HIGH COURT Justice Michael Kirby was among the distinguished members of Hicksons Lawyers’ alumni gala dinner at the Hilton Hotel last week.
The evening was opened by Hicksons’ senior partner Alan Blanch, as guests — current and former Hicksons staff — sat down to a hearty three-course meal.
Speakers on the night were Michael Kirby, his younger brother, Supreme Court Justice David Kirby, James Poulos QC and the firm’s managing partner, John Markos.
The ever-eloquent Justice Kirby — who was a partner of Hicksons for four years between 1963 and 1967 — didn’t disappoint. He gave an insightful account of his memories and lessons learned from his time at the firm.
But perhaps the highlight of the night was Justice David Kirby, who delivered a highly entertaining, tongue-in-cheek account of the experience of being Michael Kirby’s younger brother.
Justice David Kirby, who was a partner at Hicksons for two years between 1967 and 1969, said that he was truly chuffed to have been invited to the event and he had never before shared the same platform as his older brother.
In fact, David said, he and his family had always considered themselves to be Michael’s support group — supporting and encouraging him from the sidelines.
“Not that he needed much encouragement,” David joked. “In the gene allocation of the Kirby family, Michael has been allocated the complete show-off gene. He has a speech for every occasion.”
Both David and Michael attended Fort Street High school, but according to David, Michael was by far the more driven of the two. Michael required David to submit regular essays to him, and he even embarked on a five-year campaign to make David a school prefect.
“He had ambitions for me, which was lucky, because I had none for myself,” David said. “That’s another part of the gene allocation.”
He’s no doubt being overly modest, because in 1998 David was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court — an appointment most would consider a very significant achievement.
The appointment came just two years after David moved from the Supreme Court to the High Court, and Michael proudly passed down his Supreme Court robes to David.
“It was then that I realised nothing had changed. I was still wearing his clothes and I was still passing my essays up the ladder to him,” David said.
David recalled a recent incident where he went to pick up his dry cleaning and the person behind the counter asked him if he was related to “Justice Kirby”. David — familiar with the question — said that he was, but when he walked away it dawned on him: “Hang on, I am Justice Kirby!”
On this note, David joked that he was looking forward to his brother’s retirement next year, when Michael will enter into “years of obscurity”. “Then I will finally become the one and only Justice Kirby,” he said.