YOUNG LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE Mitch Simmons named Young Australian Migration Lawyer of the Year CHANEL MARTIN, RESOLVE DIVORCE LAWYERS; MEMBER, YOUNG LAWYERS COMMITTEE Mitch Simmons of Tern Visa and Migration Lawyers was awarded the John Gibson AM Award for the Young Australian Migration Lawyer of the Year at the Law Council of Australian Immigration Law Conference in February. The award is conducted annually by the Law Council’s Migration Law Committee and is presented to a young lawyer of less than five years’ post-admission experience. The award recognises excellence by young lawyers in the field of migration law in Australia or internationally. Past recipients of the Award have included Marina Brizar, an immigration lawyer who migrated with her family as a refugee in 1995 and Besmellah Rezaee, who was born in Afghanistan and migrated to Australia in 2006 after living as a refugee as a child. Mitch was recognised for his tireless contribution to the practice of immigration law together with his probono work and involvement with the Refugee Advocacy Service of South Australia. In April 2017 Mitch joined long-term collaborator and fellow young lawyer Josh Calligeros in co-founding an immigration law practice in Adelaide after recognising a need in South Australia for the provision of specialised legal assistance focused on those who are facing an increasingly harsh, unpredictable and complex visa system. His approach to the practice of immigration law is challenging the norm. He is a flexible practitioner, full of fresh perspective, practicing the law differently. Mitch has particular expertise in complex family visa appeals, permanent and temporary protection visas and visa cancellations at all levels. Recently, Mitch was the instructing solicitor in Singh v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (2017) FCA 1298, a successful appeal that established an important precedent for partner visa applications. Since mid-2016 Mitch has also been involved in Burgess v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection  FCA 69, a successful review of 30 THE BULLETIN April 2018 the Minister’s decision to cancel the applicant’s visa on character grounds. This case is among many challenging the Minister’s politicised “crack down” and personal cancellation of hundreds of visas of those suspected of having an “association” with outlaw motorcycle gangs without having to provide the visa holder or Court the evidence relied on in forming that suspicion. Mitch’s caseload is diverse, and in addition to assisting families, domestic violence victims, and asylum seekers, he also assists with visa issues in the commercial space, including advising South Australian businesses on managing staff shortages and foreign investors on compliance with investment visa frameworks. When asked how he manages client and colleague perceptions, given his young age and relatively short career, Mitch’s response was positive. He says most clients respond well to his flexible approach, and are less concerned about attending upon an experienced practitioner at a named firm. Clients want a practitioner who not only understands and can competently apply the law, but someone who can empathise with the difficult circumstances they find themselves in, and be conscious and flexible toward their needs. Immigration law is constantly changing, and in such dramatic ways. Mitch recognises his point of difference, in that he is a specialist in his field, and that in itself is what attracts clients to his practice. Mitch says that while it has been challenging going out on your own, while managing the commitment he has to his young family, his daughter Maeve in particular, the way in which he chooses to operate Tern, day to day, works for him, his clients, and his young family. Mitch is also a Board member at the Refugee Advocacy Service of South Australia (RASSA), a service providing pro bono migration assistance to asylum seekers in South Australia who are eligible Mitch Simmons with fellow RASSA board member Emily Rutherford to apply for a Temporary Protection Visa or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa under the Federal Government’s “fast track” process. RASSA is the only community legal centre in South Australia providing this type of assistance. Mitch has been volunteering with RASSA since October 2015 and joined the Board in October 2016. He is also a member of the volunteer and training subcommittee which works to train and manage volunteer migration agents and lawyers. He is a mentor to law students and young practitioners interested in pursuing a career in immigration and refugee law. In addition to Mitch’s contribution to the law through RASSA, Mitch provides pro bono assistance to applicants in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Courts who are otherwise ineligible for or unable to access pro bono services in South Australia. Mitch is an outstanding winner of the inaugural award, and a young practitioner who has achieved much in a short time. In less than five years Mitch has established himself as a young migration and refugee lawyer of note, due to the quality of his work in South Australia and his commitment to his area of law. The Young Lawyers Committee together with the Law Society of South Australia congratulate Mitch on receipt of the award.
YOUNG LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE Young Lawyers’ Committee Profile: Tom Simpson Tom Simpson is a lawyer in the Civil Litigation Section of the Crown Solicitor’s Office, and was a member of the Young Lawyer’s Committee from 2011 to 2017. From 2015 to 2017, Tom was also the Chair of the Young Lawyer’s Committee. Daniela Di Stefano sat down with Tom to reflect on his time with the Young Lawyers Committee, his early career highlights and what he is up to now. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO JOIN THE YLC? I spent the last semester of my law degree overseas and then stayed overseas working for a few more years. Having been away for a number of years, I saw the YLC as a good opportunity to get to know new members of the profession. I considered it a positive way to re-engage and reconnect with young lawyers. TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR OVERSEAS EXPERIENCE AND HOW THIS CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR LEGAL CAREER? I spent a semester in the Faculty of Law at the University of Poitiers in France, where I studied European law and human rights law. From there, I worked at a NGO whose main focus was lobbying the European Parliament and Commission on asylum policy. In this context, we would meet members of European Parliament, the United Nations and Amnesty International to talk about European policy and the law as it relates to asylum seekers. I then moved to London and represented asylum seekers for a period of time before returning to Adelaide. Having spent about three years focusing on a fairly narrow area of law, I wanted to get a broader experience, rather than limiting myself to just asylum and immigration law. It was a fascinating experience; I think it broadened my horizons and provided me with some foundation skills for general litigation practice. The CSO gives me the opportunity to continue this work pro bono through JusticeNet. HOW DO YOU THINK BEING ON THE YLC HELPED YOUR CAREER AND YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT? At the Crown, there is an extensive in-house CPD program and lots of opportunities to meet people within the Office. However, we don’t necessarily attend outside events in the same way that a young lawyer at a private firm might. Being on the YLC gave me the opportunity to meet not just other members of the Committee but also other young lawyers who attended our events. I also got to meet senior members of the profession and members of the judiciary, as we often invited them to speak at our events. It was great to get to know our Committee’s patrons, Justice Grey and later Justice Stanley. WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE YLC EVENT? When I was a relatively new member of the Committee, I arranged our annual Premium Breakfast event. I had invited Chief Justice French to come and speak at the breakfast. It was a great experience to sit down and eat bacon and eggs with the Chief Justice of the High Court. He spoke about his time as a young lawyer, and about what he saw as important skills to develop as a young lawyer. I introduced His Honour and thanked him afterwards, giving the Chief Justice a box of Haighs and a bottle of wine – a bit out of place at breakfast time! Other notable events include the Croquet night. It was always great to get out on the green and compare how horrible most of us were at attempting to play! WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING YOUNG LAWYERS TODAY? I think the transition from law graduate to young lawyer can be very challenging in Adelaide, nationally and internationally. There seem to be relatively few graduate Tom Simpson jobs, so getting that first experience can be challenging. When I was overseas, I spent a period of time after graduation and before my first job applying for multiple positions. My first job back in Adelaide was at the Crown. I was very fortunate to secure a position that has such varied and interesting work. WHY DID YOU LEAVE THE YLC AND WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO SINCE? I spent about six years on the YLC. I felt it was the right time to move on and the Committee was in excellent hands. Since leaving the committee, I have been focusing on my young family – I have a son who is now two-and-a-half years old. I haven’t left the Law Society completely – I am still on the Public Sector & In- House Lawyers Committee! WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS? In five years I would like to be running more complex litigation for the State Government. I am involved in a range of litigation, but with a focus on complex and commercial litigation. There are excellent opportunities in the Crown to take on really interesting work and I’ve found that in my time at the Crown I have been exposed to very interesting matters. As I have become more experienced, I have been getting more responsibility in those complex mattes and hope for that increasing responsibility to continue. The Young Lawyers’ Committee would like to thank Tom for all of his hard work and contributions over the years. April 2018 THE BULLETIN 31