Solicitors become pawn stars

04 March 2012 By Lawyers Weekly

A team of solicitors defeated lawyers representing the bar and bench in a keenly contested legal chess challenge last night (30 November). Lawyers faced off across the chess board over 18 singles…

A team of solicitors defeated lawyers representing the bar and bench in a keenly contested legal chess challenge last night (30 November).

Lawyers faced off across the chess board over 18 singles matches in the Sydney digs of Allens Arthur Robinson, with the solicitors gaining a narrow 10 games to eight victory to retain the Terrie Shaw Memorial Shield.

Last night's legal grudge match was the latest battle in a long simmering chess war between opposite sides of the legal profession.


The first match was held in 1993, with the annual chess challenge being named after barrister and chess Olympian Terrie Shaw in 1998 after his untimely death from cancer the year before at age 51.

Although the bar and bench team had the upper hand in the early days of the competition, winning the first five contests, the solicitors team has fared well recently, winning the last two tournaments.

The captain of the solicitors team, sole family law pracitioner Chris Dimock, said this year's location in the Allens boardroom, with sweeping views of Sydney Harbour, worked to his team's advantage.

"When I set up the boards, I take care to ensure the solicitors have their backs turned to the view, so they are not distracted," he told Folklaw. "It seemed to work last night."

Dimock, the who plays regularly as he is also the captain of the Harbord Diggers Chess Club, said it is the level of camaraderie that exists amongst the legal chess players that makes the evening as much a social event as a competitive one.

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"Last night I was facing off against an opponent for one-and-a-half hours, not talking to him," he said. "When the game is over, it is nice to talk about the game over a glass of red."

While the event used to be hosted on a rotational basis, it has now found a permanent home at Allens.

Allens litigation partner Malcolm Stephens, who recently acted pro bono for a group of Malaysian refugees in the High Court case that helped to scuttle offshore processing in Australia, played in the first contest in 1993 when he was a paralegal with the firm. He said there is some overlap between the practice of law and chess.

"As a chess player you need to be objective - you need to understand what the other person is doing as much as what you are doing," he said. "This is true in law as well as in negotiation and litigation."

In addition to Stephens, Allens taxation partner Adrian Chek also played for the solicitors side last night. The solicitors team also included lawyers from Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Minter Ellison, Kelly & Co and in-house lawyers from KPMG and the Attorney-General's Department.

The solicitors also included a retired lawyer, which shows there is also a certain degree of skullduggery to the proceedings.

"That is an indication that it is not an event where the rules of law are applied rigorously, as over the years, I think both teams have been allowed ring-ins," said Dimock. "But there needs to be some connection with the bar or with solicitors."

Dimock refused to reveal whether any law firms or barristers chambers have recently opened up senior associate positions to Russian chess playing lawyers to bolster this year's ranks.

The bar and bench chess elite, captained by barrister Rob Colquhoun, featured Stephen Epstein SC, Federal Court Justice Steven Rares, who went down in a tight tussle in his context, and a number of junior barristers.

Last night's proceeding commenced with a tribute to the late Family Court Justice John Purdy, who died in August. Justice Purdy was an Australian chess champion in 1955 and 1963, and a stalwart of the bar and bench team for many years.

Solicitors become pawn stars
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