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From Deakin law graduate to Victorian Government Solicitor

With Deakin degrees in commerce and law, Matthew Hocking now holds one of the State Government’s leading legal roles.

Deakin Law School alumnus Matthew Hocking has been appointed Victorian Government Solicitor in a role that sees him leading the Victorian Government Solicitor's Office, the primary source of legal services for the Victorian government and public sector agencies, including the Attorney-General, Ministers and Secretaries.

Matthew graduated from Deakin in 1999 with a Bachelor or Commerce/Bachelor of Laws before building an impressive business and legal career across the private and public sectors.

Commencing his career in a private legal practice in regional Victoria, he then moved into commercial insurance and general litigation before a four-year tenure in the banking and finance sector as a senior corporate lawyer, then manager of a large business unit.

In 2009, Matthew joined the Victorian public sector where he spent nine years in executive roles with the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) before moving across to the Victorian Government Solicitor's Office in 2018 as Assistant Victorian Government Solicitor of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Branch.

Appointed Acting Victorian Government Solicitor in 2019, he commenced his current role in November 2020.

When Matthew began his Deakin studies in 1993, Deakin’s law degree was relatively new but with its distinctive focus, he says it provided him a solid foundation for his career.

‘As well as a practical legal skills component, it offered a specific focus on commercial law as a point of difference to other law degrees and I found this highly attractive. Also, its emphasis on practical legal skills certainly felt like it gave me an edge when undertaking clerkships and later commencing private practice.’

As Victorian Government Solicitor, Matthew supports a large number of State Government departments and entities across the public sector.

Working on a broad range of diverse and engaging legal matters, he says it’s a role that is fast-paced but incredibly rewarding.

‘Every day is different. The biggest challenge I have is keeping a line-of-sight across the significant breadth of the areas of law that are required to be managed but I am very fortunate to lead a highly-experienced Executive Leadership Team who are all well respected subject-matter experts and excellent people leaders in their own right.’

An area of constant focus, he says, is keeping track of the time he spends across a multitude of tasks and setting time-based goals for key deliverables.

‘It is something that needs ongoing attention and regular re-evaluation by making sure that I am getting the best from the time that I have available and also leading the strategic direction of the Victorian Government Solicitor's Office most effectively.’

It also means balancing his responsibilities with the other ‘key occupation’ in his life: raising three children with his wife, Rebecca Hocking, who is also a lawyer and Deakin alumna.

‘Time with family is very precious and important for both of us. But when there is any spare time left over, I am otherwise a golf tragic! For me, it’s a game that has everything: problem solving, strategy, numbers, and people who I enjoy being around.’ 

Reflecting on the changing landscape of the law profession, Matthew says the most significant shift he’s observed over his career is the one that’s happening now.

‘And this includes the myriad of new legal technology, ranging from software applications that manage large voluminous documentation and discovery tools, to the use of legal data and analytics which better informs decision making and is starting to accompany legal advice to clients. The role of the lawyer is also changing to comprise a much more strategic advisory role which is a value-add above the legal work we do.’

His advice for aspiring lawyers comes from a key learning he’s made after 21 years working across the business and law sectors.

‘Careers can have many changes, twists and turns so while the future can often seem very uncertain during the years of study, enjoying those years and applying yourself to the moment will effectively set you up for whatever the future will hold.

‘My advice may be bit old fashioned, and the same as what my parents gave me, but that is to always keep your options open. The value of a law degree goes well beyond traditional legal roles.  I have had the benefit of moving in and out of non-legal roles over my career to date and the legal disciplines that you learn during study and as a lawyer prove highly valuable in business and management generally.’