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I want your job: Q&A with Michael Gleeson, Barrister

Michael Gleeson, Barrister

Michael Gleeson has a pretty interesting backstory. Originally from Manchester, Michael is qualified as a barrister in both England and Australia. He took some time out from his hectic schedule to chat with me about his incredible career…

So first things first: where did it all begin?

I was born in the beautiful city of Manchester and spent most of my early childhood there. I left Manchester to study Politics at the University of Wales before returning to Manchester to complete my one-year law degree (Common Professional Exam). After passing this I returned to Cardiff to study the Bar Vocational Course. Unlike here in NSW law graduates are encouraged to choose which side of the legal profession they wish to practice in at an early stage.

What made you want to get into the legal profession?

I undertook some work experience with Greater Manchester Police when I was 15. One of my days involved following a Detective Constable to the Crown Court as he was due to give evidence in a rape trial. I was blown over by the whole experience but it was the eloquence in which the funny men in wigs argued their respective cases which left a lasting impression on me.

Did you always want to be a barrister, or did that come along later?

I grew up in a tough area of Manchester and was told by my careers teacher that boys from Longsight did not become Barristers. That was like a red rag to a bull and I set about gaining the qualifications required.

What prompted the move out to Australia?

In 2008 I was cycling in the mountains of Tuscany when I met my Australian partner. The rest is history as they say! I took a huge leap of faith and emigrated in 2009.

I bet you had no idea that Gleeson would be such a significant legal name in Australia! How did you go about starting to practice law in the Land Down Under?

First hurdle to overcome was to get qualified. This involved sitting a number of undergraduate subjects as part of the LPAB. The pain of having to go back to school was eased by a wonderful year spent at Sydney University. After the LPAB was completed I sat two Bar Exams and was admitted in May 2010. It took me just over a year to qualify. I continue to practice from the UK. I guess I’m now an International Barrister!

Can you describe what a typical day in the life of Michael Gleeson involves?

I try to get into my chambers in Sydney at 8.30am (although I’m receiving emails and phone calls from around 6am). This usually depends on what I’m doing that particular day. If I’m fortunate enough to be in Court I’ll drop my son off at childcare in the CBD and head straight to Court. If I’m in the CBD I’ll pop in to chambers after Court and prepare for the next day or have a conference with my instructing solicitor. If I’m involved in a lengthy trial I usually take work home with me.

What’s your favourite part of being a lawyer?

I love being in Court and putting my Client’s case before a Jury.

Have you encountered any hurdles during your career? If so, how did you overcome these?

I was told I would not become a Barrister when I was 15; thankfully I ignored this advice and ploughed on. It has been a difficult transition to the NSW Bar but things are improving. I hope to start utilising my international qualifications in the near future.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a lawyer?

Very poor professional Triathlete!

Would you change anything, or do anything differently, if you had the chance to do it all over again?

I’m pretty happy with my lot. I’m proud to have qualified and practised in two distinct jurisdictions. The future is exciting and I’m keen to explore the possibility of developing an international practice. Living and working between Sydney and London would be incredible!

If you could give your younger, law student-self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Ignore negativity and work out what are your strengths and weaknesses and then improve on them.

And finally, there seems to be a bit of a tea versus coffee debate amongst the Survive Law crowd. Which side of the debate do you fall on?

Coffee up to 12pm, then tea in the afternoon. I’m very English!

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