Michael Kukulies-Smith reckons he might have grown up watching too much Rumpole of the Bailey.
Now one of Canberra’s most successful criminal lawyers, Michael’s commitment to the ACT and the law is rock solid, having graduated from the Australian National University in 2003 before going on to work with Ken Cush & Associates, and since 2010 Kamy Saeedi Law.
“I like the work we [Kamy Saeedi Law] do, I like the environment, we’re pretty relaxed, we get to know our clients and tailor solutions directly for them,” Michael says.
“Criminal law is very much about individuals, there are severe consequences potentially and you’ve got to appreciate that, having an understanding of your client’s circumstances is always important.”
Michael sees a side of Canberra and human nature that few do in the course of a day, but his skills as a lawyer and sense of service to his client and the law see him through.
His areas of expertise include 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.
“Even if people are in fact guilty of the crimes for which they are charged, ultimately you’ve got to try and understand how they came to be in that position so you can get that across in court in order to represent them fully,” Michael says.
“Many people ask how I represent people charged with serious offences. I don’t see my role as to pass moral judgements.
“Defendants come to me confronted by experienced investigators and prosecutors.
“Defendants are often overwhelmed by the complexities of the legal system. My role is to give them an understanding and a voice within that system, to even the playing field. Only then can justice be achieved,” Michael says.
It’s this dedication that has allowed Michael to argue his client’s case all the way to the High Court of Australia on five occasions.
“The High Court is very rarified air, it is very academic compared to the normal day to day practice of law where you are working closely with real people.”
Law reform and education also drive Michael’s works – since 2010 he has been chair of the ACT Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee, and is also the ACT delegate on the Law Council of Australia’s National Criminal Law Committee.
“The advocacy work I am involved with there has me talking with government about changes to legislation, or meeting with judges, the Director of Public Prosecutions, barristers and other stakeholders in the system in relation to reforms.”
“When government is looking at reforming part of the law, they will often call on representatives from the profession, it’s another way I can represent my clients and their experiences of the law and society to influence positive change,” he says.
It’s a role that also connects Michael to some of the leaders of law in Australia.
“I get to work with some of the luminaries of the field, people at the top of their game, barristers like Stephen Odgers SC and Tim Game SC,” Michael says.
“To meet, talk to and get to know some of the leaders in the field is good for your own development as a lawyer and a person and adds to what I can bring to the table for my clients.”
On top of those professional and voluntary hats he wears, the law has made its way into Michael’s home life as well – his wife is a Criminal Law Lecturer at the Australian National University.
“I can’t escape criminal law, even at home,” Michael laughs.
“My harshest critic sits across the dinner table from me.”
When he does put the law aside, it’s usually to spend time with his daughter rock climbing.
“More indoor rock climbing than anything, you can be in and out in a couple of hours, its great for distracting your mind.”
“Then a few times each year we’ll find a day to go out to the Brindabellas and set up for the day,” Michael says.
While it might have been a fictional TV character that first introduced Michael Kukulies-Smith to the law, his name and reputation is one based in the reality and business of Canberra at Kamy Saeedi Law.
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