Welcome to the Honourable Justice Anne Ferguson

Date: 4 May 2010
Author/Organisation: Steven Stevens, President, The Law Institute of Victoria

Address at the Ceremonial Sitting to Welcome the Honourable Justice Anne Ferguson Upon her Appointment to the Supreme Court of Victoria on Tuesday 4 May 2010 by Steven Stevens, President of The Law Institute of Victoria

  1. May it please the Court.
  2. I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria, and the solicitors of this State, to congratulate Your Honour, Justice Ferguson, on your appointment to this Court.
  3. Your Honour has, in the last 10 years that you’ve been at Allens Arthur Robinson, been an outstanding litigator – leading with your formidable intellect and personal work ethic and drive – but also because you cared for, and took trouble to nurture those with whom you worked.
  4. As we’ve heard in relation to the Minerva litigation, Your Honour has been generous in acknowledging and recognising the contributions of the others in your team.
  5. Your Honour has been an extraordinary mentor – and teacher – and role model – in particular, to younger solicitors.
  6.  Junior solicitors – not only those who worked with you, but others who worked near you – organised monthly morning teas in one of their rooms.  These became known as “Anne’s Special Corner” – opportunities for them to spend time with you.
  7. Nor was this merely because you were a good mentor and teacher – but because you are “fun to be with”.
  8. And that accords with the memories of your fellow students at Monash.  It’s said that Your Honour rarely missed a social function with the lame excuse of needing to pound the books.
  9. Your fellow students remember parties at the Ferguson house when your parents were occasionally away – and of Your Honour’s fondness for The Skyhooks.
  10. Skyhooks were the band with a male lead-singer called “Shirley” – the late and great Graeme “Shirley” Strachan. 
  11. As your contacts with junior colleagues at Allens Arthur Robinson engendered respect and loyalty, so it was with your clients.  You took the trouble to explain things clearly.  Your care and commitment communicated themselves.  And you won the confidence and loyalty of your clients as well.
  12. Your Honour served as Honorary Secretary to the Council of Legal Education.
  13. For more than 100 years – from the foundation of the Council of Legal Education in 1904 until its re-structuring effective the 1st of July, 2008 – the Honorary Secretary was a partner in Arthur Robinson & Co (or its successor firms – Arthur Robinson Hedderwicks; and now Allens Arthur Robinson).
  14. In those 104 years, there were only 5 Honorary Secretaries:  Sir Arthur Robinson himself (sometime Attorney-General for Victoria); Forrest Davies; John Harper (Justice David Harper’s father) for a remarkable 40 years; Colin Galbraith for 21 years; and finally Your Honour.
  15. The Chief Justice is Chairman of the Council.  Chief Justice Warren, at the last meeting of the old Council on the 30th of June 2008, said this of Your Honour and your contribution:
    Anne is an exceptional person, whose contribution to the Council has been significant, even during the brief two years she has served as Secretary.  In that time, the Council has seen a period of review and change which has resulted in a significant increase in activity for the Council and its subcommittees.  Much of the administration and organisation of Council matters has fallen upon Anne, and I wish to acknowledge her hard work throughout this time.
  16. Your Honour oversaw the transition to the re-constitution of the Council of Legal Education and the introduction of new Rules.
  17. Colleagues speak of Your Honour’s calm strength of character – of your patience and compassion – and of your integrity and determination never to take advantage of others.
  18. You left Gadens because you were not prepared to compromise the demands of your commercial litigation practice.  Your partner, David Hooper, was in the final stages of his illness.  Your Honour came to Allens Arthur Robinson part-time – “helping out”, and working on “knowledge management” – organising the intellectual property of the firm to make it accessible, particularly to younger lawyers.
  19. After your partner’s death, you were persuaded to join the firm.
  20. Allens Arthur Robinson managed to divert Your Honour from going to the Bar – and, in due course, you became a partner.
  21. Barristers describe the difficulty in keeping the strict confidence of their imminent appointment to judicial office.  However, by definition, each barrister practises alone, and has neither partners nor employees.
  22. In the days before Your Honour’s appointment was announced, partners and employee solicitors, who had previously known Your Honour as the model of patience and calm, puzzled at the sudden and unexplained urgency for the completion of tasks in which they were working with you, or about which they had sought your advice.
  23. All was revealed in the Attorney-General’s announcement two weeks ago – the appointment none had even remotely suspected, but which all applaud.
  24. One of your partners describes, and I quote, “the ‘buzz’ that went around the office . . . one that I’ve not felt in the office in a long time”.
  25.  Your Honour has had an outstanding career as a solicitor engaged at the highest level in massive and complex litigation.  You have displayed qualities, both professional and personal, that are eminently suitable in a Judge.
  26.  On behalf of the Law Institute and the solicitors of this State, I wish Your Honour continued success, and long and satisfying service as a Judge of this Court. As an appointee from our branch of the profession, we are particularly proud of your appointment.
  27. On a personal level, I wish you joy in your appointment to this Supreme Court.
  28. May it please the Court.
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