the sum of our early years as lawyers with the goal of distilling some pointers in Q&A form. We hope it is of some assistance to you. Help! My boss has asked me to witness/certify a document so urgently she/he needs it yesterday! Your practising certificate grants you two new superpowers: the ability to witness and certify documents. We don’t mean to alarm you, but there are a number of requirements and the consequences of failing to comply can be a touch dire. But don’t fret! There’s no need for frantic, last-minute googling because we have set out the key requirements below.1 Witnessing Before witnessing an affidavit or a statutory declaration, you should satisfy yourself as to the identity of the deponent/declarant and ensure that they are aware that making a false statement is a crime. 2 You should also give the person some time to review the document (and any attachments) and to satisfy themselves that it is correct and complete. If witnessing an affidavit, you will then need to administer either an oath or affirmation (depending on the person’s preference in line with what is stated in the document) in the following terms: Oath Affirmation (deponent to hold a Bible) Q: Do you swear that the contents of this affidavit are true and correct, so help you God? Q: Do you solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm and declare that the contents of this affidavit are true and correct? A:SohelpmeGod. A:Ido. A statutory declaration will have the relevant declaration included in the text of the document,3 so you don’t need to say anything in particular prior to witnessing it. Once the person has signed the document, you will then need to sign it and print your name, state that you’re a solicitor (and therefore authorised to witness the document)4 and provide your address.5 If the document is an affidavit you will also need to sign each page (excluding the exhibits) and each certificate of exhibit. NB: There are circumstances in which you must refuse to witness a document, such as if you know that it contains false information, if you have concerns about the capacity of the person, or if you did not actually witness them signing it. Certifying Before certifying a document, you need to review the original document against the copy to ensure that the copy is identical. You then need to make the following statement on the first page of the copy: “I have sighted the original document and certify this to be a true copy of the original.” You must then sign and date the statement, print your full name and state that you are a solicitor. If you will be certifying multiple documents, you may wish to have a stamp made that satisfies these requirements. It is important to also be aware that specific requirements apply to certain documents, such as enduring powers of attorney, powers of attorney, advance health directives and some documents under the Land Titles Act 1994 (Qld).6 What on earth is a ‘personal brand’ and where can I get one? Now that we have a couple of practicalities out of the way, we turn to ’soft skills’, which become more and more important as you progress. We have no doubt that you have heard about the importance of crafting and implementing a personal brand. The official start of your legal career is the perfect time to reflect on your values, strengths and weaknesses, and decide what you would like to be known for and how you would like people to feel when they interact with you. In our line of work, excellence is expected – what will set you apart? Once you have formed a view, ensure your actions, work and online profiles are consistent with your personal brand. I thought a network was a wi-fi connection? As you work to develop your personal brand, you will begin to expand your network, too. This will eventually be one of your greatest assets in the law. Your network may begin with family, friends and colleagues, and build from there. A surefire way to quickly expand your network is to join an association or committee within the profession or in an industry that is of interest to you. We also encourage you to link up with mentors, whether formally or informally. Mentors can be an important part of your network and a fantastic resource as you progress through your career. Luckily, the profession is overflowing with experienced practitioners who want younger lawyers to succeed and are willing to be extremely generous with their time.