The subject of this month’s feature is no stranger to the profession; particularly in relation to legal disruption, innovation and the future of legal practice.
Which is why, amidst the challenges and adversity facing practitioners, I spoke with Angus Murray.
Angus Murray is a partner at Irish Bentley Lawyers, a sessional academic at the University of Southern Queensland (teaching LAW3481 – Emerging Legal Tech Practice) and the Queensland University of Technology (teaching LWN409 – Trade Mark Practice), the Junior Vice President of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, the Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia’s Policy and Research Committee and a member of the Queensland Law Society Innovation Committee, but perhaps most famously – a co-founder and director of The Legal Forecast.
SD: Angus, thank you for agreeing to be the subject of this month’s feature! You have a fair bit of involvement with QLS and the wider legal profession; would you mind telling our readers about yourself and your journey?
AM: I appreciate your invitation and it’s been, and continues to be, an interesting journey! I credit my journey into the legal profession to a conversation I had with my late-grandmother in England when I was 12 years old. Although time may have distorted the memory of the conversation, the essence was that a career where I could engage in meaningful argument and affect change appealed to me, and I still stand working towards that goal.
As the first step in the journey to where I am currently, I enrolled in the first cohort of the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in Toowoomba and I was fortunate to be able to be involved with the foundation of the USQ Law Society. During my undergraduate studies, I worked as a paralegal at Cleary & Lee Solicitors in Toowoomba, which gave me an earlier insight into legal practice and contextualised much of my undergraduate degree.
When I graduated my undergraduate degree, I took the bold step of moving to Stockholm, Sweden, to complete a Master of European Intellectual Property Law at Stockholm University, which was, in part, inspired by a passion for intellectual property law found in my Capstone Thesis at USQ.
I was one of 30 students in the masters program, with colleagues in the program being members the Swedish Supreme Court and European barristers.
Suffice to say, it was initially a very daunting place to be; however, I was fortunate to find incredible and lifelong friendships with my European colleagues and receive a high distinction award for my thesis entitled ‘Copyright Enforcement for Internet Based Material Infringements and the Personal Right of Privacy: A Comparative Study Between Australia and the European Union Member States, with a Focus on the United Kingdom’.
After completing the masters, I returned to Australia with a keen interest in privacy and broader human rights law and a somewhat unusual background to be applying for graduate positions.
Although the difficulty with finding an open door into the legal profession was disheartening, I kept passion and motivation alive, and joined Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) to continue to have an outlet for academic and policy writing. I was elected to the board of EFA in 2015 and served on the board for two years; and I remain the Chair of the EFA Policy Committee.
I was also fortunate to be introduced to the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL) by members of EFA based in Queensland and joined that organisation. I have served as a vice president of the QCCL since 2016. EFA and QCCL have both given me the opportunity to make submissions into parliamentary inquiries and give evidence on those submissions to parliamentary and Senate hearings across a broad range of human rights-related issues. I am deeply thankful for the large number of incredible friends and mentors I have made in connection to those organisations.
In relation to professional practice, I joined Irish Bentley Lawyers in 2015 and have steadily worked from solicitor to partner at that firm practising in intellectual property, tax and insolvency litigation. This growth has been possible because of a large and supportive network as well as a team that work together as friends.
In many ways, the struggle to find an open door into legal practice has been one of the biggest benefits to my career to date, as this struggle found me connected with a group of like-minded early career lawyers and, from that basis, The Legal Forecast was formed as a not-for-profit organisation focused on facilitating nexuses between the study and practice of law with a focus on technology and an underlying value of mental wellness within the profession.
I am confident that I would not be the person I am today without the incredible journey that I have been fortunate to take with my colleagues at The Legal Forecast. I am also fortunate that this passion drew me to the Queensland Law Society’s Innovation Committee, where I have found myself surrounded by incredible and insightful people who are equally driven to make the legal profession the best that it can be.
In 2019, I was offered the opportunity to consolidate some of my learning into the co-development and lecturing of LAW3418– Emerging Legal Tech and Practice at USQ and to guest lecture in intellectual property law at QUT. It is, in my view, particularly humbling to be able to give back to students and to have, albeit in small part, the ability to have a role in the education of future lawyers as I am certain that we have new and exciting challenges constantly on the horizon.
SD: Where would you like to see the legal profession in five year or 10 years’ time?
AM: I would like to see an increased focus on the importance of ongoing legal education and a stronger focus on human rights implications associated with the use of technology. There are great opportunities ahead and I would like to see the passionate curiosity of legal practitioners ensure that these opportunities are reached to their maximum with careful navigation away from negative implications.
SD: What do you think we can do, as a profession, to help realise that five-10 year vision?
AM: I strongly believe that a fundamental grounding in ethics and reinforcement of the importance of a passion for the practice of law will play a big role in the future of the legal profession.
SD: What would be your advice to someone who is just joining the profession?
AM: In my opinion, law is an incredibly rewarding career when it is approached with passion. For those joining the profession, remember what got you through tiring exams and late nights studying because that is likely to be the source of passion that will continue to motivate. I strongly advise that this is met with equal measure of finding people around you that share that passion, particularly if that can be found in mentor figures. There is nothing more powerful than a passionate network and the ability to draw on others when you need assistance and to provide assistance to others when you can.
SD: What are the benefits of joining associations such as QLS or The Legal Forecast?
AM: The biggest benefit of associations such as the QLS and The Legal Forecast is the ability to find kindred spirits and make lifelong friends.
The legal profession can be isolating and the stresses of practice can feel unbearable; however, these issues are felt by all of us and the advantage of joining an organisation is that issues can be discussed, banter can be enjoyed and passion can be sustained. This could be described as a ‘professional network’; however, I believe that organisations that sit in the heart of the profession offer so much more and I am sure that those who are contributing to these associations will understand and those that don’t should join!
Angus has spent his career not only practising the black letter of the law, but planting seeds of opportunity and growth for the future of the legal profession. His journey and commitment to professional and practice development is a timely reminder to all of us during these times of adversity to seek refuge in education because it is only when we know better that we can do better.
Visit the QLS Shop for continuing professional development resources, updated weekly.
Sheetal Deo is Queensland Law Society Relationship Manager – Future Lawyers, Future Leaders.
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This story was originally published in Proctor June 2020.