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Full Court ceremonial sitting for appointment of Senior Counsel

02 December 2016

Remarks of the Honourable Marilyn Warren AC Chief Justice of Victoria on the occasion of the announcement of the appointment of Senior Counsel of and for the State of Victoria on Friday 2 December 2016. 

Banco Court, Supreme Court of Victoria.

The Court acknowledges the traditional owners of the land on which the court sits today, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, we acknowledge their Elders past and present.

The Court also acknowledges the presence here today of the Honourable Justice Nettle of the High Court of Australia, judges of the Supreme Court, heads of jurisdiction and judges of other courts. The Court also acknowledges the presence of the Solicitor-General for the State and the Director of Public Prosecutions for the State, the President of the Law Institute of Victoria and the Honourable Susan Crennan and the Official Secretary to Her Excellency the Governor.

There are many family and non-lawyer friends of Senior Counsel here today. For them I will outline a little of what will happen.

It is an ancient ritual for the leader of the Bar to announce in a court presided over by the Chief Justice the new Senior Counsel who have been appointed to the inner Bar.

The ritual will proceed in a moment when I call upon the President of the Victorian Bar to announce the new Senior Counsel for 2016. They will be announced in order of seniority. That is resolved by the date of admission as a lawyer. When called each new Senior Counsel will stand and the Court will acknowledge them. Once the announcements are over then I will speak to the new Senior Counsel.

The sitting today is being podcast for those who could not be here. It will then be available on the Supreme Court website (External link) for all to see.   

The bench today represents all the jurisdictions of the Supreme Court – the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Maxwell, the Principal Judges of the Commercial Court, Justice Hargrave, the Common Law Division, Justice Jack Forrest and the Criminal Division, Justice Lasry. The presence of the cross-representative bench is reflected at the Bar table by the leaders of the Common Law, Criminal and Commercial Bar Associations. Today the Courts, the Bar and the profession come to acknowledge the new Senior Counsel for Victoria.

The Senior Counsel group appointed are critical to the administration of justice. They also provide the major recruitment pool for appointment to the courts. The responsibility of appointment is substantial. However, it is made so much easier by the support of the Victorian Bar’s Preliminary Evaluation Committee chaired by the Honourable Stephen Charles to whom I am most grateful for his wise counsel and assistance. I am also supported by the judges of the Supreme Court and, indeed, the wider judiciary and legal profession because of the vital significance of the appointments of Senior Counsel of and for the State of Victoria to the administration of justice.

Taking Silk is, for most advocates, the zenith of their legal career.

It is a time of many congratulations and much celebration. Each member of the Bench remembers the time well of our individual appointment as Senior Counsel and with immense joy. So I will come to the point immediately – what does becoming Silk mean? I will now speak directly to the new Senior Counsel.

  1. You are a leader chosen from a large number of applicants, 81, selected as one of the best in your field who can match, surpass the performance of most others.
  2. You are an expert advocate who will present well prepared cases, be succinct and demonstrate excellent knowledge of the law.
  3. You are an individual who is fearless, courageous, strong and resilient yet exemplary in your respect and courtesy to the court (whether it be the Magistrates’ Court at Broadmeadows or the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court).
  4. You are one who takes immense pride in the quality of your work and who is ambitious, seeking to represent your clients to the best of your ability.
  5. You are a person of impeccable integrity, trusted, respected and admired by Bar colleagues, the legal profession and, importantly, the judiciary.   
  6. You are committed to justice and the rule of law, demonstrated by your commitment to the Victorian Bar and the Bar’s pro bono work.

So far I suspect I have described the perfect Silk. The fact is no one can perform perfectly all the time. To the new Senior Counsel I say this, the performance of a Senior Counsel develops, grows, refines and matures. You will not be a great Victorian Silk yet but you are well on the way.

May I give you three tips:

First, give your work your personal stamp of which you are proud – it is your personal trademark.

Secondly, look after yourself physically and mentally – without your health you will find it hard to succeed.

Thirdly, acknowledge, celebrate and look after your family – they are the ones who supported you in achieving your success.

One last thing I omitted to mention to the new Silks. Remember that you are the future of the Victorian Bar. Lead well and wear your rosette confidently.

We extend our warm congratulations to the new Silks. We look forward to seeing them and meeting their family and friends in one of Victoria’s most beautiful spaces, the Supreme Court Library.

Click here to view webcast (External link)

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