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Best and Brightest

Feature Articles

Cite as: December 2011 85(12) LIJ Insert

The 2011 LIV Legal Awards recognised great achievements by Victorian lawyers.

By Jason Gregory

Read the stories behind the winners. (pdf)

Read the stories behind the winners. (swf)

The outstanding leadership, innovation and achievements of some of Victoria’s most extraordinary and talented lawyers were celebrated at the 2011 LIV Legal Awards.

The depth and breadth of award recipients included a history-making pro bono legal team, a former LIV president and an anti-discrimination champion.

LIV president Caroline Counsel said conferring the honours on colleagues had been a highlight of her year.

“One thing that strikes me is the diversity of talent. We have leaders from community legal centres, suburban practices, country practices, large law firms and the Bar. Our best and brightest are young and more mature, male and female,” she said.

“Some of our award recipients have achieved their success under the glare of national attention, but others have been quietly going about their business and serving their communities.”

The annual awards include certificates of service awarded to LIV members who have demonstrated professional excellence or have made a special contribution to the legal profession, the Paul Baker Award for outstanding achievement in administrative or human rights law, the Rogers Legal Writing Award for best legal feature published in the LIJ, and 50 years as an LIV member.

The President’s Awards honour exceptional contributions made to the general community, professional excellence in legal practice and promotion or advancement of the legal profession.

The 2011 President’s Award categories covered access to justice; accredited specialists; community, suburban, regional and government lawyers; best mentor, and legal organisation and rising star of the year.

The President’s Honorary Award, which is not an annual award but is given in exceptional circumstances, went to the pro bono legal team for M70 and M106 which successfully issued a High Court challenge to the legality of the federal government’s proposal to process asylum seekers offshore.

It was a story that began in early August this year with a desperate weekend phone call from a man in detention due to be deported under the so-called “Malaysian solution”. That initial contact triggered the assembly of the outstanding pro bono legal team behind the challenge who devoted many hours in a short period of time to fighting for the legal rights of asylum seekers.

Ms Counsel said the subsequent High Court judgment in their favour effectively put an end to offshore processing of asylum seekers.

The full M70 and M106 team comprised Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre executive director David Manne and his team of Shelley Burchfield, Malvina Hagedorn and Adrienne Anderson, Allens Arthur Robinson partner Malcolm Stephens and solicitors Claire Forster, Rebecca Kelton and Tom Prince, and counsel Debbie Mortimer SC, Richard Niall SC, Kristen Walker, Elizabeth Bennett and Matthew Albert.

Ms Counsel said she chose the President’s Honorary Award winners because “in legal, humanitarian and professional terms, they have achieved great things.

“The case of M70 and M106 is hugely significant. It was a stunning reminder of the enormous good that is achieved by lawyers giving of their time and talents through pro bono work.

“Finally, the community saw the vital service that lawyers provide. In upholding the rights of the powerless, this team underscored the continuing relevance of lawyers.”

Mr Manne said beyond the “sound and fury” of the highly publicised case, “it was a very conventional exercise of the rule of law in this country”.

“People were simply asking us to find out if what the government proposed to do [to them]was lawful,” Mr Manne said.

“It is legendary, the fee-charging endeavours of lawyers. Less well known in society is the fine and rich tradition of people acting pro bono in these types of matters. And it deeply matters that we do this.”

Ms Mortimer told the crowd that “the marshalling of legal resources for this case was extraordinary . . . every single member of the legal profession in this country should be proud.”

The honorary life membership award was presented to Russell Kennedy principal and former LIV president John Corcoran.

Mr Corcoran has significant experience in commercial property and securities and business law and is an accredited specialist in business law. He was elected to the LIV Council in 1998 and served as LIV president in 2001-2002.

In 2009 he became Law Council of Australia president and is also a board member of the International Bar Association.

Mr Corcoran said he had much for which to thank the LIV. “When you are in a leadership role at an organisation like the LIV you get a lot of reflected glory, it is sort of like an iceberg where there is so much going on underneath with great staff and the hundreds of volunteers donating their own time,” he said.

“The public interest role the LIV and its members play in defending the rule of law and human rights is a great thing for the benefit of our society. We have LIV members working from Shanghai to Frankston and Mildura with completely diverse interests, but they are all lawyers and that is the link between us all.”

The Paul Baker Award was created in 1998 and recognises a significant achievement or outstanding contribution of an individual in the field of administrative law or human rights law.

This year it was awarded to Australia’s full-time race discrimination commissioner Dr Helen Szoke.

Dr Szoke is a former Victorian equal opportunity and human rights commissioner and her achievements include her outstanding contribution to human rights by championing the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act, and for reforms leading to the enactment of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. She was also a member of former attorney-general Rob Hulls’ Human Rights Leadership Forum and spoke regularly at human rights events across Victoria.

Dr Szoke’s son, David Szoke Burke, accepted the award on her behalf. He said his mother was proud to accept the award and, by doing so, follow in the footsteps of some of Victoria’s leading human rights workers.

The Rogers Legal Writing Award was taken out by Minter Ellison partner Paul Kallenbach for his article “Piracy Suit Sunk – The iiNet Case” which appeared in the July 2010 issue of the LIJ.

More than 250 people attended the gala awards ceremony, held at Zinc @ Federation Square on Friday, 18 November and hosted by former lawyer and 3AW breakfast program presenter Ross Stevenson.

Award recipients

Access to Justice Award

Melasecca Kelly & Zayler partner Rob Melasecca

Accredited Specialist Achievement Award

Slater & Gordon practice group leader Craig Lynch

Community Lawyer of the Year

AED Legal Centre principal Lawyer Kairstien Wilson

Government Lawyer of the Year

Victorian Government Solicitor's Office general counsel Alison O’Brien

Honorary Life Membership Award

Russell Kennedy principal John Corcoran

Legal Organisation of the Year

Peninsula Community Legal Centre

Best Mentor of the Year

Moreland Community Legal Centre sole practitioner and community lawyer Lynette Barratt

Paul Baker Award

Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke

President’s Honorary Award

Pro bono legal team for M70/M106

Rising Star of the Year

Tyler Tipping & Woods lawyer Kim McFarlane

Regional Lawyer of the Year

Tyler Tipping & Woods associate Belinda Wilson

Rogers Legal Writing Award

Minter Ellison partner Paul Kallenbach.

Highly commended: Maurice Blackburn principal Dimitra Dubrow

Suburban Lawyer of the Year

Barnett & Barnett principal Melvyn Barnett OAM

Certificates of Service

Tisher Liner & Co. partner Alan Goldstone; Mahons Lawyers head of mortgages Roger Johnson; Hunt & Hunt Lawyers partner William Hazlett; Victoria Legal Aid senior lawyer Toni Higgins; Brian F. Jacomb & Associates principal Brian Jacomb; Australian Government Solicitor senior executive lawyer Ross McClure; Schetzer, Brott & Appel principal Phillip Nolan; Riordan Lawyers partner Tony Riordan; and Aitken Partners special counsel Robyn Sparks.

50 Years of LIV Membership

Patricia Coutts, David Fawell, Ramon Frederico, Jack Harty, William McGregor, Ewan McLean, Darroll Nelson, Michael Owen, Mary O’Callaghan, Michael Roet, Bill Rogers, Henry Von Bibra and John Wilder.

Paul Baker Award

Dr Helen Szoke

FEDERAL RACE DISCRIMINATION COMMISSIONER

Dr Helen Szoke was appointed Australia’s full-time race discrimination commissioner in September 2011 for a five-year term. From 2004 until August 2011 Dr Szoke was the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights commissioner. Milestones during her time as human rights commissioner were an outstanding contribution to human rights by championing the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 and reforms leading to the enactment of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. She was a member of former Attorney-General Rob Hulls’ Human Rights Leadership Forum and spoke regularly at human rights events across Victoria. Dr Szoke’s experience includes roles as a Preston city councillor, Women’s Health Victoria chair and as a Multicultural Arts Victoria board member.

Rogers Legal Writing Award

WINNER

Paul Kallenbach

PARTNER, MINTER ELLISON

Mr Kallenbach received the Rogers Legal Writing Award for his article “Piracy Suit Sunk: The iiNet Case”, which appeared in the July 2010 issue of the LIJ. The article focused on a Federal Court of Australia decision that found mere provision of internet access by an internet service provider did not amount to authorisation of copyright infringement by its subscribers.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Dimitra Dubrow

PRINCIPAL, MAURICE BLACKBURN

Ms Dubrow was highly commended for her article “Loss of Chance in Medical Negligence”, which appeared in the September 2010 edition of the LIJ. It focused on the case of Tabet v Gett, where the High Court of Australia ruled on the previously unsettled question of the availability of damages for the loss of a chance of a better outcome in medical negligence claims.

Honorary Life Membership Award

John Corcoran

PRINCIPAL, RUSSELL KENNEDY

Mr Corcoran has worked in commercial property and securities and business law and is regarded as an expert in the area of retirement villages and aged care facilities. He is also an accredited specialist in business law. He became a partner of commercial law firm Russell Kennedy in 1986 and is current principal of the firm. He was elected to the LIV Council in 1998 and served as LIV president in 2001-2002. In 2009, he became only the second Victorian lawyer to serve as Law Council of Australia (LCA) president after joining the LCA in 2004, citing human rights as a key issue for the national legal body. He is also a board member of the International Bar Association – the world’s peak organisation for lawyers – and in 2003 was awarded a Centenary Medal for services to the community and to the law.

Certificates of Service

Certificates of service are awarded to LIV members who have demonstrated professional excellence or have made a special contribution to the legal profession. This year’s recipients were Alan Goldstone, Roger Johnson, William Hazlett, Toni Higgins, Brian Jacomb, Ross McClure, Phillip Nolan, Tony Riordan and Robyn Sparks.

Mr Goldstone is a Tisher Liner & Co. partner who has served on LIV committees for more than 25 years and is current chair of the Property Law Section.

Mr Johnson is a longstanding member of the LIV Property Law Section’s executive committee, past chair of the LIV Liquor, Gaming & Hospitality Committee and is currently head of mortgages with Mahons Lawyers.

Mr Hazlett, a Hunt & Hunt Lawyers partner, is a longstanding member of the Property Law Section’s executive committee and has contributed significantly to many LIV submissions on leasing-related issues.

Ms Higgins is a Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) senior lawyer practising in the area of mental health. For the last 18 years, she has worked tirelessly in the area of disability and represents VLA on the LIV Disability Law Committee.

Mr Jacomb, the Brian F. Jacomb & Associates principal, has been an active member for 21 years, including a time as chair, of the LIV Taxation and Revenue Committee.

Mr McClure is a senior executive lawyer with the Australian Government Solicitor, where he has specialised in the areas of competition law and taxation law since 1982. He was a founding member, and valuable longstanding executive member, of the LIV Government Lawyers’ Section.

Mr Nolan is principal of Schetzer Brott & Appel and lectures in property law at Melbourne University. He was elected deputy chair of the LIV Property Law Section’s Executive Committee in 2010.

Mr Riordan has been a leading member of the LIV Taxation and Revenue Committee for 20 years and has also represented the LIV on external consultative committees. Of note, the Riordan Lawyers partner helped establish the Australian Taxation Office Professional to Professional Program for legal practitioners.

Ms Sparks has been a long-standing and active committee member of the LIV Specialisation Committee for wills and estates and the Property Law, Succession Law and Probate, Wills and Administration committees.

50 Years of LIV Membership

Michael Roet, Ewan McLean, Henry Von Bibra, David Fawell, Bill Rogers, Jack Harty, Ramon Frederico; not pictured are Patricia Coutts, William McGregor, Darroll Nelson, Michael Owen, Mary O’Callaghan and John Wilder.

President’s Awards

Access to Justice Award

Rob Melasecca

PARTNER, MELASECCA KELLY & ZAYLER

Mr Melasecca has always strongly advocated for the importance of rehabilitation and drug and alcohol counselling in the sentencing process and has been proactive in achieving improved conditions and access to justice for prisoners in the court system. Earlier this year, he was made the Victorian Custody Issues Group chair and is a former LIV Criminal Law Section chair.

Community Lawyer of the Year

Kairstien Wilson

PRINCIPAL LAWYER, ASSOCIATION OF EMPLOYEES WITH A DISABILITY LEGAL CENTRE

Ms Wilson, who could not attend the awards, came to legal practice after 20 years in the nursing industry. As a lawyer, Ms Wilson established the Association of Employees with a Disability Legal Centre. Through the creation of this service, the provision of access to justice for one of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in society – people with a disability – has significantly increased.

Government Lawyer of the Year

Alison O’Brien

GENERAL COUNSEL, VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT SOLICITOR'S OFFICE

Ms O’Brien is one of Victoria’s pre-eminent constitutional litigation lawyers and is in demand for her advice on statutory interpretation, novel questions of law, legislative development, parliamentary and electoral law and procedure. However, it was her recent involvement with the 2010 Bushfires Royal Commission that truly illustrated the depth and breadth of her expertise.

Accredited Specialists Achievement Award

Craig Lynch

PRACTICE GROUP LEADER, SLATER & GORDON

In the decade since becoming a specialist in personal injury in 2001, Mr Lynch has displayed an exceptional commitment to the Specialist Accreditation Scheme and frequently goes beyond the call of duty as both an advisory committee member and board member. He also regularly delivers CPD activities for legal education providers and contributes to LIJ articles to promote the scheme.

Regional Lawyer of the Year

Belinda Wilson

ASSOCIATE, TYLER TIPPING & WOODS

Ms Wilson is current Gippsland Law Association (GLA) president and during her term has revitalised the GLA by providing a uniform voice for Gippsland lawyers. She has also taken responsibility for many tasks, such as ensuring members have access to professional development and arranging networking events. She is also a member of the LIV Business Law Committee.

Suburban Lawyer of the Year

Melvyn Barnett OAM

PRINCIPAL, BARNETT & BARNETT

Mr Barnett is an exceptional suburban lawyer and a servant to his local community who, in 1998, received an Australia Day Honours list Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for services to victims of crime. Mr Barnett is also a past board member of Crimestoppers and a former member of the LIV Disability Law and Sole Practitioners committees.

Best Mentor of the Year

Lynette Barratt

SOLE PRACTITIONER AND COMMUNITY LAWYER, MORELAND COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRE

Ms Barratt has mentored countless young lawyers, clerks and trainees in her current role and formerly as a Victoria Legal Aid deputy regional office manager and principal of Seniors Rights Victoria and the Fitzroy Legal Service. She mentors to aid the professional development of young lawyers and to improve service delivery to consumers of legal services. She is LIV Elder Law Section deputy chair.

Legal Organisation of the Year

Peninsula Community Legal Centre

The Peninsula Community Legal Centre has been providing free legal services for 34 years, targeting its services at disadvantaged people who would otherwise fall through the cracks of the justice system. From humble beginnings, the Centre is now one of the largest CLCs in Australia, and provides information and referrals to more than 12,000 individuals each year.

Rising Star of the Year

Kim McFarlane

LAWYER, TYLER TIPPING & WOODS

Ms McFarlane is Gippsland Law Association secretary and has been a LIV Gippsland Young Lawyer representative since 2007. Since that time she has helped establish a thriving and successful young lawyers group within Gippsland which has proven crucial in addressing staff retention for young lawyers in the area.

President’s Honorary Award

Pro bono legal team for M70/M106

This award recognised the contributions to law and the community of the pro bono legal team which successfully issued a High Court challenge against the Federal Government’s so-called “Malaysia Solution” in dealing with asylum seekers. The full M70 and M106 team comprised barristers Debbie Mortimer SC, Richard Niall SC, Kristen Walker, Elizabeth Bennett and Matthew Albert; Allens Arthur Robinson partner Malcolm Stephens and solicitors Claire Forster, Rebecca Kelton and Tom Prince and Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre executive director David Manne and his team of Shelley Burchfield, Malvina Hagedorn and Adrienne Anderson.

Members can view the video of all the action from the awards ceremony by visiting www.liv.asn.au/Practice-Resources/News-Centre/Videos

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