Meet this year’s QLS Excellence in Law Awards winners – part 1

Queensland has almost 14,600 solicitors practising across the state, providing legal services in heavily-populated city and urbanised spaces, as well as in regional and rural communities.

Queensland Law Society has this year recognised 11 exceptional practitioners and one organisation for exceptional service and outstanding contributions to the profession in the 2022 QLS Excellence in Law Awards.

A record number of nominations were received this year, and the standard of submissions was testament to the incredible work being done by solicitors state-wide. Over the coming days QLS Proctor will feature the 2022 winners from each award category.

A trio of established, esteemed and emerging practitioners in the fields of estates and elder abuse, domestic and family violence (DFV), entertainment and immigration law have been named recipients of the 2022 Queensland Solicitor of the Year awards.

Estates and succession law leader, mentor, practitioner, and a champion, protector and advocate against the scourge of elder abuse – Brian Herd was honoured with the large firm (20+ practising certificates) Queensland Solicitor of the Year award.

A DFV advocate for holding perpetrators of family abuse accountable for almost 14 years – the Gold Coast’s Kathleen Simpson was named winner of the small firm (2-19 practising certificates) Queensland Solicitor of the Year award.

Last, and certainly not least, a leading Australian entertainment, intellectual property and immigration lawyer who has represented global A-list celebrities from Matt Damon to Natalie Portman, and film productions like Thor and Westworld – Rebekah O’Sullivan – completed the trifecta of elite practitioners by winning the sole practitioner Queensland Solicitor of the Year category.

This year’s nominees were chosen by their peers, with winners of the Queensland Solicitor of the Year categories being selected from a field of 14 eminent solicitors.

Large firm: Brian Herd

Brian Herd, a Brisbane-based Partner at HopgoodGanim Lawyers, is recognised as one of Australia’s leading experts in elder law, retirement, disability and aged care. He is also the author of 2021’s critically acclaimed book Avoiding the Ageing Parent Trap.

Brian Herd
Images provided by Jon W / Event Photos Australia.

In his nominator’s submission, Mr Herd was singled out for his last 20 years devoted to the frontier area of elder law.

His other achievements include:

  • former volunteer of Caxton Legal Centre for some 25 years, and a former President
  • former member of the Queensland Law Reform Commission
  • volunteer with Footprints Community providing meal deliveries, and a community visitor in aged care facilities
  • former member of the Law Council of Australia’s succession and elder law committee
  • undertaking regular pro bono work.

Small firm: Kathleen Simpson

Kathleen Simpson, principal solicitor of Southport’s DV Lawyers, is one of the only firms in the nation focused exclusively on DFV.

Ms Simpson acts for clients in need of help to leave broken relationships safely, leading them through every step of the difficult process to create positive outcomes and lives for them and their families.

Kathleen Simpson

In her nominator’s submission, Ms Simpson is described as a strong advocate for her clients in court, a champion of legislative change, particularly in the field of DFV and coercive control, and focused on preventing the escalation of violent behaviours.

“She is passionate about raising DFV awareness and support that is available to assist victims,” the nomination entry reads. “Kathleen’s focus is on helping people, while respecting the law and what it stands for. She helps people because it is the right thing to do or simply because they need help.

“Her innovative approach improves outcomes of the vulnerable while enhancing the community’s perception of the legal community, recognised on the Queensland Government’s Honour Roll in prevention of DFV.”

Sole practitioner: Rebekah O’Sullivan

Rebekah O’Sullivan, the principal sole practitioner of the Gold Coast’s Tribeth Group, was singled out for helping the ailing entertainment industry during travails of the global coronavirus pandemic.

She is also recognised for assisting the extraction of refugees from war-ravaged troublespots like Ukraine and Afghanistan.

Rebekah O’Sullivan

To explain why Ms O’Sullivan would be a worthy award recipient, her nominator said: “The entertainment industry was hit hard by the pandemic, with many creatives losing jobs.”

“Ms O’Sullivan had a profound impact on their livelihood. She adapted and navigated complex unknowns and border issues within the entertainment industry, permitting feature films and TV shows to be made – injecting $300 million into Australia’s economy and creating jobs for Australians.

“Her representations included Matt Damon, Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, films such as Foe, Thor and Extraction.

“She is also assisting with extraction of refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine, is on the actors’ benevolent board assisting creatives suffering hardship and (providing) pro bono to arts law and her community.”

Other nominees included:

Large firm: Corina Chen – Mullins Lawyers, Tim Quirk – Thynne + Macartney and Greg Spinda – Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

Small firm: Dan Bottrell – BGM Family Lawyers, Deanne Drummond – Reaston Drummond Law, Elizabeth Fairon – Life Law Solutions and Nicole Jevtovic – Clarity Legal Group.

Sole practitioner: Christopher Mills – Townsville Mobile Solicitor, Ambre Langdown – ACL-Law, Dr Jeffrey Mann AM – JG Mann and Hiwa Zandi – Madina Lawyers.

Keep an eye out for more QLS Proctor articles in coming days highlighting this year’s QLS Excellence in Law Awards winners.

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