What makes a good lawyer, great?

From left: Legal Home Loans Director of Sales Cullen Haynes, Law In Order eDiscovery Group Senior Director Kathleen Drown, Queensland Law Society President Kara Thomson, Cross River Rail General Counsel Michael Zissis and QLS CEO Rolf Moses.

Some of the Queensland legal profession’s ‘best’ came together in Brisbane this morning to celebrate the achievements of those named on this year’s prestigious Best Lawyers, Doyles, 30 under 30, Chambers and Asia Pacific Legal 500 lists.

The annual Queensland Law Society breakfast event, sponsored this year by Law in Order and Legal Home Loans, highlighted outstanding accomplishments among lawyers across the state, and also prompted attendees to consider what being a great lawyer looks like to them.

QLS President Kara Thomson acknowledged the ongoing challenges being met by practitioners in Queensland, and recognised the hard work demonstrated in their respective areas of practice.

“Success comes in many forms,” Ms Thomson said. “Whatever success looks like to you, your recognition as a ‘best lawyer’ is indicative that your peers consider you successful in your field of practice; someone who is a leader in their field… and leadership in this profession is critical.”

Ms Thomson addressed attendees at Blackbird, Riverside Centre.

Ms Thomson pointed out that, according to the Society’s records, the cohort of Queensland practitioners consisted of a significant number of early career lawyers (0-5 years’ post admission experience or 35 years and younger) – they currently make up more than 25% of the state’s profession, and that number is “ever-increasing”.


“Early career lawyers need mentors,” she said. “Many of you are already giving freely of your time mentoring others within your own firms. Many of you are already involved in our policy committees at the Law Society, engaging actively in advocacy for and on behalf of Queensland.

“We thank you for demonstrating such leadership and for encouraging our new members of the profession – and perhaps some who are not quite so new – to give back and enjoy the collegiality that is the Queensland solicitors’ branch.”

Cross River Rail General Counsel Michael Zissis delivered the keynote address and provided an in-house perspective, drawing from his extensive experience of working in-house for both local and state governments.

Mr Zissis said ensuring diversity within legal teams and bringing different experiences, personalities and ways of thinking to the table was continually important. He also said an attribute that had stood out to him since returning to Queensland, after practising elsewhere in Australia, was “a higher level of kindness”.

“It’s that courtesy and less aggressive tone that just makes work that little bit easier, and I think that’s particularly important,” he said. “I think the best lawyers are not ‘shouty’, they’re not showy… they are clear, they are firm, but they are professionally courteous.

“They listen, they ask questions of their counterparts and their clients, with a view of finding some middle ground that makes us all walk away feeling like we’ve got something out of it.


“I love a particular quote from the American Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sandburg … ‘If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.’

“I think we can often forget that when a new client is going to a lawyer, they’re likely to be under some sort of stress to get themselves to the point where they think they need to go to a lawyer to help them out.

“And when an in-house lawyer is calling, I think you ought to assume … they’re only calling because it’s something that’s particularly tricky or important, (such) that they need to go and engage an external lawyer.

“So, respecting the urgency and importance of that, and doing so in a kind way to manage a client’s level of stress, makes a good lawyer one of the best in my mind … And there are heaps in Brisbane.”

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search by keyword