Sydney-based Jane Needham SC beat high-profile barristers from Albert Wolff Chambers in Perth and Foley’s List in Melbourne to be named the category’s winner at the Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards on Friday night (26 July).
Needham is a sought-after practitioner in equity, revenue and succession law, appearing in the first Court of Appeal case on provision under the Succession Act. She is also senior vice president of the NSW Bar Association and a director of the Law Council of Australia.
The highly-respected silk could not attend the Awards due to work commitments, but told Lawyers Weekly that she has been inundated with well wishes since the announcement.
“Peer recognition is always the best kind ... one does what one does and it always causes a moment of reflection when other people appreciate it,” she said.
One of the congratulatory notes came from Australian Women Lawyers president Kate Ashmor, one of a number of senior legal figures at the function. She tweeted: “Jane Needham SC, you have just won the Senior Barrister Award at the 2013 Lawyers Weekly Law Awards, Mazel Tov”.
Needham, who is the founding member of 13th Floor St James Hall Chambers, is a mother of three and has actively role-modelled and supported flexible work practices. She has also been a spokesperson for women in the profession at industry events and through the media.
Reflecting on her involvement with industry bodies, particularly the NSW Bar Association, Needham said: “I feel that I have been a part [of] the greater recognition of the role of women in the association and will be proud to be its president – if I make it that far – to continue the journey to equal participation, recognition and reward for all members.”
Another issue that Needham is putting her efforts behind is technology use at the Bar.
“Technology is changing so quickly that anyone who does not keep up will be left behind,” she said. “It’s no longer enough to have an email address checked occasionally by your personal assistant; a barrister now needs to have the ability to use technology from texting or emailing in court – we need an etiquette for this – to familiarity with substantial databases and cloud storage.”
Needham explained how technology is being used in the Special Commission of Inquiry into matters relating to the police investigation of certain child sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, which involves documentation dating back to 1949.
“The documents increase in length and complexity with each decade,” she said.
“Almost every barrister has a wirelessly connected laptop and communications ... documents are served electronically, and my team is updating documents in the cloud as the evidence unfolds.
“It would be very easy to be overwhelmed if one were not on top of the technology.”