Luke Murphy is not one to shy away from challenges. In fact, the outgoing Law Council of Australia (LCA) President embraces the “prickly issues” as “opportunities” to learn.
The former Queensland Law Society President is stepping down from the national role at the end of the month after leading the profession through a challenging 2023 including the Voice Referendum.
“The most challenging was certainly the Voice because it such a divisive issue in the community. But I am extremely proud of role that the Law Council played in that,” Luke said.
“Recent issues in relation to the indefinite detention of illegal immigrants is a contentious one. But again the Law Council’s response to that has been essential, and that comes back to a lot of those prickly issues become contentious when there is a lack of understanding of the need to uphold cornerstone principles of common law and the role those principles play in a functioning democracy.
“And that can sound pretty high and mighty, but it’s actually not that. And the role of the Law Council, and one of the things I learnt from my time at QLS and now the Law Council, is it is a role for the whole profession.
“We must agitate for those principles not to be compromised and there is a growing tendency throughout the world for them to be compromised. I’ve been fortunate to attend a number of international conferences and the issue is the same the world over.”
And the world faced an unprecedented challenge in 2020 when the COVID pandemic turned life and work practices around. Luke was at the helm for QLS at the time.
“It presented real challenges. But again one of things that the council of 2020 takes enormous pride in is the way in which the council provided support to the profession in that time. And it is something of enormous pride that the QLS financial support package was the most significant on a per-member-per-capita basis in any of the Australian jurisdictions,” he said.
“It was a very carefully considered, well discussed and thoroughly worked through response, and we were incredibly lucky to have wonderful support from Lexon and the Queensland Law Foundation.”
And the impact of those difficult times, like facing the COVID threat, stay with Luke.
“It’s those prickly issues that create opportunities to work with other people you wouldn’t otherwise get. One of my real privileges of my time at QLS was to work on COVID response profession committee that was chaired by the Chief Justice,” he said.
“It met weekly initially and it was an incredible learning experience where everyone pitched in to ensure the courts worked as well as they could in the circumstances, that Corrective Services was maintained and the professions were able to function as best as possible, it was supported by the Attorney-General’s Department, and without COVID I wouldn’t have had that opportunity.”
Similarly Luke considers it a privilege to have chaired a Voice webinar with esteemed members of the legal and education professions, and appearing before a Senate committee enquiring into legislative changes to enable the referendum, with highly qualified, senior members of the profession.
As Luke looks back on his year as LCA President, he is proud level of several achievements such as engagement enjoyed with government across various departments and ministries and with different government committees.
Secondly he is proud at an international level of the support the LCA has provided to other Pacific jurisdictions, assisting access to critical survival funding which involved positive engagement with Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General.
“Thirdly there has been enormous work done on anti-money laundering and counter terrorism finances by the Law Council working group, and also the continued advocacy for increased funding for legal assistance sector. It gives rise to some optimism but there’s still a lot of work to be done there,” he said.
“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve enjoyed the experience of the role enormously and I’ve been very fortunate with the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and the support I’ve received.”
Luke also feels blessed for opportunity to balance the presidency with his practice. He has had “complete support” of the four co-directors of MurphySchmidt.
“I would not have been able to serve in both roles if it was not for their support and their self sacrifice in allowing me to do it. Both roles comes at a cost and also from the support of my wife Tracy and my children as well. They have provided wonderful support.
“It has been very demanding, more so on each of them – the directors and my family – and I am in serious debt to them.”
And a sense of duty seems to run in the family with both Luke and his father Gerry having held the presidencies of both the LCA and the QLS.
“It does run in the family,” he said. “Dad is a mentor and set that example and other members of the profession like Judge Orazio Rinaudo, Judge Neil Buckley in the Family Court and Judge Michael Baumann all served in professional roles and indeed two of my long-term partners Tricia Schmidt and Joanne Rennick continue to.
“So there’s culture of it. It is also a sense of obligation to give back to the profession. The profession has been extremely good to me personally and to my family, my siblings and also to Tracy and our family. There’s an obligation when we have benefited so much to contribute back, I firmly believe in that. Whilst I hope made some contribution, I have certainly benefitted more than I have contributed.”
So Luke is already back behind his desk working on files and he has continued to work throughout the year but not at the level he will in the years ahead. He feels blessed to get such enjoyment and satisfaction out of the work that MurphySchmidt does.
“I am very much looking forward to getting back into the day-to-day service of our clients.”