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Juniors punching above their weight

Two accomplished women from the Victorian Bar are finalists for this year’s Junior Counsel Award, sponsored by Sheahan Lock Partners.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 08 October 2014 The Bar
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Two accomplished women from the Victorian Bar are finalists this year’s Junior Counsel Award, sponsored by Sheahan Lock Partners.

Clare Exell (pictured right), who has been a barrister at the Victorian Bar for a year and a half, said she was absolutely surprised to be nominated for the award.

“People put a lot of effort into the awards and it’s obviously a great thing for recognition for women in the law,” Clare told Lawyers Weekly.


The nomination comes at a time when Clare was involved in a case with AGL Energy, a case that made her proud.

She appeared for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in the case of AGL’s application to the Australian Competition Tribunal for authorisation of its proposed acquisition of Macquarie Generation. The Tribunal had to be convinced that the acquisition would benefit the public.

Clare appeared with Charles Scerri QC and Nick De Young for the ACCC, which had to make inquiries, call and examine witnesses, and compile a report for the Tribunal.

“That was an intense piece of work that we worked really hard on in a short space of time,” Clare said.

“Certainly the statutory timeframe is challenging and a lot of work needed to be done very quickly in order for the position to be taken forward at court and it required intense concentration and team work amongst all the lawyers and counsels involved.”

Since joining the Bar, Clare has also appeared at many other Supreme Court of Victoria applications and injunctions in relation to commercial, insolvency and property matters.

Before working in London for a short time, Clare was a senior associate at Gadens Lawyers Melbourne, where she was into commercial litigation and dealt with contractual, negligence, trade practices, and insurance and financial services disputes in the Federal, Supreme and County Courts.

“In a very short time at the Bar Clare has established herself as a very competent and in demand commercial junior,” Victoria Bar barrister Caroline Kenny QC said of Clare.

Sharon-Burchell.jpgAccompanying Clare in the category is fellow Victorian Bar barrister Sharon Burchell (pictured left), who has been at the Bar for 10 years.

She is known for the diverse cases she has handled, including acting as junior counsel on behalf of mine operators in the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry in Latrobe Valley, Victoria. The case is being led by Bernard Teague, who was formerly a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Following a fire in the mine from 9 February this year, which took 45 days to bring under control, Premier of Victoria Denis Napthine announced an independent inquiry into the incident on 11 March, including the emergency response and the support received by the residents in the township of Morwell. 

Sharon also acted as junior counsel for Telstra in a misleading advertising case in February, where Telstra accused Optus of misleading online and television advertisements, which claimed there were hardly any differences between the companies’ mobile networks.

Telstra won the case, with the judge ruling Optus deceived the public when it claimed there was less than 1 per cent difference when it came to the reach of the two mobile networks.

The Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards will be held at Melbourne’s Langham Hotel on Friday 17 October. You can purchase tickets here.