A woman who went into law as a mature age student and became a significant figure in the area of family law is the ACT Law Society’s top award winner this year.
DDCS Lawyers‘ Julie Dobinson was awarded the President’s Medal at the ACT Law Society Annual Dinner and Awards Night on Friday (31 August).
She completed her law degree at Macquarie University while raising her three young children, moving to Canberra in 1991 and completing her Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the ANU.
She began practice with Snedden Hall and Gallop in 1992, and started her own firm in October 2000.
Ms Dobinson said she was inspired to study law while working in a women’s refuge and saw first hand how important it was for women to get legal advice, particularly in those early stages after fleeing domestic violence.
Ms Dobinson said awards gave meaning to the work lawyers did, and this one highlighted how important family law was to the community.
She was thrilled with the award and said it was wonderful to be recognised by her peers.
“You don’t set out in a career to win awards but when you do it’s very satisfying,” she said.
Ms Dobinson initiated the establishment of the Canberra Region Family Law Professionals Association (CRFLPA) and served as its first President, also serving on the Executive of the Family Law Pathways Network for a number of years.
She has also been chair of Law Australasia, which is a national association of about 25 independent law firms committed to best practice management and client service delivery.
A member of various Law Society Committees during her career, including the Complaints Committee, she has also been a regular presenter at Law Society Continuing Professional Development (CPD) seminars.
Until recently she chaired the Board of the Women’s Legal Centre (ACT) and has served on the committee of the Women Lawyers Association of the ACT.
Ms Dobinson has also been committed to making the law accessible, providing pro-bono advice for the Women’s Legal Centre and has had a lengthy involvement with the ACT Law Society’s Legal Advice Bureau.
Two Young Lawyer of the Year awards were announced this year in a first since the award’s inception in 2007.
Kellin Kristofferson of Artisan Law, and Georgina McKay of the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade were presented with their awards by the chair of the judging panel and patron of the ACT Young Lawyers Committee, Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson.
Kellin Kristofferson, a lawyer with a strong community focus, started his practice, Artisan Law, at the age of 28.
Artisan Law is part small law firm, part social initiative – offering Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney, estate administration and elder law advice at heavily discounted rates for pensioners and low-income earners.
It also provides a mobile service for clients who cannot otherwise access legal advice. Mr Kristofferson also accepts pro bono referrals every week from ACT Legal Aid, the Council for the Ageing (COTA), the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.
He is also active in community education on wills and related topics, hosting workshops and information sessions with local not-for-profits, including DUO, A Gender Agenda, Sharing Places, and ACT Legal Aid.
Georgina McKay is a Legal Officer in the Transnational Crime Section of DFAT’s Legal Division, where she has worked on several high-profile and topical legal challenges facing the Department and the Government broadly.
In a first for DFAT, she promoted a culture of pro bono work and legal volunteering with the in-house counsel team. She has a passion for promoting gender equality within the legal profession, participating in both the ANU Women In Law Organisation mentoring program and University of Canberra Women Lawyers Mentoring Program since their inception, and is an active member of the Women Lawyers Association of the ACT. She is also a regular volunteer at the Women’s Legal Centre, providing free legal advice to vulnerable women.
ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay awarded the inaugural Pro Bono Service Award to Clayton Utz’ pro bono partner Jennifer Wyborn.
Ms Wyborn has been leading the Clayton Utz Pro Bono practice in Canberra since 2016, making an exceptional contribution to the ACT community through their work for the Women’s Legal Centre and Canberra Community Law.
She is particularly passionate about matters that involve questions about the management of domestic violence in the workplace.
She has introduced a reverse secondment arrangement with the WLC, where one of their staff is embedded one day a fortnight with the Clayton Utz team, gaining access to expert guidance and strategic advice on WLC cases.
Ms Wyborn and her staff also deliver free training for community legal sector workers in areas such as discrimination and employment law.
She also sits on the Board of the Clayton Utz Foundation, which supports pro bono clients through a grants process.
The Award Panel also recognised the Animal Defenders Office with a ‘Highly Commended’ certificate, for their specialist animal law work. Their volunteer lawyers offer information and representation for individuals and groups wishing to protect animals and those who care for them, and attempts to raise community awareness about animal ownership and animal protection issues.