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Meet the 2019 YL President, Matthew Daly

Meet the 2019 YL President, Matthew Daly

By LIV Young Lawyers



The 2019 LIV Young Lawyers (YL) president is Matthew Daly from Sparke Helmore Lawyers. We spoke with Matthew about his career experiences, and to learn more about his vision for the LIV YL this year.

Where did you start out in your legal career, and how did you get this opportunity?

Around the time I finished a BA and LLB at Monash University an opportunity arose to work as a legal assistant at Maurice Blackburn due to their increased workload with the Essendon Football Club v ASADA case. It was an exciting time to work at the firm, and I was rushing off to court most days. Simultaneously, I applied for trainee and graduate positions at law firms and organisations with in-house counsel. I was offered a role as a graduate with the Federal Department of Human Services in early 2015. After completing two rotations, in the Medicare Compensation Recovery and Child Support, Legislation and eHealth teams, I was supported in undertaking a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the Australian National University and began practising as a government lawyer for the department immediately afterwards.

You have a strong background in public law and government legal practice. What draws you to this area of law?

Public law and government legal practice form important cornerstones for the operation of our society. I was attracted to the prospect of being able to work in such an influential area of law that has the capacity to affect the lives of so many. These areas of law are also intrinsically connected to a breadth of different practice areas, and I have been fortunate to have been exposed to a wide array of matters while working in pubic law. The opportunity to be involved in frequently-litigated matters, constant national media attention on high-profile cases and the aptitude of practitioners in this area also make practising in this area of law compelling. For instance, before his appointment as Solicitor-General, Dr Stephen Donoghue developed a substantial practice in administrative and constitutional law.

You also have a long-standing commitment to supporting professional development committees and legal networks. How have you benefitted from branching out and getting involved in these groups? 

Given our privileged role as members of the legal profession it is imperative that we give back to the community. Involvement in committees and legal networks is a great way to do this while developing professional relationships with those in our immediate legal fraternity. I started my involvement in these legal networks while at Monash University with the Monash Law Students’ Society, and then as vice-president and careers officer for the Progressive Law Network. I found that I learnt a lot about working effectively with others and could see the positive impact of helping other students, so continued in similar roles once practising – first as chair of the Australian Government Legal Network Engagement Committee, then as a general member of the ACT Law Society Young Lawyers’ Committee and then as co-chair of the LIV YL Professional Development Committee. I have developed a broad range of contacts in diverse areas of law, benefitted from moderating and speaking at seminars and improved my organisational skills through coordinating events and chairing meetings. I strongly recommend others get involved in contributing in similar ways, including through the LIV YL, which always welcomes new members!

You are a lawyer in the government practice group at Sparke Helmore Lawyers and formerly worked as in-house counsel for the Federal Department of Human Services. How did you find the transition into private practice, and has the nature of your role as a lawyer changed?

Sparke Helmore has been a great learning experience for me, and the firm has a commitment to achieving excellence, which has pushed me to continue to improve on every facet of my practice. I’ve been able to work on a range of litigated matters, including immigration, freedom of information and child support, instruct experienced barristers and provide influential advice. I’ve also been able to take on opportunities I otherwise would not have had working for a government department, including coordinating our pro-bono referrals in the Melbourne office and appearing regularly in the Federal Circuit Court and Federal Court. There are distinct differences between private practice and working in-house – the former is more specialised in the practice of law so advice and advocacy can be more incisive, and the latter is more embedded in the organisation so there is greater situational awareness of policy formation and business practices. I certainly recommend to any aspiring or current practitioners to try both if possible, as they both offer unique and important experiences. It’s certainly possible to transition effectively from one type of practice area to another and brings with it some challenges but also a range of opportunities.

What do you aspire to achieve as LIV YL president in 2019?

We are set for a big year – it’s the 40th anniversary of the LIV YL! We had huge attendances at our flagship events in 2018 – the LIV Careers Fair, Golden Gavel, and end of year gala – which will all run again this year. Other key initiatives are ready to be delivered including our new Young Lawyer Online Resource Centre which will provide unique resources to law students and lawyers in their first five years of practice. Our mentoring and buddy program, driven by the LIV YL, is set for another great year, with the increasing involvement of barristers and judges, who provide unique guidance to ambitious practitioners. A range of careers seminars, moderated by YL members, coupled with wellness initiatives, which are being actively promoted by the YL are a just a few of the other activities planned. Throughout the year we look forward to building on the focus areas of the YL leadership from 2018. In particular, I’m excited that we are working with our members to strengthen our key pillars of embracing technology, increasing equality and facilitating wellness to ensure these are omnipresent in all our activities throughout the year.

What is the best career advice you have received in your career that you would like to share with LIV YL members?

I have been fortunate to have had many outstanding mentors since I began my career as a lawyer including Department of Human Services chief financial officer Mark Jenkin, seasoned personal injury barrister Phillip Johnstone, and Sparke Helmore special counsel Lindsay Joyce who was also a senior partner at DLA Piper for 28 years. However, the most memorable advice that I have come across is a quote I read from Martin Luther King Jr, when he spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on 26 October 1967, six months before he was assassinated. King implored:

“. . . If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

From this we can learn an important lesson – whatever you do, try your best to do it well. No matter how mundane or trivial the task may seem, apply yourself to it. Take pride in your work. Others will respect you for it and it will open up opportunities.

What is your message to encourage LIV YL members who might want to get more involved with the work of the section?

Put your hand up and get involved! The LIV YL is a great way to get to know others in the legal profession outside of the office and courtroom. The committees are all supportive, fun and need as many contributors with as many diverse skills as possible. If you’d like to find out more, just come to our next event. You are always welcome to chat to me or any of the chairs of our committees about anything you like. Whether you’re a law student, starting your first career in the legal profession, or a later lawyer transitioning from a different career to the legal profession, we are here to support you.

Matthew Daly, 2019 LIV YL president

The LIV YL thanks Matthew for his time.

Visit our website to find out more about how you can get involved in the great range of events, activities, and committees available to LIV YL members.

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