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14th Victorian Legal Awards Winners

Access to Justice Award

AED Legal Centre

AED Legal Centre was established in 2008 by the Association of Employees with Disability Inc. for the purpose of championing the employment rights of people with disability. Easily accessible by public and private transport, this state-wide Centre provides specialist legal services to Victorians who experience difficulties or discrimination in education or employment on account of their disability. Through a combination of information, education, individual advocacy, legal representation and systemic projects, the Centre seeks to overcome the disadvantages experienced by its clients, giving them access to the justice system.

Emma Dunlevie, Russell Kennedy Lawyers

Emma manages RK's Pro Bono practice alongside her commercial practice. She has built innovative partnerships with the CLC sector, and has been a key contributor to coordination efforts in the refugee sector at a time of critical legal need. She has managed the ASRC/RK legal clinic for asylum seekers, strategic refugee and citizenship litigation, and chairs the Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minor Consortium. Emma’s leadership has resulted in many hundreds of vulnerable people receiving legal assistance. Emma holds an LLB(Hons)/BA(Politics)(Hons), Master of Development Studies (Uppsala) and Master of Public Policy and Management (Melb).

Accredited Specialist Achievement Award

Kristina Antoniades, KHQ Lawyers

Kristina is a Special Counsel with KHQ Lawyers, an Accredited Family Law Specialist, an accredited mediator and a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. She’s empathetic to her clients’ needs and works collaboratively with other professionals to achieve the best possible outcome for them. Her expertise includes complex parenting and property matters, Binding Financial Agreements, Child Support Agreements, and LGBTI family law matters. She has presented seminars on various topics, such as family violence and surrogacy. Kristina co-facilitates the Prospective Lesbian Parents Association and hosts the JOY Law segment on JOY 94.9. Her dedication and expertise are highly valued by her clients.

Community Lawyer or Organisation of the Year Award

Karen (Kaz) Gurney, Goulburn Valley CLC

Kaz first worked as a lawyer in the Criminal Law stream with Fitzroy Legal Service before becoming the Senior FLS Lawyer at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre. Then followed a short stint as Acting Principal before moving to Shepparton to commence the GVCLC service where she embedded therapeutic practice as a whole-of-organisation philosophy. She has grown the team from just two to seven staff including a lawyer and Indigenous paralegal working for the Aboriginal community in a health-justice partnership at the Rumbalara ACCHO. Kaz now lives in Kialla with her dog and aeroplane.

Deal of the Year Award

Madgwicks Lawyers - Emeco, Orionstone and Andy's Earthmovers merge in $686 million deal

Madgwicks acted for Andy’s Earthmovers and its shareholders in the AUD$686 million merger and debt restructure of Emeco Holdings Limited, Orionstone Holdings and Andy's.

Madgwicks’ team, led by Restructuring and Litigation Partner John Caridakis and Corporate Partners Peter Hammond and Ed Browne, dealt with a diverse number of complex corporate issues including restructuring documentation, equity exchanges, arrangements with financiers (including stand still and facility reorganisation), schemes of arrangement, PPSA, fleet fair market valuations, and amended and restated documents to reflect the revised transaction arrangements.

The deal is considered unique within the market as it required the cooperation of the creditors and shareholders of all three companies. The merger involved eight firms in five countries and included a cross-border component involving a restructure of New York law governed bonds issued by Emeco Holdings Limited. The end result saw a combination of equity and new debt in the merged business.

Government Lawyer of the Year Award

Phoebe Nicholas, Fair Work Ombudsman

Phoebe is a Principal Lawyer at the Fair Work Ombudsman. She conducts civil penalty litigation under the Fair Work Act 2009 and advises on the FWO’s wider strategic enforcement activities. Phoebe manages a team of specialist lawyers to support their clients, and has lead the legal team involved in some of the FWO’s most significant regulatory outcomes, including the 7-Eleven Inquiry, associated franchisee litigations and the Proactive Compliance Deeds with 7-Eleven and Woolworths, as well as significant harvest trail and false records litigation. Prior to joining the FWO in 2010, Phoebe commenced her career as a prosecutor for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

In-House Counsel of the Year Award

Katerina Paras, illion

Katerina is a senior corporate and commercial lawyer with a background of working in-house and with leading private practice firms. Katerina is a real commercial generalist with a versatile skill set that includes commercial contracts, intellectual property, IT, telecommunications and privacy, employment, construction, property and litigation. During her career to date, Katerina has worked across many industries including logistics, technology, government, rail, data privacy and financial services.

Innovation Award– Sponsored by PEXA


Settify is a legal technology firm, specialising in sophisticated artificially intelligent systems that help lawyers to attract and on-board new clients. Launched in February 2017, Settify’s Family Law system has been adopted by over 75 firms nationwide, bringing in new matters with total asset pools worth $3bn. The ground-breaking system has now been adapted for Wills and Estates, and is available for firms wishing to innovate, attract new clients and dramatically improve efficiency.

Boutique Law Firm of the Year Award

Sharrock Pitman Legal

As lawyers in Melbourne for more than 50 years, Sharrock Pitman Legal are a boutique, commercial law practice, serving the legal needs of business people and those in the ‘not for profit’ sector, as well as the wider community. The team enjoy a vibrant workplace culture, providing clients with memorable service and innovative, practical, proactive and strategic solutions. Ancillary services include a quarterly business club, public presentations on legal and business related topics, a mediation service, and free help for start-up enterprises, together with active support of community organisations.

Medium Law Firm of the Year Award – Sponsored by LodgeX

MST Lawyers

MST Lawyers is a dynamic, mid-tier law firm of over 70 lawyers and support staff. The firm was founded in the 1950s and has evolved into a progressive, commercial and private client legal practice based in Mount Waverley. Clients include individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses, small to medium sized enterprises, national and international corporations. Publicly listed corporations, national retail and franchise groups, many of whom are household names throughout Australia and internationally also feature prominently. MST Lawyers specialise in Corporate Advisory, Franchising, Dispute Resolution and Litigation, Family, Conveyancing, Property and Leasing, Employment, Wills and Estates Law.

Large Law Firm of the Year Award

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

Maurice Blackburn is Australia’s leading social justice law firm. We use social justice to drive innovation in the way we work. A Workplace Gender Equality Employer of Choice in 2018, we’re ‘All in’: embracing our diverse and inclusive culture, and we have similar expectations of our clients and those with whom we work. We have a proud history of fighting for the rights of everyday Australians via personal injury compensation, class actions, superannuation and insurance claims, Wills and estates law, employment law and social justice matters that benefit the community.

Law Student of the Year Award

Erin Ritchie, Deakin University

Erin Ritchie is a Bachelor Laws/ Arts student at Deakin University. A high-achieving student, she has held a diverse range of roles including President of Deakin Law Students’ Society, Deakin Law School Advisory Board member and Australian Law Students’ Association (ALSA) conference convenor. In 2017, Erin competed in three major negotiation competitions – including runner-up in the grand final of the ALSA Negotiation competition. With a portfolio of practical legal experience, Erin has undertaken study programs in the US, UK and a member of Deakin’s 2018 Vis Moot team, receiving an honourable mention for best speaker in Hong Kong.

Legal Reporting Award

Chris Merritt, The Australian

Chris Merritt is legal affairs editor for The Australian, and is responsible for the paper’s Friday legal affairs section. Until he joined The Australian in 2005 and launched its legal affairs section he had been legal affairs editor for The Australian Financial Review after launching that paper’s legal affairs section in 1997. He holds an honours degree in law from UTS and was admitted to the Bar of the NSW Supreme Court in 1994 but has never practised.

Mentor of the Year Award

Liberty Sanger, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

Leadership and mentoring go hand-in-hand for Liberty Sanger. She is a Principal and Board director of Maurice Blackburn, and National Head of the Personal Injury Division. Liberty is a qualified LIV Personal Injury Accredited Specialist, Chair of Maurice Blackburn’s Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee, and also Chair of the Victorian Government’s Equal Workplaces Advisory Council. Liberty has mentored many people in the law and further afield throughout her career. She is passionate about helping people realise their potential and leading change to remove structural barriers preventing or frustrating their advancement.

Regional Lawyer of the Year Award

Tom Burgoyne, Slater and Gordon

Tom has handled some of his region’s most significant cases. In doing so, he has highlighted the need for legislative change where he has seen inequity, deficiency or anomaly in the law. Tom’s article “Cyclists Beware” was published in the January/February edition of the Law Institute Journal. An innovator, Tom sourced and relied upon computer-generated 3D surgical animations from overseas, in what is considered a first for a Victorian Supreme Court personal injury Jury trial. Tom has been recognised by the LIV TAC Committee for his work in authoring and co-authoring various papers on automated vehicles. Tom previously headed up Slater and Gordon’s motor vehicle accidents practice in Geelong and will be heading up the Geelong Team of Fortitude Legal.

Suburban Lawyer of the Year Award

Timothy Robinson, Robinson Gill Lawyers

Tim is a founding member of the firm and has been a principal for over 35 years. He has held Specialist Accreditation in the areas of Commercial Litigation and Family Law for over 25 years and has a special interest in civil actions against police. He is a former member of the Council of the Law Institute of Victoria, a former President of the Eastern Suburbs Law Association and a former Trustee of the Law Aid Trust. In addition he spent 25 years on the VFL Tribunal.

Rising Star of the Year Award – Sponsored by Lex Medicus

Demetrio Zema, Law Squared

Demetrio is the founder and director of Law Squared, a commercial law and litigation firm focussed on working with entrepreneurs and high growth businesses. Since its launch in March 2016, Law Squared has offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane with a team of 18 across those cities. Demetrio is an accomplished entrepreneur and lawyer having worked with many corporates, SMEs, entrepreneurs and ASX listed companies. Named “Australia’s most innovative law firm”, Law Squared takes an entrepreneurial approach to the provision of legal services.

Paul Baker Award

Chelsea Clark, Victoria Legal Aid

Chelsea Clark is currently acting in the role of Program Manager of the Migration Program within the Civil Justice Program at Victoria Legal Aid. She has been working as a senior lawyer in the Migration Program since 2009. Her legal practice is focused on providing refugee law advice, casework, and advocacy services to asylum seekers, with a particular focus on judicial review in the Federal Circuit Court and Federal Court of Australia. Chelsea has been instrumental in developing and co-ordinating VLA’s response to the introduction of the Fast Track Review Process, and was the instructing lawyer in the Full Federal Court matter of Minister for Immigration v AMA16, and the High Court matter of Plaintiff M174/16.

Rogers Legal Writing Award

Winner: Katie Minogue, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, “Into the future: The Ultimate Joy Ride”, February 2017  LIJ

When it comes to driverless cars and the law, few people know more on the topic than Katie Minogue. She has written articles for legal and industry publications, spoken at conferences across the country and appeared before the House of Representatives on the topic. The Senior Associate and leader of Maurice Blackburn’s Traralgon office oversees 17 legal and support staff providing legal services to injured clients across the Gippsland region. Katie is a former member of the LIV Transport Accident Committee, an LIV personal injury Accredited Specialist and a recommended lawyer in Doyles Guide.

Highly Commended: 

  • Caroline Jones, Arnold Bloch Leibler, “Bits and Blocks”, September LIJ