This year some of Melbourne Law School's commercial law students took a break from the study of securities markets and disclosure documents to celebrate an extraordinary partnership.Jon Webster is one of Australia's leading mergers and acquisitions lawyers. Ann O'Connell is an Associate Professor at Melbourne Law School. Together they teach Regulation of Securities Offerings in the Melbourne Law Masters, a partnership that has spanned almost two decades. This year they celebrated the 10th staging of the course with their students.
As one of Australia's most experienced corporate lawyers and partner at Allens Arthur Robinson, Webster brings his considerable expertise to highly complex transactions, such as advising Newcrest Mining on its recent $9.6 billion takeover of Lihir Gold. However, he brings the same rigorous focus to the education of the next generation of lawyers.
"I spend a lot of time teaching and training young lawyers at Allens Arthur Robinson. I see my university teaching as an extension of that. It also fits in well with the pro bono aspect of our legal practice," said Mr Webster.
His commitment has seen Webster forego his teaching salary at Melbourne Law School which then enables the school to redirect the sum to a fund for students in financial need. Melbourne Law School runs a comprehensive scholarship program that supports talented students who might otherwise be excluded from tertiary study.
"The review undertaken by the Bradley Committee in 2008 identified a need to improve university participation by students from low socio- economic backgrounds. I think it is very important to create opportunities for deserving students to study at the Law School," says Mr Webster.
Webster has strong links with Melbourne Law School, completing his LLB in 1975 and Master of Laws degree in 1979. He has then seen two of his three daughters go on to study at the Law School. He fi became involved in teaching when Associate Professor O'Connell spotted her fellow alumnus reading case notes at a sports carnival in which their then school-age children were competing.
"I wanted to put together a course and thought it would be really valuable to have someone from practice to contribute commercial experience. And Jon has an academic interest – he likes reading the cases and is involved in law reform," said Associate Professor O'Connell.
"I think it gives the course a great deal of credibility because as academics while we can talk about what the law is, it is then very useful to be able to say to Jon, 'And in practice, is that what happens?' Jon is very interested in the policy and the law, but he also has the ability to reflect and provide input at the practical level. He's a very good teacher."
Webster believes the profession has an important role to play in supporting the study of the law and contributing advice, expertise and ideas.
"It is very important for the legal profession to work together with academics in order to provide the best possible education and training for students and young lawyers," says Mr Webster.
Image: Jon webster.
Source: Photography courtesy of Allens Arthur Robinson