Sir Laurence Street took out the top honour at the 2011 Lawyers Weekly Awards, sponsored by Bentley Motors, as recipient of the Bentley Motors Lifetime Achievement Award, accepting the award at a gala ceremony at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday night.
In order to make this process as open and transparent as possible, while still ensuring the selection of a candidate who is acknowledged throughout the profession as a leading legal luminary, it was decided that the award would be open to outstanding members of the profession who have been profiled as a Legal Leader over the past 12 months in Lawyers Weekly.
Undoubtedly a deserving winner of such an award, there are few lawyers who can boast as distinguished a career as Sir Laurence Street, the third Chief Justice of NSW in his family.
After studying law at Sydney University following service in the Royal Australian Navy in World War Two, Sir Laurence was admitted as a barrister in 1951 and appointed a judge of the NSW Supreme Court in the Equity Division in 1965 before serving 14 years as the Chief Justice from 1974 to 1988.
Since then Sir Laurence has acted as a mediator, overseeing the settlement of more than 1500 commercial disputes, presided over a number of commissions and inquiries and held positions as varied as president of St John Ambulance Australia (NSW), world president of the International Law Association, chairman of John Fairfax Holdings and the Australian member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation Arbitration Consultative Commission.
During his 23 years as a NSW Supreme Court judge, Sir Laurence certainly presided over some major cases, including the 1983 Royal Commission into claims that Neville Wran, then the Premier of NSW, had improperly influenced the magistracy.
Two notable commissions of inquiry that Sir Laurence held recently include what was dubbed the "Street Inquiry", established by the Australian Federal Police in 2007 to review its counter-terrorism operations, and an inquiry that Sir Laurence headed at the behest of the Queensland Government into the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee, an Aboriginal man that died in police custody on Palm Island in 2004.
Sir Laurence has had a long interest in Aboriginal issues, with his mother Jessie Street a long-term campaigner for Aboriginal rights and Sir Laurence doing pro bono work in the area of Aboriginal land rights.
In his work as a commercial mediator, he negotiated a settlement between the British National History Museum and Indigenous groups to return the remains of 17 Aboriginal persons to the Tasmania Aboriginal Centre in late 2006.
He is still a practising mediator and continues to act as an ADR consultant for the Defence Legal Office and a mediator for the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
|Retired NSW Supreme Court judge Sir Laurence Street accepts his Life Achievement Award at the 2011 Lawyers Weekly Awards held at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday night.|
Read our March 2011 interview with Sir Laurence:
Read the full details of each of the winners & finalists for each award: