Greg Tolhurst
Friday, July 20, 2018
Justinian in Greg Tolhurst, NSW Bar Association, On the Couch, Sydney Law School

Greg Tolhurst is the Executive Director of the NSW Bar Association and he's on Justinian's Couch ... An indoors-outdoors sort of person ... Huge pile of books beside his bed ... Lots of music ... Running the bar association at a time of considerable disruption ... Bin Chicken SC and Bullfry practising without tickets ... Dinner table banter ... Dessert and drumming ... No hot sun but more vitamin D  

Tolhurst: coming out from underground Greg Tolhurst was educated at Fort Street High School and became a lawyer by sitting the LPAB Diploma in law exams. 

He also holds an LLM (Sydney) and a PhD (UNSW). His legal career began as the tipstaff to Justice Jerrold Cripps. 

He was then a solicitor at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and a consultant at Herbert Smith Freehills. 

Tolhurst spent 17 years at Sydney Law School as Professor of Commercial Law holding various positions within the faculty including roles as associate dean and acting dean. 

In his time he has written a few books and published a few articles. He took on the position of Executive Director of the NSW Bar Association in October 2017. 

He is also a venturer scout leader and so well known within the Bunnings BBQ fraternity. 

Justinian is fortunate that he spared a moment on our couch ... 

Describe yourself in three words.

Not Bald Yet.

What are you currently reading? 

Doerr, "Measure What Matters"; Rossmanith, "Small Wrongs"; Muller, "The Tyranny of Metrics"; Stern, "Galaxy Love"; Unnahar, "Yesterday I was the Moon"; Strangio, Hart & Walter, "Settling the Office"; Tombs, "The English and Their History" (it is taking forever); Shapiro, "Legality"; Eisenberg, "The Nature of the Common Law" (it's embarrassing that I did not read this years ago); Braund, "The Greatest Movies You will Never See"; Pearl, "The Book of Why"; Giovannoni, "The Fireflies of Autumn"; Barnes (ed) "The Independent Bar" ... Shall I go on?

What's your favourite film? 

Today, it is between "Laura"; "It Happened One Night" and "Out of the Past".

What is your favourite piece of music?

It is too close to call but it is between, Miles Davis, "A Tribute to Jack Johnson"; Buddy Rich and Mel Torme, "Together Again for the First Time"; Art Blakey, "A Night in Tunisia"; anything by Art Tatum; Eric Carmen and the Raspberries, "Raspberries Best"; Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No 2; Joe Jackson, "Steppin' Out". Ask me again in another minute and it would all have changed.

Who has been the most influential person in your life, and why? 

My Mum and Dad. Mum is very much "get on with it" and Dad was "why the rush, take a break". 

When were you happiest?

I know I should say when my four children were born and they were four very happy days, but the day I changed my last nappy was also a very happy moment.

Why did you think it was a good idea to leave the cosy confines of academia to become executive director of the NSW Bar? 

Academia is not a cosy confine. It was time for a change and a new challenge. 

Has it worked out as you anticipated? 

Yes, I love it. It's busy and the work is varied and interesting, and there is an occasional touch of politics.

Where do you see the Bar Association in five years time? 

In terms of the Bar Association office, I will be honest and say that I would like the staff to be out of the "car park", I already have a vitamin D deficiency. Beyond that the question is too big to answer here except to say the Bar Association through the Bar Council and its committees will continue to support and represent its members while demonstrating leadership in a dynamic legal services environment.  

What are the biggest challenges you face as executive director? 

Legal services are experiencing a period of disruption. Each of us at the Bar Association and on the Bar Council and its committees face the challenge of playing our part to work through these changes. 

May I add that I am also concerned about two people, who go by the names of Bin Chicken SC and Bullfry, are holding themselves out as barristers when they do not have PCs. The latter has been around for some time and the previous executive director turned a blind eye to it. I would be grateful if any readers can give me the addresses for these people. 

Who was your most memorable student? 

There are five that I find hard to split. One wrote an essay in first year that I have kept in my lecture notes to this day. Some may or may not be at the bar! Only one has enrolled to do a PhD, clearly I need to do more to inspire the other four.

How do you unwind? 

Listening to the banter of my children at the dinner table and doing things that require a lot of concentration so I do not think about work, such as hiking and camping. More recently I have been talked into doing some canyoning which keeps you focused. Last year one of my sons and I went to Tanzania to walk up Kilimanjaro, and during that I didn't think of work once. 

What is in your refrigerator? 

Not much, my four teenage boys just cleaned it out, they are like locusts. Glad you did not ask what is in the freezer.

What is your favourite website?

Leonid and Friends, Chicagovich 

What words or phrases do you overuse? 

"...now Arthur ..." 

What is your greatest weakness?

Dessert. (Ok you did ask what was in the freezer).

Why did you want to be a lawyer? 

I didn't (see next Bar News for more details).

What other occupation would you have liked to pursue? 

Drummer in a rock 'n' roll band.

If you were on death row, what would be your request for your last meal? 

Whatever is cooked on the next mystery box episode of MasterChef; you have to keep some mystery alive.

If you were a foodstuff, what would you be? 

Vacuum sealed. 

What human quality do you most distrust?

My favourite line in popular music is "you're so vain you probably think this song is about you ..." Does that give you a hint?

What would you change about Australia?

Adopt the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Who, or what, do you consider overrated?

Lying on a beach in the hot sun, sit ups and super foods.

What would your epitaph say?

"I will say this one last time ..."

What comes to mind when you shut your eyes and think of the word "law"? 

Marking; the old Sydney law school lecture theatres on cold winter nights; The Hon Jerrold Cripps QC's coffee intake before court. 

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (http://justinian.com.au/).
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