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Michael McGrath reflects on 20 years of practice

I have recently reached a milestone of practicing as a solicitor for 20 years. Whilst still ‘a babe’ compared to many in the profession, I take this opportunity to reflect on some of the changes I have seen in practice over this time.

One of the first jobs you have as a novice solicitor is completing research tasks. Although 2002 was in the new millennium (with the world not having ended with the Y2K bug), this still involved going to the firm’s legal library and flicking through the pages of the loose leaf service to find the legislation or case you were after. Now these hardback texts of wisdom serve as nothing more than a classy background for a lawyers’ office and a reminder of how we use to find our answers.

Communication has also changed immensely. You would start your day by looking through your mail and separating cheques for banking. Now receiving mail is a novelty, which is probably a good thing given Australia Post has actually managed to regress over this period. I have also been asked non-jokingly on more than one occasion ‘what is a cheque?’. Email is of course now the main form of communication and I try to discipline myself to not read my emails on my mobile device distracted from the family over breakfast.

I also remember having discussions with older practitioners as to how us young ones could never appreciate how things used to get done without the instantaneous communication of the venerable fax machine, as the previous method had of course been to use carrier pigeons. Fax machines now seem consigned for some reason to medical practices, I’m not sure why?

The move to ‘Zoom’ conferences, whilst more recent and largely becoming mainstream due to the Covid pandemic, has also been a major change. I still enjoy meeting with clients in person however, having just completed a Zoom conference with clients on a family holiday on the NSW South Coast (including completing a remote identity check), it does show the benefits of this technology and demonstrate that we truly can service our clients wherever they are located.

Electronic conveyancing has also been a significant change in respect of practicing in property law. Contracts are signed with electronic signatures and we no longer meet with the other parties’ solicitor and banks for ‘settlement’ to hand over bank cheques and paper Certificates of Title (which also don’t exist anymore). I won’t even start on settlements involving ‘old system title’ and reviewing wax sealed deeds on parchment dating back to the 1800’s to confirm a good root of title.

Although the tools of the profession have changed, the profession itself largely remains the same. I continue to enjoy working in a largely respectful and collegiate profession whilst seeking to achieve the best outcomes for my clients. I will provide another update when I reach my 40 years!

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standard Legislation

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