Carter Newell managing partner on the big themes of 2022 when it comes to legal excellence

Paul Hopkins anticipates that innovation, tech, and AI will be on the list

Carter Newell managing partner on the big themes of 2022 when it comes to legal excellence
Paul Hopkins

For 2023 Australasian Law Awards judge Paul Hopkins, the legal talent in Australia today is “amazing”. The Carter Newell managing partner has watched how junior solicitors stepped up in the face of difficult starts to their careers.

Hopkins anticipates that innovation in solution development will be a significant theme in evaluating legal excellence, and he’s also keeping an eye on tech and AI. Nonetheless, he also stresses the importance of diversity and inclusion.

In this interview, Hopkins talks how inclusivity fosters positivity, leading and learning from his team, and creating work experiences for First Nations and Torres Strait Island students.

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What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?

I always enjoyed public speaking and debating when I was younger. I thought it might be helpful for a career in law. What has kept me in the law is the remarkable people I get to work with. Getting to not only lead but learn from the amazing team at Carter Newell is still my favourite part about my job.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so? Or what’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?

I have been tremendously proud of the work Carter Newell’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee has accomplished over the past couple of years and myself having the opportunity to contribute to the D&I committee at the Queensland Law Society. Celebrating D&I is a key part of the Carter Newell’s culture and we have hosted some really important events. During World Pride Week we invited Justice Michael Kirby to present to our staff and clients. The feedback from our clients and staff was incredibly supportive and showcased how important promoting diversity and inclusion is in the legal profession.

We have also set up a work experience program which involves First Nations and Torres Straight Island students attending our office for work experience. What I’ve learnt in the past year from our D&I commitment is that inclusivity fosters positivity.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the past year, and what advice would you give fellow lawyers about it?

The biggest lesson learnt in the past year is the need, post-COVID, to maintain a flexible approach for staff in terms of working remotely. The advice I would give to fellow lawyers and those leading a team of lawyers is to really work out what’s best for your staff, what’s best for your clients and the firm. Putting your staff first allows your firm to deliver the best outcome for your clients.

What do you think of the current crop of legal talent in Australia? What can we expect from them?

Our Sydney and Melbourne offices continue to grow and go from strength to strength. We have fantastic young, energetic teams in both offices and the client feedback on the work we are doing there has been incredibly strong.

In terms of the current crop of legal talent in Australia, I think they are amazing. Many of the junior solicitors showed great versatility having to spend their first couple of years as lawyers working remotely and handling COVID. There are a number of rising stars and I certainly wish them well and am really excited to work with the crop of legal talent we have at Carter Newell.

What do you think some of the big themes of 2022 will be when evaluating legal excellence as a judge?

I expect some of the themes will be innovation and change in the way solutions are devised and applied. The use of technology and AI will continue to be significant themes as well.

What’s on the horizon for the profession in the coming year?

Sourcing and retaining the best talent is a big challenge faced by the profession in 2023. Another critical area for the profession is becoming more accessible and inclusive to ensure our legal population reflects the diversity seen in our broader national population.

If you had to defend a fictional antagonist/villain in court, who would you pick, and why?

Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men. After that explosion in the witness box!

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