During early November 2018, Warwick PPL Society were pleased to welcome prominent advocate Jennifer Robinson to give insight into her experience at Australian National University, life at the bar, and of course, her representation of Julian Assange.
Struck by her candour and originality in communication, Warwick PPL Society witnessed an interview by Patrick Tomlin (PPL course director), and ‘Jen’, a nickname established through their time at Balliol College Oxford together. Jennifer Robinson regaled the PPL Society with tales of her time at Australian National University, and in particular her decision to complete her studies in Jogyakarta, Indonesia, a far cry from the ‘coral reefs in Bali’ visited by some of her compatriots.
Robinson went on to address her time at Doughty Street Chambers, proving incisive in multiple ways. First, it served to highlight the variance in legal training: In Australia, aspiring lawyers tend to qualify as solicitors first and then branch out into barrister roles. Second, some of Robinson’s most important cases not involving Julian Assange were brought to light. Prominent among these was her success in helping Benny Wanda, West Papuan Independence leader, secure asylum in the UK. This stemmed from her time as a human rights volunteer in 2003. Third, Robinson talked of the happenstance nature of her defending Julian Assange, referencing a confusing phone call she received asking her to defend someone whilst on holiday in the South of France.
Tomlin expertly directed the interview to Robinson’s ideas surrounding the changing nature of the bar, from which a few interesting observations arose. First, that the notion of the bar as white, male, and privileged is slowly changing. After all, Jennifer Robinson is the first woman to address the International Criminal Court. Second, the ‘taxi rank’ notion of barristers as conceived within the English justice system i.e. ‘a barrister should fulfil their role regardless of a defendant’, is less stringent than expected, given that barristers can reject cases. Third, Robinson’s banner as a human rights lawyer was not intended per se, but simply emerged out of the cases she took, from Benny Wanda to Assange. “The government probably won’t be hiring me”, a comment made by Robinson, encapsulated this notion perfectly.
On behalf of Warwick PPL Society, it was an absolute pleasure to host a prominent advocate such as Jennifer Robinson. Members of Warwick PPL Society can rest easy in the knowledge that this is the first of many tailored events. Watch this space!