La Trobe University students hear from Court of Appeal justices in Bendigo

Students from La Trobe University have had the opportunity to hear two Victorian Court of Appeal judges speak on their own careers and their advice for aspiring lawyers.

Justices Pamela Tate and Kim Hargrave spoke to the small group of students at Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday while in the city on the Court of Appeal’s regional circuit.

When it came to advice for the students, Justice Tate said it was valuable to find subjects they responded to best, listing administrative law as one area that she had found a strong interest in.

Justice Hargrave said it was good to look out for what they were interested in, but also urged them to keep an open mind.

He also said they should keep an eye out for mentors and people willing to help them, and suggested that becoming a judge’s associate was “a very good idea”.

Associates work closely with judges and assist them with a range of duties, ranging from administrative tasks to research.

Judge Tate reminded the students that as lawyers, their intention was to persuade.

“You want to make sure as an advocate the court is looking your way in terms of its interest and in terms of its assessment of who has the better case,” she said.

Justice Hargrave also reminded them to maintain their integrity, noting that yes, a lawyer had their client’s interests in mind, but the aim was to conduct a fair trial.

The value of hard work and preparation was another point highlighted by the judges.

One person asked the judges how they kept their personal judgement separated in the courtroom.

Justice Tate said going through such rigours was part of the process, and while moral judgement would play a part when assessing criminal culpability, a judge had to take into account the whole of the circumstances.

Justice Hargrave added that there were cases where one would hold sympathy for one party, and occasionally, the law would not always allow that person to succeed.

There was no one stage of their careers they enjoyed the most, instead saying the excitement of each new step had been enjoyable.

The students learnt Justice Tate became an associate to a High Court judge before she joined the bar, then became a Queen’s Counsel.

She went on to become Victoria’s Solicitor-General – “that was a fascinating time”, she said – before she was appointed a judge of the Court of Appeal in 2010.

Justice Hargrave described his path through law as a “linear, old-fashioned legal career” – he knew he wanted to be a lawyer from the beginning, so after university became a solicitor, then barrister, a QC and ultimately a judge.

While in Bendigo, Justices Tate and Hargrave also met with Bendigo Senior Secondary Students and staff of the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre.

They heard two appeal matters, including one involving a man convicted on child exploitation material charges.

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