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Prize honours legal giant

Briefs

Cite as: (2002) 76(10) LIJ, p.17

A prize for significant academic achievement in the face of adversity has been created in honour of long-time Phillips Fox solicitor, partner and now consultant Geoff Masel.

The Geoff Masel Prize – a joint initiative between Phillips Fox and the University of Melbourne – recognises Mr Masel’s 50-year contribution to the law.

The prize will be awarded for the first time next year to the law student who has achieved the most significant academic results under the most difficult personal circumstances.

The establishment of the prize was announced at a dinner honouring Mr Masel’s 50 years in the law held at The Pavilion Restaurant in the Fitzroy Gardens on 27 September.

More than 80 people – including Supreme Court Justice Allan McDonald, Federal Court Justice Alan Goldberg and senior partners and practitioners from Mr Masel’s firm Phillips Fox – attended the dinner.

Mr Masel began his articles in 1952 at his father’s firm of Phillips Fox & Masel and was admitted to practice on 1 December 1953.

He became partner in the firm in 1955 and senior partner in 1980. He then became a consultant to the firm – now called Phillips Fox – in 1989. He still holds that position.

Phillips Fox chairman Peter Rashleigh told the dinner that Mr Masel’s longevity in the profession was “an incredible achievement and a cause for celebration”.

“I suspect that in the current practice of law there would be very few practitioners who will achieve this milestone,” Mr Rashleigh said. “I venture to suggest that there have been very few who have ever achieved 50 useful years in practice, let alone 50 incredibly valuable years of continuing contribution.”

Among the most significant cases Mr Masel was involved in were the West Gate Bridge collapse, the TAA-Canadian Pacific aircraft collision in Sydney and litigation flowing from the Ash Wednesday bushfires.

Apart from his contribution to Phillips Fox, Mr Masel has also played an influential role in other sectors of the legal profession. He was Victoria Legal Aid chairman from 1995 to 1998 and the founder of the Victorian branches of the Australian Aviation Law Association, the Insurance Law Association of Australia and the Building Practitioners Society.

He has also written a number of books and articles, including Professional Negligence of Lawyers, Accountants, Bankers and Brokers and The Phillips Fox Annotated Australian Insurance Law Statutes.

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