A golden reunion

Stories of days gone by at Melbourne Law School flowed freely at this year's Golden Alumni reunion, with more than 85 former students who graduated more than 50 years ago in attendance.

Daryl Wraith and Jim Ryan OAM

Former classmates Daryl Wraith and Jim Ryan OAM (both LLB 1963) reflect on their time at Melbourne Law School.

The sense of nostalgia was evident as former classmates gathered at the luncheon held at the Woodward Centre, with some not having seen each other in decades.

Among the attendees were The Rt. Hon. Sir Ninian Stephen KG, AK, GCMG, GCVO, KBE, QC, and Lady Anna Cowen AM, widow of former MLS Dean Sir Zelman Cowen

Alumna Margaret Mandelert (LLB 1965) said prior to Law School, her parents had told her she would be a primary school teacher at best.

"That put a rocket under me. I put my head down and I won a Commonwealth scholarship," she said.

Mrs Mandelert did her articles with a sole practitioner who had a mental breakdown on the day she was admitted to practice and put her in charge.

"I got a call about a case that was happening the next day, and was told I had to appear in the Supreme Court. I rang the Law Society and told them I was in terrible trouble, that I had no idea what I was doing," she laughed.

"I received help from the Law Society and a number of other people called to help, but that was my real introduction to the law."

Despite the conceptions people may have of females working in the law, Joan Dwyer OAM (LLB 1961) said she "fell into it" quite well following graduation; she became a research assistant for Sir Zelman Cowen, did her articles, then worked in London for solicitors to Queen Elizabeth II.

"I didn't find it difficult, although I was once told I wouldn't be made partner because I was a woman," she recalled.

That did not stop Mrs Dwyer from having a successful career as a solicitor and barrister, and serving on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for 21 years.

James Syme's (LLB 1964) memories of his time at Law School echoed those of many of his contemporaries.

"We had a fairly relaxed lecture schedule, and it was generally good fun," he said, reeling off a number of watering holes he and his classmates frequented throughout his LLB undertaking.

Mr Syme believed the law had changed greatly since he entered the profession more than five decades ago.

"Most of my colleagues would agree with me, it is less fun now than it used to be – it is more serious and the pressure is greater. It has become more of a serious competitive business than a relatively gentlemanly profession."

Another reunion event will be held next year.

By Andy Walsh