The Honourable Judge Irene Lawson

Photo Biennial conference

When did you know that you wanted to be a lawyer?

My life in the law started serendipitously. I was in the foundation year of a new senior secondary college located in Broadmeadows. Legal Studies was offered as a subject for the first time and I thought it may interest me. This was during the Whitlam years and was at a time of great social change. Legal aid had been introduced as a national scheme and I wanted to find out more about the legal system. I loved the subject and it was the start of a long, interesting and varied career.

If you could only give one bit of advice to new lawyers, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges. Whenever I have been “stretched” as a lawyer has resulted in gaining greater experience and expertise. Don’t be afraid to ask questions no matter how basic they may be. Legal professionals are generally very supportive of new comers.

What makes a lawyer a great lawyer?

Being honest and reliable. Your integrity is your best asset. It is important to always be frank and honest in your dealings.

What would you say are the hazards of this profession?

Ignoring your life outside the law. It is very easy to get caught up in your work especially when you are involved in trials or long running disputes. Always take time out to pause. Walk, ride a bike, go bush, see a movie, swim or do whatever you can to have a break.

What is your best tip for maintaining sanity in the law?

See above.

What will the legal profession look like in twenty five years time?

There will always be the necessity for people to advocate on behalf of those who do not have the life skills to negotiate life’s complexities. I see the ongoing need for professional advocates who are responsive and clear communicators.

How can one distinguish themselves as a legal professional?

By being open to exploring new challenges and continually developing your skills. This is an area where you never stop learning. Enjoy the ride.

Her Honour was appointed to the County Court in 2002. Prior to her appointment she was a Partner at Slater & Gordon where she specialised in civil litigation primarily medical negligence litigation. In 1999 she became an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law of the Law Institute of Victoria. Her practice covered the breadth of litigation involved in medical negligence from birth trauma litigation to nervous shock claims. She was actively involved in responding to various public inquiries relating to the provision of professional indemnity insurance and medical negligence issues.

Her past Directorship roles include the University of Melbourne Council (2001-2012), the Global Learning Village Advisory Board (2003-2012), Melbourne University Law School Foundation and a number of community based organisations.

Her Honour is pictured here with her husband of 35 years, Crown Prosecutor, Brendan Kissane QC.