Law graduate wins prestigious Leo Cussen’s Advocacy Award

Published in the March-April 2017 issue

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Southern Cross University law graduate Matthew Murphy recently won a prestigious Leo Cussen’s Advocacy Award with Distinction following his final practical placement in Melbourne.

The 25-year-old graduate from Lennox Head moved to Melbourne mid-last year to complete his practical training for his Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws at Leo Cussen, a practical training organisation in Melbourne CBD.

Matthew Murphy

“As part of a law degree everyone has to do practical legal training. Most people go to local law firms, or do the College of Law which is online, but I wanted to be practical, interviewing clients – something a bit more,” he said.

“Leo Cussen provides unique training. You dress up like a lawyer and go in from 9 to 5 every day to a fake law firm with fake clients and you get a dry run at being a lawyer. There was only 120 of us selected, so I was lucky to get in as it is quite sought after.

“The advocacy part was an optional course we could volunteer for, and I jumped into it for the valuable mooting experience.”

Matthew said students learnt from well-known lawyers how to moot and run an argument in court. Twenty volunteers were then selected to go up against Victorian Police Prosecutors in court.

When another student pulled out, Matthew requested to take on their caseload for more experience.

“We were emailed a set of instructions, a client file, and we had to read through a brief of evidence – that same brief was given to Victoria Police prosecutor trainees,” he said.

“We had one week to prepare, on top of all our other weekly assessments. On the day of court the police prosecutors were in force and it was serious with the witnesses played by trainees, designed to mimic a real day in court.”

When another student pulled out on the day, Matthew took on the third case in the pressure of the court setting.

“I was notified last month that I was one of three students to win the award. I put it down to everything from the time in the court room, to asking lots of questions of barristers and my instructors in class. It was an all-rounder award,” he said.

Matthew said he originally wanted to become a journalist, but when he was working as a bouncer in Byron Bay he became interested in the legal side after seeing the interactions of police and patrons.

“It was when I was working at a bank in Byron Bay, and was passionate about ‘Lock the Gate’ and trespassing issues surrounding coal seam gas that my manager mentioned I would make a great lawyer. From there I applied to Southern Cross University and haven’t looked back,” he said.

“Now I am in the process of getting admitted in Victoria, with my eyes set on becoming a barrister, despite what people say about becoming a solicitor first.

“I’m a legal assistant to a number of barristers, watching how they run cases and how they network, getting introduced to their contacts which is working out perfectly.

“When I’m ready, I’ll sit the bar and become a barrister.”

Matthew said he felt as though he had an advantage going to Southern Cross University where students have a much more personalised experience.

“At Leo Cussen I was up against students from some of the biggest law schools in the country. This shows that you don’t have to go to a famous law school, as regional universities can also produce quality lawyers,” he said.

“City schools don’t have that opportunity when there are 400 or so people in each class, whereas I got to know a lot of my lecturers personally and was able to be curious and ask a lot of questions.”

“My advice to other students is make the most of that privilege, be curious and build those personal relationships. Studying law is an endurance race, people need to have a reason to do law.”

“My reason is because of a sense of justice and standing up for people.”

Matthew’s mother Anne Murphy is also completing a Bachelor of Laws at Southern Cross University after completing an environmental science honours degree.

“She is the year behind me now coming up to the end of her degree and is passionate about combining environmental science and law,” he said.

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