Held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, senior partners shared volovants and French champagne with some of Australia's emerging young legal talent as the best of the legal profession was celebrated across 10 broad categories.
Kicking off proceedings was the College of Law - Law Student of the Year Award. Clare McKay from the University of Western Australia received the prize, a fantastic fillip for the young student before she starts an associate appointment with Justice Susan Crennan of the High Court of Australia.
Another young lawyer to watch is Fergus Green from Allens Arthur Robinson, who took out the Michael Page Young Gun Award. In less than two years with the firm, the environmental law specialist has already been sounded out to give regular presentations to staff and clients and attended the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference where he represented small Pacific Island states. Unlike an emissions trading scheme in Australia, Green's legal career is up and running and gaining momentum.
One of the evening's highlights was the awarding of the Salvation Army Pro Bono Initiative Award. Bill McCredie, a partner with Allens Arthur Robinson, was chosen from a strong field that included Annette Bain from the Freehills Foundation and Minter Ellison's SA/NT Housing Legal Clinic program. Allens provided pro bono advice to the Nambucca Heads Local Aboriginal Land Council in negotiations with the NSW Government to establish an Aboriginal-owned National Park.
|Norton Rose's John Sharkey, right, accepts the Ranstad Legal Life Achievement award from Kirsty Spears, Manager of Randstad Legal New Zealand, at the 2010 Lawyers Weekly Icon Awards in Sydney.|
The e.law Asia Pacific Box Breaker of the Year Award recognises diversity and innovation within the broad legal community. Martijn Wilder, the head of Global Environmental Markets at Baker & McKenzie and John Ridgway, a partner with PLN Lawyers and managing partner with the Pacific Legal Network shared the award. Wilder has built Bakers' environmental and climate change group to leave it entrenched as one of the Asia-Pacific's most outstanding teams in this important and growing field, while Ridgway has established a coordinated legal services group across many jurisdictions that has helped PLN expand its gross exports by 300 per cent over the last four years.
The contribution of the essential and varying work of practice managers was acknowledged with the e.law Asia Pacific Practice Manager of the Year prize. Bronwyn Pott, the chief executive officer of Swaab Attorneys received the ultimate accolade. Pott has overseen the creation of an intranet "firm hub" to assist communications and contributed to the whole legal profession by helping to develop a Diploma of Practice management.
Kate Rimer, the executive director, people and development, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, picked up The Integrity Legal Talent Manager of the Year Award. Over the last 12 months Rimer has been instrumental in a number of key initiatives at the firm, including the establishment of an international graduate program and a partner feedback system which has seen the vast majority of partners at Mallesons receive qualitative feedback from a team of 12 peers.
The blue ribbon award for the commercial lawyers in the room was the Charterhouse Partnership Deal Maker of the Year Award. With the four finalists selected having acted on a multitude of billion dollar capital markets work or commercial transactions, this was always going to be an award the judges would find tough to adjudicate. Tony Damian from Freehills was judged as the winner, with Joshua Cole from Mallesons receiving the highly commended award. Damian has chalked up the frequent flyer points and ran his blackberry into the ground as he has criss-crossed the globe acting on some of Asia's biggest deals in the last 12 months. The $8 billion merger between the Eldorado Gold Mining Corporation and Sino Gold Mining Ltd, Australia's largest scrip M&A deal of 2009 was a standout transaction he acted on.
The last two awards of the evening recognised the contribution of senior figures in the legal profession.
The First Law International Managing Partner of the Year Award saw attendees temporarily put down their champagne flutes and duck pancakes to congratulate Danny Gilbert on receiving the prize. It has been a big 12 months for the head of the expanding Gilbert + Tobin, with revenue growing as the firm branched out to establish a Melbourne base and an alliance with the Perth firm Blakiston & Crabb. Sharon Cook, the managing partner at Henry Davis York, received a highly commended award. Cook has presided over record revenue figures for the firm while showing strong and innovative leadership by promoting non-lawyers to senior management roles and championing sustainability at the firm, with HDY the only law firm listed on the CSR index.
How could you pick a winner in the Randstad Life Achievement Award? The four finalists, John Sharkey, head of construction and engineering at Norton Rose, Frank Zipfinger, partner and chairman of Mallesons in the Community, Bob Baxt, a leading legal academic and partner at Freehills and Danny Gilbert have a combined total of more than 100 years of legal experience and a list of achievements that would make each a deserving winner.
The judges chose John Sharkey to receive the award. With almost 40 years as a partner with Norton Rose, Sharkey is recognised as one of the nation's leading construction lawyers and has been a mentor to hundreds of charges at Norton Rose. In accepting the prize, Sharkey thanked all at the firm and dedicated the award to his family in a speech that left many visibly moved.
The Life Achievement Award was a fitting note to conclude proceedings. With so much talent and diversity within the legal profession, the Lawyers Weekly Icon Awards stand as a reminder that the achievements of those involved in this profession deserved to be celebrated and highlighted.
- Justin Whealing
Read more on the winners of the 2010 Lawyers Weekly Icon Awards: