New chief justice inspires next generation of women in law

17 Sep 2015

Just one day after being named Queensland’s first female chief justice, UQ alumna, The Hon Justice Catherine Holmes shared career advice with our up-and-coming female lawyers.

The Court of Appeal judge returned to her alma mater, UQ’s TC Beirne School of Law, as a panellist at the Women in Law alumni event “Experiences at TCB: How UQ shaped me to be where I am today”.

The panel discussed the major issues affecting women in the legal industry today, including navigating career pathways and maintaining work-life balance.

Justice Holmes joined a line-up of distinguished speakers and alumni including Frances Williams, Partner at Corrs Chambers Westgarth, and Sue Brown QC, barrister from North Quarter Lane Chambers.

Head of School and Dean of Law Professor Sarah Derrington said the school was privileged to host the Chief Justice designate so soon after her appointment.

“I would like to thank Justice Holmes for taking time out of her incredibly busy week to meet the next generation of female leaders,” she said.

“We take great pride in our strong relationships with alumni like Justice Holmes, who continue to reinvest their time and energy into the school and its students. “

During her panel, Justice Holmes charmed the audience with her honesty, wisdom and personal insights from over 30 years in law.

She encouraged students to make the most of their time at UQ and focus on forging friendships – something she neglected during her own studies.

Students also had the opportunity to speak to the accomplished panellists and other female alumni one-on-one during networking.

UQ Law Society President Georgina Morgan said the event was “extremely valuable” for female students.

“The panel told stories of their time at TCB and passed on advice to students, ranging from the more humorous (but still essential) advice of not wearing something you’ll regret to the Law Ball, to advising us to make the most of the opportunities available,” she said.

“It was wonderful to hear from and speak with such inspiring women in our field.”

Justice Holmes was sworn in as Chief Justice on the 11 September.

Graduating from UQ with a Bachelor of Laws in 1980, she was admitted as a solicitor of the Queensland Supreme Court in 1982 and then as a barrister in 1984.

From 1984 to 1986, Justice Holmes worked as a Commonwealth Crown prosecutor and later began practicing at the bar in Brisbane.

She returned to UQ to earn her Master of Laws (Advanced) in 1998.

Highlights of her illustrious career include her work as counsel on the 1998 to 1999 Forde Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Institutions, her tenure as Supreme Court judge from 2000 to 2006, and her leadership of the Commission of Inquiry into the 2011 Queensland floods.

Justice Holmes is also a founding member of the Women’s Legal Service, a community legal centre which provides women in need with free legal advice.

She is currently a Court of Appeal Judge and had been serving as Acting Chief Justice of the Queensland Supreme Court until her appointment last week.