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Ben Nicholas

Ben's never been in trouble with the law, never attended a court proceeding and favoured NCIS over Law & Order. So when he was asked to co-host this LIV Young Lawyers event, he had no tools at his disposal to mislead the organisers into a mistrial. He attempted to organise an Afadavid, but for all his searching, David couldn't be found. With time running out, Ben looked himself in the mirror, and after a solid cross-examination decided to suck it up and do the right thing.

Six seasons of Suits later, and Ben is fired up and ready to do whatever is necessary to make this day a success. Except corporate law... that seems really boring. Ben has worked as an actor on screen and stage for more than 20 years in Australia and the UK. He is also a writer and director and is currently the social and digital producer for the TV series Neighbours.

Linda Rayment, LIV YL President

Linda is the 2016 LIV Young Lawyers president and co-founder and CEO of the Human Trafficking Resource and Assistance Centre (HTRAC). Linda practised in private practice for just under four years and during that time was awarded the 2014 LIV Real Law Award for her outstanding contribution to the community and the 2015 LIV Rising Star of the Year Award.

Unlike her co-host Ben, Linda has no claim to the Neighbours fame, although while at university she did guest star in Blue Heelers – remember that show?!? and also sung opera on national TV. Linda has been known to crack a joke here and there and even pull out the odd rap, so who knows what’s going to happen at this year's Golden Gavel.

Judging Panel

Corinne Grant

Best known for her work on Rove Live, The Glasshouse and Good News Week, Corinne Grant is a professional comedian, emcee and writer. She has recently completed her law degree and is working as a trainee lawyer at Maurice Blackburn. Corinne Grant recently did a video interview (below) with the LIV about what she's looking for as a judge of the Golden Gavel competition.

Justice Philip Cummins AM

The Honourable Philip Cummins AM is very old. He did VCE ( which was called Matriculation in those days) in the year television commenced in Victoria – 1956, Melbourne's Olympic year. He is still waiting on the Olympics to return. In the meantime he seems to have done everything. After 21 years on the Supreme Court of Victoria, being chair of the Victoria Law Foundation, President of Court Network Inc, and lecturing on legal ethics at the Melbourne Law School forever, he is now chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission and for good measure is doing a Doctorate at the Melbourne Law School on Judicial Office. While on the Bench, he is reputed to have kept his humour well hidden – appropriately so – but it might break out at the Golden Gavel.

Steven Sapountsis

Steven Sapountsis is the current president of the Law Institute of Victoria. He has practised law for more than 30 years and spent the last nine years as special counsel at Moores. His expertise includes litigation and dispute resolution in a broad  range of commercial, property, estates, trust and regulatory matters. Steven has previously held positions in private and public practice, including as the General Manager of the Professional Standards Department with the LIV. He is interested in the education and mentoring of those newly admitted to the profession, and it is from them that he seeks and obtains assistance in the newer modes of service or information delivery – such as the telephone or the facsimile machine. Steven is an advocate of access to justice for all, which may stem from his own experiences after emigrating to Australia from Greece in the early 1960s.


Meet some of the Golden Gavel participants for 2016:

Matthew Pierri of King & Wood Mallesons

On a cold, winter’s morning, some 25 years ago, a young boy was born without a middle name. Since then, Matt Pierri has tried desperately to fill the void inside him with everything from Skittles to bagpipes lessons. Having clearly failed, Matt turned to commercial law where his lack of soul was warmly welcomed. When not preparing court folders, Matt enjoys writing poetry and playing Pokémon Go in the dark. He one day hopes to catch ’em all. Matt enters this year’s Golden Gavel competition under duress and without a sense of humour. Please help him feel welcome. But, seriously, he will need your sympathy laughs.

Clara Jordan-Baird of Arnold Bloch Leibler

Clara (rhymes with Sarah) Jordan-Baird was born at some point in the past to two parents with no time for the popular pronunciation of names. Her cradle was made from the lumber of a pirate ship, as was the style at the time.

She has been called at various points in her life a fast-talker, a slow-eater, a communist, an anarchist, a mince pie expert, a member of the ancient mystic society of "No Homers", a donut-obsessive and a grammar Nazi.  She has consistently failed the two qualifications of being a lawyer: she’s never once yelled "objection!" in a courtroom and her only knowledge of Latin consists of the lyrics to "Hit Me Baby One More Time".

Jack Madigan-Manuel of Clayton Utz

Born at a very young age, this son of a carpenter and goat-breeding beekeeper truly is a Jack of all trades. Since his infamous capitulation during the 1984 Golden Gavel, Jack has spent the past 32 years wandering aimlessly throughout the comico-legal wilderness. Commentators at the time remarked that he, much like the boy who fell out of the tree, just wasn't in it.

Having tripped over the electric fence of graduate recruitment and into the grassy paddock of employment at Clayton Utz, Jack is no newcomer to unexpected upsets and will look to ruffle feathers (and redeem his reputation) in this year's Gavel. In his spare time, Jack loves to write and continues to work on his culinary compendium entitled, "Nice Guys Finish Lunch  A guide to independent dining".

Liam O'Brien of Baker & McKenzie

Liam is a dish best served after dinner.  Luckily, he hasn’t eaten breakfast yet, although he has consumed copious amounts of liquid as, like Tony Blair, he believes that needing to pee keeps a speechmaker on his toes.  Unlike Tony Blair, he hasn’t featured in the exclusive nude section of George Bush’s portrait gallery … yet.

Andrew Robertson of Ashurst

After three years of studying undergraduate Spanish, Andrew could only recall the naughty words and how to order a drink, leaving him with no other choice than to enrol in law school. Now a graduate lawyer, he has adopted a steady diet of coffee, biscuits and nothing else. When the graduates go for dumplings together, he prefers to stab the dumpling in the middle rather than using both chopsticks. A born and bred Sydneysider, Andrew is mildly afflicted by an adjustment disorder and vitamin D deficiency which he channels into public speaking competitions.

Catherine Dorian of Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Born and raised on the mean streets of Malvern, Catherine is no stranger to competition. Whether it be deploying stealth tactics on bin night, parking her ’93 Mitsubishi ute ahead of the neighbour’s multiple Porsche Cayennes, or jostling for a decent picnic spot at Stonnington Council’s family-friendly events, she is a constant challenger and victor. In her spare time she works in commercial litigation.

Owing to a stint at The University of Melbourne’s “Old Quadrangle” building, Catherine is well versed in the Classics. She appreciates the significance of Latin in law, and believes in the power of a good Pree-mah-fahk-ee-eh, or “primer facey”, as it is known to her learned friends.

Catherine’s aspirations outside of law include becoming the female voice of Metro train announcements, having long ago perfected the required tone to tell you when the 12.36 Pakenham is departing. She is waiting for the current position-holder to retire or at least slip up in her perfect and seemingly automated ways, before smoothly transitioning into the role.

David Burke of Lander & Rogers

Before entering the law, David was a 400-metre runner, which involved running races that start and finish in the exact same place. For some reason, the partners at his firm assure him that this apparent satisfaction with not going anywhere will come in handy based on what he's shown so far. He now works in insurance litigation, mostly for the look of excitement on people's faces when he tells them he works in insurance litigation.

He currently thinks signing up for the Golden Gavel may be the most questionable call since Pauline Hanson said she'd never eat a Halal Snack Pack – seriously, those things are delicious. He’s most excited about the talent section, nervous about the swimsuit section and quietly confident that he doesn't fully understand this competition.

Rebecca Dahl of Nicholes Family Lawyers

No, you don’t need glasses: it’s the same girl again back in this competition for the third year in a row telling the same jokes about being a family lawyer, and about being from Adelaide, and about having naturally red hair AND about dreaming of being an AFL Wag. After playing 427 games for North Melbourne (or something like that), she promises to retire from the Golden Gavel after 11 August 2016. 

Harrison Wall of Mills Oakley

Harrison (“Harry” or “The Boy Who Lived” [which he was called a long time before a pre-pubescent wizard stole the title from him]) is well known for making it two-thirds of the way through Jacobs’ Law of Trusts without falling asleep.

Harry is often likened to that of the show Suits: with the physical appeal of Louis Litt, the style and flair of Harvey Spectre’s hole punch and the emotional stability of Rachel Zane when daddy tells her “no” every week. His personality and natural affection for dogs makes him the kind of person Ramsay Bolton would call “friend”. Harry enjoys working in commercial litigation and his personal victories include first place in waxing the Partners’ cars and he currently holds the record for longest lunch break in the office (12 days).

Seamus Ryan of Rigby Cooke Lawyers

Seamus’ participation in the Golden Gavel was mandated as a condition of retaining his practising certificate after he was repeatedly found sitting in court pretending to be a magistrate. He is concerned that, after competing, his greater crime of impersonating a lawyer for five years will also be uncovered.