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Farewell Justice Susan Crennan

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Cite as: March 2015 89 (3) LIJ, p.29

Justice Susan Maree Crennan AC retired from the High Court of Australia on 3 February 2015. Among the speakers to mark her last sitting in Melbourne on 12 December was 2014 LIV president Geoff Bowyer. This is an edited version of his speech.

I appear on behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state.

Your Honour was never a solicitor – you did not even serve Articles, because that was not required in New South Wales for those going directly to the Bar. However, it could not be said that we did not try.

In the final year of your law degree, you worked as the librarian at the Sydney firm of Smithers Warren & Tobias, which later became Phillips Fox. You had previously qualified as an associate of the Institute of Patent Attorneys and worked at the Sydney patent attorneys, Arthur S Cave & Co.

The intellectual property partner at Smithers had you do some work for him. He recognised exceptional quality, and did his utmost to keep you. On hearing that you intended, on completion of your law degree, to leave and begin reading with David Bennett, he flew into your room: “Have you lost all capacity for rational thought?” Not the most subtle or propitious approach to a talent he was trying to persuade to remain with the firm and serve articles with him. But he did try.

Your Honour was the most consummate barrister. However, your respect for, and active commitment to, the whole of the profession is legendary. As Victorian Bar chair, you worked with the LIV president on building understanding and good relationships between the two branches of the profession in, as had been said, difficult times.

In 1995, in the massive change from the Legal Aid Commission to Victoria Legal Aid, your Honour was on the five-member Board, and worked closely with chairman Geoff Masel and managing director Rob Cornall.

Then the Legal Practice Act 1996 radically changed the whole landscape of legal practice in Victoria. Once again, your Honour played a key part in making the transition work for practising in the profession. Appointed to the Legal Practice Board, your Honour worked closely with fellow Board member and past LIV president, David Miles, for the good of the whole profession.

Along with other recent women – chairs of the Victorian Bar, Justice Melanie Sloss SC and Fiona McLeod SC – you have done much in bringing the LIV and Bar relationships so much closer together. We are gladdened that the Crennan name will continue to resonate throughout this Court, and we note that your son Daniel is here today to honour the family name.

Your Honour has been truly a leader of the entire profession, and on behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state, I am proud to join the Bar chair and the Bar in paying tribute to your Honour’s remarkable career and contributions to the law and to the jurisprudence as a barrister, judge and Justice of this honourable Court, and to wish your Honour and your husband Michael and all of your family the very best in your retirement from the Court.

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