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Presidents Medal

Cite as: March 2013 87 (3) LIJ, p.21

The profession has honoured Mark Woods’ pro bono commitment.

Victorian lawyer Mark Woods has won the 2012 Law Council of Australia (LCA) President’s Medal – an annual award recognising an Australian lawyer’s outstanding contribution to the legal profession.

Mr Woods, a former LIV president and current Council member, was handed the honour for a career of commitment to pro bono work.

The Tyler Tipping & Woods partner said his legal work had presented him with the opportunity to serve the community.

“It is a big honour. There are 60,000 lawyers in this country and recognition by one’s peers that you’ve made a contribution is the most exciting thing about winning the award,” Mr Woods said.

In 2009, Mr Woods responded to the plight of Victorians affected by the Black Friday bushfires by bringing together and coordinating a group of Gippsland legal practitioners to offer pro bono advice and assistance to both community groups and individuals.

He was also proud of his work in establishing the LIV Legal Assistance Scheme and the Victorian Legal Assistance Forum.

Mr Woods, who has been a practising lawyer for nearly three decades, is especially proud, however, of his integral role in establishing and implementing the Law Aid Trust, which, since its beginnings in 1996, has helped hundreds of people on a range of personal injury matters they would not have been able to fund themselves.

“What I have attempted to do is harness the very strong views of most lawyers that improvement to access to justice is our mission,” he said.

“I have always held the view that every lawyer is passionate about the fact that, while governments grant rights to people, if people don’t have access to means to enforce those rights there is no justice.

“If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance then the price of justice is eternal advocacy.”

The National Pro Bono Resource Centre board member said he believed that most lawyers would achieve the centre’s aspirational target of providing 50 hours of free work to the needy each year.

“In fact, I don’t know a lawyer who doesn’t do a lot more than that and if we did only 50 hours per year we would have a lot more time on our hands.”

LCA immediate past president and former LIV president Catherine Gale presented Mr Woods with the award at a special ceremony in Canberra last year.

She said that Mr Woods was regarded as one of the profession’s most valued members.

“In a career spanning 30 years, Mr Woods has nurtured and earned a reputation of excellence within the Australian legal profession and continues to inspire those that may wish to join the legal fraternity,” she said.

“Mr Woods is clearly a man of compassion and commitment, as well as an excellent role model for all lawyers – I congratulate him for everything he has achieved throughout his distinguished career in the law.”

Ms Gale said Mr Woods was tirelessly committed to access to justice, the defence of the rule of law and defence of the public interest.

In 2007 the LCA introduced the President’s Medal.

Past recipients include Debbie Mortimer SC (2011), Colin McDonald QC (2010), Bret Walker SC (2009), Ted Mullighan QC (2008) and Lex Lasry QC received the inaugural medal in 2007.

LIV president Reynah Tang said Mr Woods had a longstanding deep interest and personal commitment to the law and the advancement of justice for all involved.

“Mark is a deserving winner of the LCA President’s Medal. He is a person of excellent standing within the Australian legal profession,” Mr Tang said.

“Mark’s exemplary character and extensive experience mean he is frequently called upon by fellow practitioners to provide thoughtful analysis on a range of complex problems. He is a highly respected mentor and advocate for change within the legal sector.”

Jason Gregory