Crisis. It’s often what leads a person to come into contact with the law, which is why Michael Kukulies-Smith says holistic solutions to legal issues are essential.
Michael is a partner at Kamy Saeedi Law (KSL), a leading local law firm that doesn’t just believe in what the law is. KSL believes in what the law can be and how it affects people’s lives.
“Each day, this appreciation helps me argue for clients in the courtroom,” says Michael. “Addressing the broader issues ensures the best court outcomes but, more importantly, the best life outcomes.”
Michael’s keen interest in social justice, and serving as Chair of the Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee for a decade, is one reason he was recently awarded the ACT Law Society’s President’s medal for 2019.
“Giving back is an important part of my professional life and that includes my service to the Law Society,” says Michael. “The law is a powerful force. Ensuring it delivers justice for members of society is very important.”
Michael is one of Canberra’s most experienced criminal lawyers with expertise covering sexual offences, serious motor vehicle offences (including those involving death), assaults (including family violence matters), fraud offences, drug trafficking and importation, confiscation of criminal assets and human rights. He’s also the lawyer criminal lawyers rely on to advocate for them.
At the ACT Law Society’s Annual Dinner and Awards Night, Michael Kukulies-Smith was presented with the 2019 President’s Medal.
The President’s Medal recognises significant personal and professional contributions to the betterment of law and justice in the community by an ACT solicitor and member of the ACT Law Society.
The President’s medal recognises Michael’s deep involvement in local law development and reform, and his significant personal and professional contributions to the betterment of law and justice in the community.
“With law reform, lawyers can sometimes be sidelined by government under the assumption that the only reform we want is to make it easier to get people acquitted,” says Michael. “It isn’t. It’s about taking care of the real people in courtrooms, whether it’s victims, witnesses or defendants.”
Being a lawyer is challenging. With criminal law it can be especially taxing emotionally with people facing serious problems. Michael has taken on thousands of cases throughout his legal career. That includes several matters relating to wrongful imprisonment on a pro bono basis, including one case that went all the way to the High Court of Australia.
“When you need a criminal or commercial lawyer, you don’t want to take chances,” says Michael. “You want someone in your corner you can trust because your life depends on it. As a lawyer, you have to take on board everyone’s situation and understand it and deal with it.”
Michael recalls helping one client facing serious sexual assault allegations.
“Our research uncovered, two-thirds of the way through the trial, that the allegations were fabricated, and we confirmed this with hard evidence,” says Michael. “The evidence hadn’t been disclosed. Our work ultimately saved an innocent man from going to jail.”
KSL has senior partners that bring a wealth of experience to the firm and a team of young, dynamic and hard-working lawyers on board.
“We don’t just know the law, we live it,” says Michael. “We know the intricacies and the technicalities and how to help clients find their way around it. We stand by their side and get to know them and their circumstances. We believe if we can make the court see the person we know, the fight is almost won.”
As chair of the Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee, Michael often represents the Law Society in the media, government inquiries and Legislative Assembly committee meetings, where he continually advocates for better laws in the ACT.
On behalf of the Society, he has spoken out on the recent retrospective changes in the Crimes Act and Firearms Act, the introduction of the ACT’s Drug and Alcohol Court, drink driving and drug driving penalties, and proposed cannabis laws.
Michael also freely gives his time to mentoring students considering a career in criminal law and is a regular guest lecturer at ANU.
In his acceptance speech, Michael thanked the many at KSL who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make it easier for him to be a high-impact front person. He also thanked his wife, Wendy Kukulies-Smith, for inspiring him through rigorous debates on matters of law. Wendy has a Doctorate in Law and is a criminal law lecturer at the Australian National University.
“I have the advantage of debating complex legal issues at the highest of academic levels with her,” says Michael.
KSL deals in criminal, commercial and traffic law. Call 02 6230 6600 (emergency after hours: 1800 866 830) to learn more, or visit Kamy Saeedi Law.