What I Wish I Knew...

What I wish I knew ... 

NSW Supreme Court Justice Julie Ward passes on an important lesson for solicitors 

By Kate Allman, LSJ 


Triple check emails before sending them

When I started out as a solicitor I was told, “You should write all correspondence as if one day it might be read by a judge."

I guess it’s not something I wish I knew, because I was told that at the start, but the importance of that lesson has really come home to me now that I am a judge. Especially when I see correspondence that has not been given enough thought.

When I was a solicitor I had one case where a piece of correspondence that I had written on behalf of a client was put almost line by line to a witness in cross examination. While it was excruciating to sit there and hear my own words being put to a witness, I thought at the time, “Thank goodness I drafted that carefully.”

Keep it formal

I started in the dark ages, when we didn’t have emails – we only had the telex machine. Nowadays emails are dangerous because people treat them as if they are just a friendly chat. Often they don’t have the formality that they should.

If you were writing a letter to another practitioner you would write it formally and think about it carefully, one would hope. But I think some email correspondence is just sent to check off a list and can be flippant or casual. Such emails live forever in the “ether”. People should bear that in mind more often.


Justice Julie Ward

Ward spent 26 years as a solicitor in commercial litigation before, in 2008, she became the first female solicitor to be directly appointed to NSW Supreme Court Judge from private practice.