Court is in session – leadership and the law 

May 1, 2024

For the first In Conversation of the year, the UWA Fogarty Scholars participated in a unique experience during this year’s leadership series, titled “Leadership in Conversation: Court is in Session.” The formal courtroom setting provided an immersive backdrop for the Scholars to engage with esteemed legal professionals and explore the nuances of leadership within the law’s context. 

The choice of a courtroom as the venue for this year’s leadership series was intentional, creating an environment that fostered intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and an appreciation of the complexities of leadership within the legal sector. The halls of justice became a classroom, and our Scholars had the opportunity to witness firsthand the intersection of law and leadership. 

The event featured a panel of legal professionals sharing insights on leadership, overcoming challenges and the positives from working in the field. Judge Laurie Levy SC has served as a Judge since 2014, holding additional roles in the Children’s Court and the Supreme Court and more recently, as an educator to other judges. Thomas Coltrona, a 2014 UWA Fogarty Scholar, is an Associate at Bennett – Litigation and Commercial Law, also holding voluntary executive positions within legal organisations bodies. Adehlia Ebert, a 2015 UWA Fogarty Scholar, is a Law Graduate at the State Solicitor’s Office, with prior experience as a Judge’s Associate, who has also won a place as a Judge’s Associate at the High Court of Australia for 2025. Through engaging conversations, the Scholars gained insights into the challenges and responsibilities that come with leading in a domain where decisions have far-reaching consequences. 

Judge Levy succinctly encapsulated the essence of the panel discussion, noting that “What you see in the courtroom is real life,” highlighting the legal profession’s role within the community to aid those in need. This sentiment underscores the importance of recognising the genuine challenges and responsibilities within the profession. Ebert echoed this sentiment, expressing concern over modern – often negative – portrayals of lawyers, emphasising the commitment of legal professionals to the pursuit of justice above all else. When asked about the primary challenges confronting the legal sector, Judge Levy highlighted the emergence of AI as a significant concern. He noted that although AI is increasingly prevalent, it remains unreliable. Coltrona also emphasised the ethical dimensions surrounding the use – and potential misuse – of AI. He underscored the responsibility of the legal profession to confront ethical dilemmas and uphold legal standards; both in the past and with the emergence of these new tools. Furthermore, Coltrona noted the move by many of the larger firms to develop their own AI tools, due to the significant reduction in research-based and other workload they enable, thus leveraging potentially significant efficiency gains. 

The panel discussion was followed by a Q&A session that provided Scholars with an opportunity to engage and seek advice from the attending professionals. Scholars were encouraged to pose insightful questions, delving into topics ranging from establishing themselves within the legal field to advice on achieving work life balance – and maintaining one’s wellbeing – in what can be a demanding career. Ebert shared her positive encounters with senior colleagues and recommended reaching out to them as a means to foster personal growth and confidence. This was reinforced by Judge Levy who said that part of the role of Senior Counsel is to provide advice and support to more junior lawyers, together with organisations such as WA based not for profit, the Piddington Society

The UWA Fogarty Scholars’ leadership series is designed to extend learning beyond a traditional setting. As the Scholars continue their academic journey, the lessons learned from these opportunities help to shape their perspectives on leadership and contribute to their future success in their various fields. 

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