How do I live greatly in the law?

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You may wonder at times whether you have chosen the right profession?

Others have wondered the same, and they have gone on to become legends within the legal profession.

Not for the positions they have attained, nor the cases they have won, but for the leadership they have shown [by way of example] in living greatly in the law.

HAL WOOTTEN AC QC* [1922-2021]

#Living Greatly in the Law was both his mantra and the title of the 2008 UNSW Law Journal article which publishing extracts from one of his acknowledgments and one of his speeches within the lecture series he started.

His legacy lives on in those who stand on his shoulders.

The introductory paragraphs of the article partly answer the question posed by this FAQ, in that it affirms that it is possible to live greatly in the law!

Over 60 years ago, as a disenchanted law student wondering whether I had made the right choice, I took comfort from the conviction with which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes had answered a question he imputed to his audience of Harvard undergraduates in 1886. The question was: how can the laborious study of a dry and technical system, the greedy watch for clients and practice of shopkeepers’ arts, the mannerless conflicts over often sordid interests, make outa life? – and he answered it with the ringing declaration that he could say and say no longer with any doubt that a man may live greatly in the law as well as elsewhere
However, to me a great charm of the law as a vocation lies in the varieties and combinations of ways it offers to men and women to live greatly – as thinkers, as scholars, as teachers, as counsellors and advisers, as advocates, as judges, as arbitrators, and fact-finders, as people who take their legal training with its skills and values into journalism, politics, business, administration, literature or service of the international community, to name but some of the spheres where we find men and women recognisable as lawyers.

# These are excerpts from two speeches delivered at the University of New South Wales. The first excerpt is taken from Hal Wootten’s acknowledgment of the second Hal Wootten Lecture given by The HonMichael McHugh AC QC on 23 August 2007. The second excerpt is taken from Hal Wootten's speech at a gathering of the University of New South Wales Law School's foundation students on 27 February2008. They have been recorded here for the valuable insight they provide into the role, importance and potential of the law, the legal profession and legal education.

* Emeritus Professor and foundation Dean and professor of the University of New South Wales LawSchool 1969–73. Hal Wootten AC QC [1922-2021] was later a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales 1973–83 and a Visiting Professor at the Law School.

The following is extracted from the Justice Reform Initiative website:

By Justice Reform Initiative, 3 August 2021
We are saddened to hear of the death of our patron Emeritus Professor Hal Wootten AC QC, who passed away last week.
Professor Wootten was a leading figure in Australian legal circles for decades, serving as founding Dean of the University of NSW’s Faculty of Law & Justice in 1971 before moving to the Supreme Court of New South Wales, where he sat on the bench for a decade.
As one of the Commissioners leading the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody from 1987 to 1991, he made a significant contribution in calling out the egregious wrongs committed on the First Nations peoples of this country.
In addition to his judicial work, he helped to establish and run the first Aboriginal Legal Service, and also served as a Deputy President of the Native Title Tribunal between 1994-97.
He continued to work throughout his life in a diverse range of roles, showing tireless dedication to the cause of justice.
The Justice Reform Initiative’s executive director Dr Mindy Sotiri said Professor Wootten, who would have turned 99 in December, had been an energetic and passionate advocate for the much-needed reform of Australia’s criminal justice system.
“We deeply appreciate Professor Wootten’s support and the remarkable intellect and vigour he brought to our work,” she said. “On behalf of all our patrons, and the many Australians who share his desire to build a different kind of justice system, we send our condolences to Professor Wootten’s family and many friends.”


This FAQ was created by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.