The Great Debate: barristers vs solicitors

27 April 2015 By Paris Maggs
great debate

Practitioners came out in force this year to hear some of the profession’s youngest and brightest battle it out in response to this year’s Great Debate topic, ‘Twitter, Facebook, Google: The internet is a lawyer’s best friend’.

The NSW Young Lawyers’ Civil Litigation Committee annual Great Debate, hosted by Norton Rose Fulbright and Legal Personnel, attracted more than 100 people from across the profession.

What ensued was a battle of epic proportions, where the long-held grudge between barristers and solicitors finally reached its pinnacle.

The solicitors, on the affirmative, were represented by David Rofe, solicitor at Wilshire Webb Staunton Beattie; Breannon Bailey, a recent university graduate and paralegal at Vardanega Roberts Solicitors; and Craig Holland, solicitor at CBP Lawyers.


On the negative team were the barristers, represented by Catherin Lin, from Trust Chambers; Wai Kaey Soon, from Frederick Jordan Chambers; and Peter Godkin, from Windeyer Chambers.

The judges were Simon Johnson, partner at Norton Rose Fulbright and David Talintyre, barrister of Level 22 Chambers.

The solicitors opened with Mr Rofe, who set the tone for the evening early in his speech, dubbing his learned friends intellectual “escorts”.

Mr Rofe claimed the internet was a lawyer’s best friend because it helped the profession source work. Much like ladies (and gents) of the night, there was practically nothing a junior barrister or reader would not do at the start of their career.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Rofe drew inferences from Fifty Shades of Grey when considering the NSW Bar Association’s motto, “Servants of all, yet of none” on the website.

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The barristers’ team opened their case with Ms Lin noting that a best friend would not subject someone to rating methods such as those employed by ‘’ (yes, an actual website). She also stated no best friend would judge you by your looks.

Her wining argument, however, was that the internet could never compare to a comforting glass of wine at the end of the day, a sentiment that was met with fervent agreement among attendees. Members of the audience were spotted nodding while clinging to their alcoholic refreshments.

The solicitors retorted that the internet provides many more comforts than the barristers team led the audience to believe. Ms Bailey announced that LinkedIn was in fact the new Tinder for young lawyers looking for love and that endorsements were the new “swipe right”. Ms Bailey’s comments must have rung true; younger professionals were seen logging in to LinkedIn before the night was over.

Mr Soon from the barristers’ team indulged in a few gratuitous attacks on the opposing team, insisting that his non-specific friends to his left (the solicitors) had been misled and that the internet was a fad. Adjudicator Mr Talintyre later cautioned Mr Soon, stating that he should remember where his work comes from.

Mr Holland concluded the solicitors’ case stating that Twitter, Facebook and Google were akin to introverts, extroverts and perverts, and that the internet was like a best friend in more ways than one. Like a best friend it supported you, covered for you when handing in late documents and was there for you on the lonely nights when a lawyer begins to realise that the only partner they are in a relationship with is the one in the corner office.

Mr Godkin wrapped up the debate for the barristers team, arguing that ignorance is bliss and that the internet only serves to inform us of our own unimportance. Surfing the web can only lead lawyers to the resounding conclusion that they are in fact the least interesting person on the internet.

The debate was awarded in favour of the solicitors for their informative arguments and entertainment value. Mr Talintyre provided a good roasting of all the speakers at the end of the night, but also commended them on their humorous and at times thought-provoking commentary. Mr Soon was awarded best speaker for his eloquent speech and strong finish.

Paris Maggs is a paralegal, tax and commercial litigation at Sutton Douglass Lawyers.

The Great Debate: barristers vs solicitors
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