When did you know that you wanted to be a lawyer?
Strangely enough I worked out that I wanted to be a criminal law barrister when I started a part-time casual university job at a firm of criminal solicitors doing the bookkeeping. Strange because most of the work involved trying to work out balances owed to barristers!! It was really cool though in those days to see lawyers dressed in jeans and with long hair doing really interesting cases. There were huge drug busts, helicopter escapes, fires in prison, death and mayhem.
What attracts you most to Law?
The ability to stand between the state and the individual, and to really be a part of ensuring freedom from the oppression of an overly enthusiastic and didactic state. Being a barrister allows me to be part of what makes our society truly free.
What are your passions outside of the law?
Walking, travel, technology, footy, golf, doing very little.
If you had your time again, would you choose to practise in law? If not, what else would you choose to do?
I made the right choice – I could keep working forever – my friend Maitland Lincoln died a few months ago aged 77. He was in chambers to the end and loved working – he inspired me – if you love what you do why stop doing it?
What was the single moment, case or event that you feel defined you as a lawyer?
There are many moments that define me as a lawyer. Every time a client goes to jail I wonder whether there was any other choice. Could something have been done to stop this happening? Was there anything I could have done? What happened to my client that started them down the slippery slide? Why spend over $100 000 per year on a jail bed when for much less money we could invest in community corrections, education, social support and other much more effective strategies? Or is this client just bad? Is he just one of the ones that needs to be warehoused to keep us all safe?
If you could only give one bit of advice to new lawyers, what would it be?
When you stop caring and you lose interest maybe its time to do something else. Lawyers who are in it just for the money need to be very cautious – we are dealing with people’s lives and we should care.
What makes a lawyer a ‘great lawyer’?
Intuition, hard work, attention to detail, flexibility and humanity.
A lawyer, a priest and a classicist walk into a bar. What does the lawyer say and why?
“Its my shout – what’s your choice of poison?”
Nick Papas SC is a barrister practising in Criminal law matters. Nick was Victorian Chief Magistrate for 3 years (from 1993 until 1996) when he resigned and returned to life at the Bar. Nick tried his hand at radio for a while on 3AW and on 3AK as a presenter. Nick currently appears both to prosecute and defend cases in Victoria.