'Money should never be the guiding principle for choosing a career.’
The Deakin Law School is delighted to announce that law alumnus Judge Gregory Lyon QC will deliver the occasional address at the 20 June graduation ceremony at Deakin’s Geelong Waterfront Campus.
A Judge of the County Court Victoria since October 2016, Judge Lyon is the first Deakin law graduate to be appointed to the Bench – an accomplishment that follows a long and distinguished law career.
With undergraduate law degrees from Monash University, Judge Lyon was admitted to practise in 1984. He signed the Bar Roll in 1988 and for the next 28 years built a recognised career as a barrister with extensive experience across a range of criminal matters.
In the 1990s, Judge Lyon’s career moved into the area of complex commercial crime where his work included the prominent Grollo trials, numerous fraud, financial market and insider-trading cases as well as homicide trials, committal and appeals.
Looking for a postgraduate law program that would fit around his demanding career and the responsibilities of a young family, Judge Lyon came to Deakin in 1997 where he undertook a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD).
He says he wanted a program that would not only enhance his career at the Bar but also offer him flexible study options.
‘I chose Deakin because it was at the forefront of online graduate programs. Compared to other graduate law programs on offer at that time, Deakin really had it nailed. The quality of the course materials and online service was outstanding,’ he says.
Initially planning to study a master’s degree in law, Judge Lyon credits Deakin Law School’s Professor Jean Du Plessis for providing him with the encouragement to turn his research interest – Australia’s insider trading laws – into a doctorate.
‘At first I was simply going to complete a fairly broad master’s degree with a view to enhancing the criminal law work but Prof. Du Plessis fired my interest in corporations’ law,’ he explains. ‘As well as being an outstanding mentor, he was the supervisor of my thesis and the co-author of a book I wrote in 2005 (The Law of Insider Trading in Australia). I can say unreservedly that he has been the single biggest academic influence on my career.’
Graduating in 2004, Judge Lyon says that completing a Deakin professional doctorate provided him with a significant career milestone.
‘I’d been at the Bar since 1988 and my career was going well but from 2004 there’s no doubt that my Deakin studies had an enormous impact on my career.’
Taking silk in 2005, Judge Lyon continued building his career around complex criminal matters including white-collar crime, occupational health and safety, and regulatory law.
He appeared as Counsel Assisting the Office of Police Integrity at public hearings into police corruption allegations and was Senior Counsel for 77 municipal councils and the Municipal Association of Victoria at the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
An accredited advocacy instructor since 1993, Judge Lyon also served on the Victorian Bar Council, Victorian Bar Ethics Committee and chaired the Committee of the Criminal Bar Association.
As a County Court Judge, he says his key responsibility is hearing criminal trials and pleas of guilty on other matters associated with criminal law.
‘Because of my studies in corporations’ law and previous experience in occupational health and safety, I also hear a range of other complex trials,’ he adds.
One of the aspects Judge Lyon enjoys most about the role is being present in the court environment and listening to barristers advocate for their clients.
‘I really enjoy advocacy - watching people make their arguments, cross-examining witnesses. I love the whole atmosphere of the courtroom and in particular, watching younger barristers do a very good job,’ he says.
However like all professions, it comes with challenges and Judge Lyon says a major one is tackling the never-ending court lists.
‘It’s like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. The volume of work is enormous and there’s no end in sight. But I also view it as an invigorating challenge because of the atmosphere of the court is stimulating and there’s a strong sense of collegiality. I actually look forward to each day of work and I’m happy to be able to help.’
Reflecting on the changing landscape of the law profession, Judge Lyon considers there have been three major changes since commencing his law career 34 years ago.
‘The first is the introduction of technology – this has made an enormous difference – while the second is the break-down of state and national boundaries which has made a huge impact,’ he explains. ‘But the third and most significant change, that I’ve seen, is the welcome opening of the legal profession to women and cultural diversity.’
While he acknowledges that cultural diversity at the Bar ‘still has a way to go’, he welcomes the higher representation of female barristers.
‘This has been happening over the past decade and we’re now seeing growing numbers of very good female barristers with exceptional skills coming through the area of criminal law,’ he says.
Enjoying a life-long connection with the Geelong and Torquay area, Judge Lyon says he’s proud of his Deakin qualification and is looking forward to attending the Faculty of Business and Law’s graduation ceremony.
‘I hope my career story helps prospective and current graduates recognise that Deakin is a university that delivers excellent law programs that offer the opportunity of progressing to top of the law professions.’
Recognising that it’s also a profession that operates in a ‘tough market’, his advice to law graduates is to think laterally about the ways that a ‘thinking’ degree like law can be utilised.
‘There are many other professional avenues beyond working for a law firm. It’s also important to make sure you study law for all the right reasons. For me, that means having an interest in helping people. Don’t study law because you see it as way of making money. Money should never be the guiding principle for choosing a career.’
Judge Lyon will present his address at the Faculty of Business and Law’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday 20 June at Deakin’s Geelong Waterfront Campus.