Monday, June 12, 2017

Hancock on Australian barrister Tom Hughes

Historian and biographer Ian Hancock published Tom Hughes QC: A Cab on the Rank with The Federation Press in 2016. From the publisher:
Tom Hughes QC
For more than thirty years, Tom Hughes, a scion of a notable Sydney family of high achievers, was one of Australia’s top barristers, renowned, respected and sometimes feared for his dominating presence in the courtroom. Equally at home in all jurisdictions, his theatrical style, command of language and forensic skills filled public galleries, exposed witnesses, persuaded juries and ensured that judges paid attention. An icon of the Sydney and Australian Bar, he appeared in a raft of celebrated cases, became the subject of many media profiles and was, from the 1970s to the 1990s, the country’s most expensive advocate. 
Hughes has also been a wartime pilot, a politician, an activist federal Attorney-General, a grazier, and a racehorse owner. He survived a broken marriage, a spiteful sacking from ministerial office and a prolonged though not permanent loss of an inherited Catholic faith. He endured years of frustration before finding the right partner to replicate the perfect marriage of his beloved parents. Even in dark times, however, a thorough professional and a prodigious worker, Hughes remained focused on his first love, the law, always upholding its traditions and processes. 
In addition to published material, the book draws on a huge trove of personal records, including fee books, intimate diaries, autobiographical jottings and private correspondence, supplemented by interviews with Hughes, his family, friends and colleagues. Using these sources, the book provides insights into a many-sided character - telling the story of how Hughes and his immediate forebears embraced more of their English than their Irish heritage while becoming distinctively Australian. It also offers a personal perspective on several decades of Australian political, social and legal history.
Praise for the book:

"The subtitle of this compellingly readable biography of Thomas Eyre Forrest Hughes AO QC borrows the underlying philosophical metaphor of the independent Bar. A barrister is available for hire by those who will pay the fee, irrespective of personal, political, social, or other co- incidence with the client, or approval or disapproval of his or her cause. Hughes’s advocacy style has been described as declamatory and theatrical, a characteristic pose was, with ‘menacing pirouette’, to address the side, or even the rear of the courtroom. Occasionally there would be penetrating wit, as when he said of a trade union hearing which had expelled his client that to describe it as a kangaroo court ‘would be an understatement and an insult to a great Australian marsupial.'” –Peter Heerey

“Crime, defamation, constitutional issues, commercial litigation, inquiries - for 60 years Tom Hughes was there, a big man with a big capacity for the big cases. … He has attained almost legendary status as being perhaps the last of his kind. The case for reading his biography is substantial on these grounds alone, and reinforced because Hughes' story comprises many other fascinating narratives.” –Kate Allman

“Most Sydney lawyers have a repertoire of Tom Hughes stories. He became a legend in his lifetime, and was still practising as a barrister well into his 80s. His trademark was a rare ability to persuade and intimidate: judges, juries, witnesses, legal opponents, clients, colleagues, all. Instructing solicitors were fair game, yet it was always an honour to work with Hughes. For more than 50 years he was a commanding presence in Australian and English courts. And as Ian Hancock demonstrates in this excellent biography, he has lived a life of multifaceted eminence.” –Roy Williams

Further information about the book, including interviews and other media coverage, is available here.

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