Queensland Law Society President Elizabeth Shearer has paid tribute to Justice Ann Lyons at a valedictory ceremony marking her retirement from the Supreme Court.
Ms Shearer told attendees at the Banco Court function on Friday that Justice Lyons had probably found her recent role as Senior Judge Administrator more challenging than anticipated, given the leading role she had been required to take for the last 18 months in the court’s response to COVID-19.
“On behalf of solicitors’ branch, I would like to thank you for your commitment to consultation and working with the profession during this period,” she said. “Your leadership has helped us all to meet the moment – to find solutions to novel problems and to find a way to get the work done.”
Ms Shearer said that Justice Lyons’ facility to find solutions to ensure the work was done had been a hallmark of her career in the law and as a volunteer contributor to many community enterprises.
“Of course, all women admitted to the profession as you were in the 1970s who sought to combine a career in the law with a family life, had to be extremely clever at finding solutions to be able to pursue their career at all,” Ms Shearer said.
“The environment was challenging – no parental leave and no part-time jobs in private practice meant that the attrition of women from the profession was, not surprisingly, high.
“To remain in the profession, women created their own flexible work arrangements taking multiple roles outside of private practice.
“Your Honour’s career includes such roles: as an academic, in the public sector and as a part-time tribunal member. You even worked for the law society for a time, as co-ordinator of our journal, a position far more humble than the many others you have held.
“Your facility at finding solutions to difficult problems was recognised with your appointment as the inaugural president of the Guardianship and Administration Tribunal.
“In this role, you established, in Queensland, the jurisprudence in this complex and contested area of law. You also established a brand new tribunal, with all the logistical challenge that entailed, which was an important access to justice innovation for so many people in difficult circumstances.
“It was at the tribunal that another of your talents became observable. Not only could you find a way to get the difficult work done, you did it with such equanimity and composure that it made a complex and difficult task look unexceptional.
“Of course, many recognised your exceptional contribution to the profession and you were named Woman Lawyer of the Year by the Women Lawyer’s Association of Queensland in 2004.
“Some were slower to recognise your contributions, and the controversy that surrounded your appointment to this court in 2006 is a matter of public record.
“You proved at least one seasoned commentator on the issue wrong. On 15 July 2006, writing in The Courier-Mail, Des Houghton opined: ‘Was the Ann Lyons appointment a mistake? We may not know for a decade or two.’
“In fact, we knew very quickly that it was not. If your trademark composure and equanimity were tested, it was not apparent. You quickly found a way to get the work done in your new role.”
Ms Shearer said the people of Queensland had been the beneficiaries of her decision to serve in the Supreme Court, where her integrity and professional excellence had enhanced the administration of justice.
“Your example continues to inspire the solicitors of Queensland, particularly the women among us, and we wish you well on this occasion of your retirement from the court,” she said.