Brian Wright is a Victorian Magistrate, appointed in 2004, who specialises in the WorkCover jurisdiction. Brian is a long-serving legal volunteer; he started volunteering in 1974 and has been a volunteer with Fitzroy Legal Service since 1978. Despite being busy with his duties as a Magistrate and a Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal member, he continues to work with Fitzroy Legal Service as a part of the Publications Committee.
Brian did his undergraduate degree at Monash University before completing his Master of Laws at The University of Melbourne. His pathway into law was a matter of luck and circumstance. Initially aiming for a place in the Diplomatic Corps, this aspiration became impossible when Malcolm Fraser closed enrolments to the program. As Brian had also undertaken a law degree at the time, he moved forward with his back-up plan. It was meant to be; despite being fairly late to the game with his application, he was able to get articles with Slater and Gordon. Working with Slater and Gordon, Brian did a bit of everything; it was the same when he went to bar – he did anything and everything. However, the subjects he really enjoyed while studying in university were personal injury law and worker’s compensation, and he has a great depth of knowledge in these areas.
It didn’t take long for Brian to get involved with community legal services. The other article clerk that Brian was working with at Slater and Gordon was involved in setting up Nunawading Legal Service (which has now become the Eastern Community Legal Service) and that was the first legal service he was involved with. When he completed his post-graduate studies, Brian was already living in Fitzroy, so Fitzroy Legal Service was conveniently located just up the road. Having been with Fitzroy Legal Service for such a long time, Brian has been around for many big events and changes. He vividly remembers when the Brunswick Street office burned down. At the time, staff members were not only dealing with the fire but with finding new facilities and managing the clients.
On a more positive note, volunteering with Fitzroy Legal Service gave Brian the chance to work with many different people who were already experienced in the legal field. In fact, during his time with the Fitzroy Legal Service, Brian worked with a Supreme Court Judge, three lawyers who went on to become County Court Judges and at least four Magistrates, as well as many others. Being involved with community legal services is no small task; a lot of time, effort and care are put into looking after clients and their needs. One of the things that Brian found as he worked with legal services is that there is satisfaction in being able to really help clients who need it. ‘It forced me to sort of deal with real people, deal with real problems,’ he says, ‘and as satisfactory a thing as it is for me, hopefully, that’s what the clients get from me when I give legal advice.’
When asked how he became a contributor to The Law Handbook, he replied with good humour, ‘I started volunteering at Fitzroy Legal Service in 1978 and the legal resources book – the loose leaf one – had only just been out. I took a look at the chapters I was interested in and I said to the editor, Julian Gardiner, ‘Look, I think these are fairly basic…’ and he said, ‘Okay, well, you’ll redo them.’ So Brian’s initial involvement in working with The Law Handbook was a case of being forcefully encouraged to volunteer (and, to The Law Handbook’s benefit, he continued to do so). Brian believes in The Law Handbook, not just as a low-cost and comprehensive resource for the every day person, but as valuable tool for lawyers. He says that many lawyers keep the text on-hand in case someone asks for advice in an area they aren’t sure about, that way they can just flip it open and get a concise overview of the matter.
Outside of the law, Brian describes himself as a bit of a mad traveller – and his adventures are not for the faint of heart. Over the years, he’s been on many high altitude trekking trips, conquering the likes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Inca Trail in Peru and Mount Toubkal in Morocco. Brian’s not going to be doing so much trekking on his next trip. Instead, he’ll be exploring Hong Kong and maybe just catching the famous Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak!