The Melbourne Law School gala dinner: An evening of fascinating exchanges

By Blake O'Connell

The 2015 MLS gala dinner provided an opportunity for the school's distinguished alumni, students and academics to connect in a remarkable setting, the picturesque Myer Mural Hall, as the Law School approaches its 160th anniversary in 2017.

More than 350 MLS alumni were in attendance at the February event, including distinguished guests Lady Cowen AM, the Honourable Chief Justice Marilyn Warren AC and numerous other judges including the Honourable Justices Kenneth Hayne AC, Geoffrey Nettle and Michelle Gordon.

Carolyn Evans, Glyn Davis and Lady Cowen 

Dean Professor Carolyn Evans welcomed guests and commended the law school's commitment to excellence. "We are unapologetic about our commitment to intellectual rigour. We set the bar high. We always have," she said.

An example of that rigour was on display in the keynote speech given by distinguished alumnus and Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, Dr Francis Gurry, who spoke on international organisations in the age of globalisation.

Warning that international organisations are in danger of obsolescence, Dr Gurry said these organisations had to "rewrite the rules of engagement with the private sector in order to confront international crises." The speech was received warmly and triggered much discussion among those present.

Equally, the night provided an opportunity for students to share their experiences studying at MLS in 2015. MLS student speaker, Kalia Laycock-Walsh, spoke about the impact of financial assistance. "Coming from a public school in a little country town, Melbourne Law School can seem elite, with its Latin motto and everything," she said.

"So the scholarship was also about there being a place for me at Melbourne Law School. I was someone they wanted there, which was very encouraging."

This commitment to inclusion was visible on the night, with KPMG giving generously so that students could attend and sponsorship being provided by Allens, Arnold Bloch Leibler, Ashurst, Dazychain, King & Wood Mallesons and the Victorian Bar.

Fellow student Henry Hamilton spoke of the myriad ways alumni contribute to MLS.

"The involvement of alumni in places like the mentoring program, guest lectures and well, gala dinners, makes

it clear that that feeling of community extends beyond graduation."

Henry also spoke of "the enjoyment of studying and researching the law and the effort made to make it interesting."

"But I'm preaching to the converted," he added.

Student Ambassadors at MLS Gala Dinner 2015 

Indeed, the capacity of the study of law to bring like-minded individuals together was a distinctive theme of the night's speeches. Both speakers Will Irving and Angela Kittikhoun spoke of meeting their spouses during their time at MLS.

Newly appointed Laureate Professor Emeritus, Cheryl Saunders AO, led a toast to the alumni community and praised the school's commitment to maintaining close contact with its former students.

The night provided the opportunity for alumni to reconnect with each other and the school's current programme. Students, new and old, shared their respective experiences of time spent at MLS.

"It was such a pleasure to overhear alumni reconnecting with former teachers and sharing stories of their time at MLS with current students," Professor Evans said.

 It was a night full of fascinating exchanges, which highlighted the ongoing contribution of MLS to the development of law both in Australia and abroad.

Banner Image: Melbourne Law school Gala Dinner 2015 at Myer Mural Hall.
Image: Top: Professor Carolyn Evans, Vice Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis AC and Lady Cowen AM. Bottom: MLS Student Ambassadors at the Gala Dinner
Photographer: Jorge de Araujo

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 13, June 2015.