James Morton (LLB '03) has worked as a defence barrister with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the NT and Queensland. James has a broad criminal law background and was sworn in as a Judicial officer in May 2017, serving in Mt Isa, Queensland. James is a lecturer at QUT Law and a member of the Regional Parole Board and the Chair of the Sentencing Advisory Council that has recently been reinstated under Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath.
What inspired you to study law?
I was inspired to study law when I gained employment with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service as a Field Officer. In that job I was exposed to the criminal law and saw how the legal system impacted upon Indigenous offenders.
What’s your favourite memory from UNSW Law?
My favourite memory of studying law was receiving my letter from UNSW to advise me that I could graduate.
What has been the most challenging part of your career so far?
The most challenging part of my career so far has been every day since I commenced legal practise.
How do you balance both your professional career as a practising lawyer and your career as an academic?
Do you feel that your experiences help you to teach your students?
Balancing my professional and academic career was a difficult task, but the flexibility of academic life made it a little easier in that I could be absent from academic requirements and be in court for matters and try to fit my legal practise around my busy court schedules.
I feel that my practical experience was of great assistance to me to be able to put the academic perspective into a practical point of view. The students appreciated the fact that I was not just an academic but also a lawyer who has practised in court and I was able to have a view of the teachings of law and the workings of the law.
As a role model to our Indigenous students currently studying law, what advice would you give?
As a role model, my advice to Indigenous Law students is: you are at the best law school, work hard and take every opportunity that is offered to you and strive for nothing but success. Make good relationships with the legal profession while you are at law school because those relationships will last when you finish and get into practise.
Can you tell us what you’ve been most proud of and what you most enjoy about your job?
I am most proud of being appointed as a judicial officer, it is rewarding to know that my hard work has been noticed and appreciated by the Attorney General (QLD) to offer me the position. I mostly enjoy dealing with the public and educating them about the legal principles that affect everyday people and having the authority to do so.
Who or what inspires you the most?
Everyone who has struggled and made an effort to make their life better inspires me. Not to forget my mum and my partner.
He who is sin free cast the first stone.