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With all due respect?

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2010 84(12) LIJ, p.82

Trial by media

Those who know Wangaratta solicitor Ian Watkins must have had a chuckle over their breakfast while reading The Border-Mail newspaper one recent Friday.

We are not talking about the funny pages, but a small article seeking to correct a mistake made in the previous day’s edition.

It concerned a client of Mr Watkins who was jailed after pleading guilty to assaulting police.

The original article contained a paragraph that no doubt fuelled that day’s bush telegraph. It said Mr Watkins “suffered borderline personality disorder and depression, which were aggravated by alcohol and cannabis use”.

The following day’s correction explained that this paragraph should have referred to Mr Watkins’ client, not the solicitor himself.

Mr Watkins was blissfully unaware of the original story or the correction until he arrived at a family barbecue the following Sunday.

The McSwineys partner heartily greeted his niece only to be told point-blank that “it is good to see that you are off the drugs, you are really looking well”.

This obviously floored Mr Watkins, who looked around and suddenly found himself surrounded by many strangers as well as friends.

“They were all looking at me. I asked her what she was talking about and she told me what had happened and we had a laugh,” he said.

But it was not the last he would hear of the misplaced paragraph.

Mr Watkins pulled into his local service station on the way home from the function, only for the bowser attendant to ask about his narcotic habit.

It would have been unsurprising had Mr Watkins used that full tank to roar out of town and lie low for a while.

And he may well wish he had.

The following morning a registrar greeted him as he arrived at the local Magistrates’ Court with: “Ian, good morning. How are you? I mean how are you? I know you’ve had your challenges of late”.

Bullstrode Whitelocke KC is to law what Chuck Norris is to manhood.

Read his fearless and frank publication Whitelocke: On Lawmanship (3rd edn) and the advice of the barrister famously known as “the Velvet Salamander” will render you a “gun-toting, doctrine-spitting, modern day champion of justice”.

Through the 170-page publication, Whitelocke explains how to become the quintessential modern lawman, from dealing with “juniors, solicitors and inferiors generally” to disrupting your opponent’s flow in court and stalking jurors to discover their “emotional trigger”.

He believes that the best way to practise advocacy under pressure is to work in a jurisdiction with the death penalty, without reading your briefs.

The octogenarian – who believes he is Australia’s “most learned man” – believes that to say he wrote the book to help people “would be to oversimplify my munificence”.

And the man himself believes he has, with all due respect to Blackstone and the authors of the Magna Carta, created “the finest legal treatise ever conceived”.

And he should know, having declared himself a KC when taking silk in 1993, after a full 40 years at the Bar, as it was acknowledged that his achievements prior to King George V’s death had already warranted his elevation.

Whitelocke’s thoughts on law, life, leisure and love are a worthy summer read for those practitioners who want to get away from the law – but just cannot cut the umbilical cord.

For the record “lawmanship” is a Whitelocke-ism (if he can make up words, so can we) that can be defined as “effective communication executed with an aristocratic dignity no longer common in the colonies.”

So friend, in the words of Whitelocke: “Remember that if you aspire to be a great advocate, to do it properly you must leave nothing in the tank. No-one likes shandy.”

WADR has five copies of Whitelocke: On Lawmanship to give away. Simply enter by emailing or purchase a copy by visiting

Enjoy laughing at the failings, foibles and faux pas of others? Of course you do. Then why not contribute to WADR? By email to, by fax on 9607 9451 or by mail C/- LIJ, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000.


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