find the latest legal job
Corporate/Commercial Lawyers (2-5 years PAE)
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Specialist commercial law firm · Long-term career progression
View details
Graduate Lawyer / Up to 1.5 yr PAE Lawyer
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Mentoring Opportunity in Regional QLD · Personal Injury Law
View details
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Kirby slams complacency at law school reunion

Kirby slams complacency at law school reunion

Two former High Court judges were among alumni at the 50-year reunion of University of Sydney law school graduates on Tuesday night (21 August), at which Michael Kirby criticised law students of his generation for not questioning the status quo.

Acting law school dean, professor Greg Tolhurst, welcomed around 29 alumni from the 1962 graduating class to the new law school building on the university’s Camperdown campus in Sydney.

Speaking at the event, former High Court judge Michael Kirby (pictured) reminisced about his university days and honoured former classmates whose contributions to the legal profession are well documented. These included former judges the Hon Graham Hill and the Hon David Hodgson who both died in recent weeks.

He also criticised his generation of law graduates, suggesting that they were too complacent about the state of the law in their youth.

“The great reproach to us, as lawyers, is that ...  we did not question the serious inequalities in the law faced by women; we did not castigate the lack of Aboriginal students and graduates amongst us; we never raised the denial of Aboriginal land rights, we did not challenge White Australia [and] we did not agitate for faster independence for colonial peoples,” he said.

“We did not – and I include myself – raise our voices for gay rights,” he continued. “Our discipline, our lecturers, our history and our legal philosophy mesmerised us into an unquestioning complacency.”

Kirby is optimistic, however, that current law students have adopted the fervor that may have been lacking among his classmates.

He is also encouraged by the higher number of women studying law today compared with his graduating class, which included only six women. Kirby pointed out that the law school did not have any female teachers and had never appointed a female dean when he attended university.

“Happily there has now been a woman as a dean of law,” he said, referring to Professor Gillian Triggs, who resigned as USYD law school dean in July to take the role of president of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Murray Gleeson, the eleventh Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, also spoke at the event on the broad topic of ‘change’. To illustrate the extent to which technology had advanced since 1962, he compared a former classmate’s tape recorder, which he described as “big as a small car”, to the small recording devices available today.

Kirby also commented on Cyril Feilich’s “huge tape recorder” that he used to record lectures, as well as the basic facilities at the old Phillip Street law school building in Sydney’s CBD.

“We enjoyed no palace of glass and modernity,” he said, referring to the new law school building at which the reunion was hosted.

Despite describing student facilities at Phillip Street as “next to invisible” and the law school library as “extremely crowded, dark ... and seriously overheated”, Kirby still believes his graduating class was privileged.

“Remembering these days of legal education is a pleasant experience ... we have been lucky," he said.

Like this story? Read more:

Book commemorates diamond milestone for WA law society

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

Kirby slams complacency at law school reunion
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
90 years Western Australia Law Society
06:03
Book commemorates diamond milestone for WA law society
Ninety years of Western Australia’s legal profession has been recorded in a special publication ce...
Dec 18 2017
Summer in the city
Across Australia, a number of law students have kicked off their commercial law aspirations with the...
microscope
Dec 18 2017
‘Exorbitant legal fees’ under government microscope
With the growing number of class action proceedings in Australia, the government is looking at how ...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...