It's 5.45 PM on a Wednesday, and I'm more than willing to embrace a bowl of hot noodles and overcooked eggs. However, I realise I'm already fifteen minutes late to an incredible opportunity facilitated by Gilbert + Tobin. Centre of Public Law. They hosted an incredible event called the Mason Conversation 2022. Did my soul leave my body knowing we could collectively attend a session with the incredible Former High Court (HC) Justice? It was undeniable, and I wasn't the only law student who was over the moon about it.
In the first year of law school, I was hell-bent on becoming a Judge, but I had no idea how to get there. Rumours swirled around the University about pouncing on coveted opportunities such as becoming a Judge's associate or ensuring that you secured a Clerkship to gain a competitive edge. (As if Law isn't already insanely competitive). But there's a tiny problem. It's been a few years later, and I still haven't exactly figured out how to get there. Although studying Constitutional Law has helped a lot (I'm looking at you, Attorney General), there are still some lingering questions I had for the Former HC Justice that were explored in the Zoom meeting.
However, it would be false to suggest that I asked these questions directly. Not only was I feeling rather sheepish amidst an icon, but I was also eagerly awaiting to ask a barrage of questions. The mix of excitement and anxiety was palpable. Admittedly, I am incredibly grateful to Professor Rosalind Dixon. She is a legend and an incredible legal force in her own right, and I loved absorbing all the questions she asked the former HC Justice. I have included some of my favourite questions that she asked below and Justice Murray Gleeson's answers.
How do you relate family life to professional life?
Former HC Justice Murray Gleeson stated that he didn't feel confident that he could fully appreciate the situation of young women with children practising at the bar and how they handle that balance. As a law student, I enjoyed this question and how his response implied that balancing competing priorities looks different for everyone.
When you were a Barrister, [which] cases that you remember and do you have a memory of them being distinctive in their rewards or challenges?
The former Justice mentioned dot briefs, where Barristers used to sit in Court, and the Bar had a system where they would assign young barristers to the defence of somebody. According to Murray Gleeson, dot briefs are no longer required. The case he mentioned was also interesting, whereby a man was accused of breaking into a dwelling and affirmed that he wasn't guilty because his alibi established that he was out in King's Cross with a woman who practised witchcraft. I've been studying law for a few years, and I have never lost my appreciation for how fascinating some cases are.
What advice do you have for Law students in 2022?
This is a question that I was eager to ask since law students have already experienced so much after the last two years, not to mention the pandemic or flash flooding or perhaps relocating overseas for both professional and personal reasons- what words of wisdom did he have in store for us? He stressed the importance of returning to face-to-face learning after we explored the lack of diversity on the High Court.
I found this advice oddly comforting. Since during the pandemic, I discovered that my initial enthusiasm for online learning began to wane substantially. Once I realised that my whole world had suddenly shifted to online learning, socialising and working, it was almost ironic how much I missed those small breaks or being able to talk to an actual person IRL.
I digress. I thank UNSW for facilitating such a meaningful conversation with the Former HC Justice Murray Gleeson. It's been a few days later, and I'm still fangirling. What questions would you like to ask a current or former HC Justice?
To view the entire webinar, see the video recording below