2022 QLS Excellence in Law Awards: Winners

The inaugural QLS Excellence in Law Awards Gala. Image: Jon W / Event Photos Australia

Queensland Law Society has recognised the outstanding contributions of esteemed legal profession leaders – both established and emerging – during its inaugural 2022 QLS Excellence in Law Awards Gala over the weekend.

The peer-nominated awards were handed out during a sold-out gala dinner attended by a veritable who’s who of the Queensland legal profession in the Brisbane City Hall’s main auditorium on Saturday night.

The 12 QLS Excellence in Law Awards for 2022 shine a light on the exemplary efforts of Queensland’s legal professionals – highlighting good law, good lawyers, for the public good.

The awards provide the opportunity for outstanding solicitors, teams and organisations to showcase their ingenuity and contribution to both the legal profession and the broader community.

A record number of nominations were received this year across all award categories, and the standard of submissions was testament to the incredible work being done by solicitors across the state.

The winners for Queensland Solicitor of the Year across three categories were:

  • large firm with 20+ practising certificate holders – Brian Herd (Hopgood Ganim Lawyers)
  • small firm with 2-19 practising certificate holders – Kathleen Simpson (DV Lawyers)
  • sole practitioner – Rebekah O’Sullivan (Tribeth Group).

Queensland’s self-proclaimed ‘happy family lawyer’ Clarissa Rayward was rewarded for more than a decade of ground-breaking service to the legal profession as winner of the coveted Queensland Law Society Agnes McWhinney Award.

Named after Queensland’s first admitted female solicitor, Agnes McWhinney, the award recognises women lawyers who have forged new pathways for themselves, their peers and those they serve through a commitment to excellence, equity, professionalism and service to the community.

North Queensland’s community legal champion and passionate social justice advocate Bill Mitchell OAM was honoured for his dedicated decades of service with the Access to Justice Award.

Mr Mitchell – who received his award from QLS President Kara Thomson and Immediate Past President Elizabeth Shearer – was among the first graduates of James Cook University’s Law School in 1991 and was JCU’s first admitted solicitor in 1992. He has a Master of Laws from Queensland University of Technology and was made an Honorary Doctor of Laws by James Cook University in 2021.

Mr Mitchell has been the Principal Solicitor and a Registered Migration Agent at Townsville Community Law since 2000, and has represented Community Legal Centres Australia before the United Nations on many occasions. He has received several prestigious awards including the Australian Human Rights Commission Law Award in 2008 and the Law Council of Australia’s President’s Medal in 2019. He was also awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2020.

Other winners on the night were:

  • First Nations Solicitor of the Year Award: Nikita Sellin – CEO and lawyer, Junkurilaka Justice Group Mornington Island and Atherton Tablelands Law
  • First Nations Student Award: Cameron Downey – Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Information Technology student, Queensland University of Technology
  • Emerging Leader Award: Tilé Imo – Coordinating Senior Lawyer, Caxton Legal Centre
  • Regional Practitioner of the Year Award: Ben Gouldson – Director, Clifford Gouldson Lawyers
  • Workplace Culture and Health Award (individual practitioner): Tracey De Simone – Official Solicitor, Office of the Child and Family Official Solicitor
  • Workplace Culture and Health Award (organisation): Carter Newell Lawyers 
  • In-House Counsel of the Year Award: Claudia Cameron – General Counsel, CS Energy.

QLS Chief Executive Officer Rolf Moses, when announcing the awards finalists last month, said: “You have set a benchmark for excellence that has inspired your peers and colleagues and made a positive impact on the clients, organisations and the communities you serve.”

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