2016 Annual Justice Speech presented by the Honourable Justice Chris Maxwell, President of the Victorian Court of Appeal

On Wednesday 10 August 2016 the La Trobe Law School in collaboration with Leo Cussen Centre for Law was proud to host the Annual Justice Speech. This year, the speech was delivered by the Honourable Justice Chris Maxwell, President of the Victorian Court of Appeal.

The Honourable Justice Christopher Maxwell (BA (Hons), LLB (Melbourne), BPhil (Oxon) is the President of the Court of Appeal of the Victorian Supreme Court. His Honour acted as the Victorian Legal Aid Commissioner for seven years and was a member of the Board of Liberty Victoria for six years, two of them as President.

Justice Maxwell spoke broadly about his somewhat accidental path to becoming a judge, but always found solace in the fact that law in action was satisfying, which is why he has become a strong advocate for clinical legal education.

His Honour advised those present that “your written work is your calling card” meaning that the language you use when making written submissions in court can be very influential in the hearing of the case. Justices generally develop some views from the written arguments that you submit as a lawyer and therefore it is important that “every word earns its place”. This not only applies in court but also can be transferred to law school, sometimes it is more effective to be succinct in a law essay and make your point briefly and clearly, even though this is a skill that takes time and practice to develop.

When making reference to doing things accidentally, Justice Maxwell stressed the importance of embracing every opportunity that is thrown your way and understand that the skills you are acquiring in law school or through PLT are precious. His Honour commented that it is quite difficult to predict where your legal career will take you and that you may end up somewhere that you didn’t ever think was a possibility for you. Accordingly, Justice Maxwell asserted that students and practitioners alike should be courageous, show adaptability and keep at the law before you decide to give up on it if it isn’t going the way you planned.

His Honour Justice Maxwell then took questions from the floor with respect to how students can get involved with law reform, made comments about the lack of procedural fairness afforded to members of our society, spoke about the validity of trial by jury.

Professor Patrick Keyzer, Head of La Trobe Law School, thanked his Honour Justice Maxwell and commented on his Honour’s contribution to clinical legal education, law reform and his judgements on human rights issues. Professor Keyzer then went on to speak about the impact that Justice Maxwell had on the curriculum in Australian law schools, particularly the importance of making sure that statutory interpretation was included as a core subject within a law school curriculum. It was noted that La Trobe Law School was the first law school to implement statutory interpretation as a compulsory subject for students based on Justice Maxwell and indeed Chief Justice Warren’s recommendations that students should receive training in statutory interpretation. Their Honours asserted that law schools need to make sure that students learn the skills of statutory interpretation if they are to be good lawyers.

The La Trobe Law School would like to warmly thank His Honour Justice Chris Maxwell for providing both an insightful and authentic Annual Justice Speech for 2016.

La Trobe