Proctor : February 2018
8 PROCTOR | February 2018 60 years in law An ongoing legacy by Tony Keim In 1958, the Australian Government was being run under the leadership of legendary Prime Minister Robert Menzies, the Cold War was in full effect between the USA and USSR, led by President Dwight D Eisenhower and then newly appointed Communist Party Secretary Nikita Krushchev. It was a year which also saw the USA enter the space race with the establishment of NASA; the first ever computer microchip was invented; Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Johnny O’Keefe were top of the Australian pops; Frank Nicklin was Queensland Premier; QANTAS introduced its first around-the-world service via the UK and live music show Bandstand was first aired on Australian television. Meanwhile in Victoria, a promising legal career was launched when Richard Hyett graduated from Melbourne University and was admitted to practice on 3 March, 1958. 60 years on and Mr Hyett’s enthusiasm and love of the law show no signs of diminishing. Despite flirting with a career as a night club pianist at a young age, Mr Hyett says family tradition and the need to find a real and properly remunerated job dictated his future. “I did contemplate a career as a pianist at a nightclub or a piano bar, but that was not considered by my father to be a proper job,” he said. “My family’s history in law dates back to 1880 with my grandfather, uncle, father and older brother all solicitors. “My grandfather spent countless hours working on the Australian Constitution with his partner John Quick, who was later knighted for his contribution.” Unlike millennial lawyers of today, early career lawyers in 1958 were unable to conduct internet or Google searches to quickly source case law or conduct research. In fact, almost all forms of modern technology were in their infancy. Even soon to be invented time savers have since been dispatched to the technological graveyard many decades ago. That’s not to say Mr Hyett hasn’t been at the cutting edge of technology throughout his career – his firm installed Victoria’s second ever computer in their offices in the mid-1970s. Over the years Mr Hyett has seen technology evolve from pen and ink, Dictaphones, manual type writers (using carbon paper) to golf-ball electric typewriters, and now computers. There was also the introduction of facsimile machines where one had to go to the post office to transmit a fax, then Gestetner duplicators which evolved into modern day photocopiers, the first word processor (memory typewriter) which was the size of a large desk with the data being stored on a cassette tape. “There has obviously been an enormous change with technology,” Mr Hyett said. “When I commenced practice there were no photocopies, fax machines or computers. “Large libraries full of leather-bound Acts and legislation were kept up to date, but have now become less important as so much is available through Google. The law continues to be a changing landscape – for example e-conveyancing and email rather than post. “Clients’ expectations have also changed. Once people would wait for a reply to a letter. Now, with email and phones, people expect an immediate response, as though theirs is the only current file you have.” Mr Hyett’s career as a Victorian solicitor was set-aside for a sea-change in 1994 when he moved from Bendigo to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Like most veteran lawyers, Mr Hyett has had more than a few laughs in the ordinarily dour confines of the criminal courts. One case in particular that still affords him a guilty chuckle is the day he represented a probationary driver who recorded a low- breath alcohol reading, despite protestations of being stone cold sober. “The accused gave evidence that he had not drunk any alcohol and then recalled that he had eaten his grandmother’s trifle,” Mr Hyett said. “The magistrate replied: ‘Quod lex autem non est de nguis.’ The comment was lost on my client, but it gave me a good laugh. Translated from Latin the quote says ‘the law does not deal with trifles’. “Noting my amusement at his comment the magistrate dismissed the case.” At a time when most people of his age would swap a life of law for time on the beach, golf links or time in the slow lane, Mr Hyett is determined to carry on his life’s work. “I enjoy legal work, the discipline of being a lawyer and attending to the legal needs of people.” News Tony Keim is manager of external affairs and journalist at Queensland Law Society.