Influential UNSW academics and student featured as finalists in the 2020 Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards.

The annual Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards highlight development and innovation, for professionals and firms which are leading the way in the legal industry.

Now in its 20th year, the awards provide the opportunity for those in the legal industry to be recognised at a national level.

In 2019 Associate Professor Justine Nolan joined the list of Academic of the Year winners from UNSW Sydney, while Professor Michael Legg and Professor Rosalind Dixon took home the same prize in 2017 and 2018.

This year, prominent academics such as UNSW Law’s Professor Lyria Bennett Moses and UNSW Business School’s Associate Professor Mark Humphery-Jenner are finalists in the Academic of the Year category and UNSW Law student Sanjay Alapakkam in the Law Student of the Year category.

Academic of the Year UNSW finalists

Professor Lyria Bennett Moses

Prof. Bennett Moses works in the Law Faculty and is the director of a research initiative: the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation.

“It is an absolute privilege to be nominated,” says Prof. Bennett Moses.

She says it is an honour to be among the finalists in her category, all of whom have made important contributions to the law through academia.

Her research seeks to understand the relationship between law and technological change and explores how we can better facilitate law reform that responds to new ways of doing things such as the use of artificial intelligence in decision-making.

“On the teaching side, I teach courses that enhance relevant technical literacy among law students in order to get them thinking about how law applies in new technological contexts and the role of technology in legal processes (including what they might themselves create),” Prof. Bennett Moses says.

Her greatest achievement was founding the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation – bringing together scholars with a range of legal and non-legal expertise to explore important issues through workshops, reading groups and collaboration in order to have real world impact on law operating at the technological frontier.

But as a child Prof. Bennett Moses wanted to be a judge.

“I used to accompany my parents to court and the judge always seemed to have the best job; I learnt later that it is harder than it looks,” she says.

As an undergraduate student, she loved topics at the end of many law courses where she was able to explore interesting questions around e-commerce and contract law, human tissue transplants and property law, logic programming and judicial decision-making.

“I wanted to skip the boring bits and just do that.”

Outside of the office Prof. Bennett Moses enjoys hiking, watching TV and movies, reading fantasy and science fiction, and getting enough sleep.

Associate Professor Mark Humphery-Jenner

UNSW Business School Associate Professor of Finance Mark Humphery-Jenner is an angel investor and an external advisor at a hedge fund. At UNSW Sydney, his field is law and finance which focuses on corporate governance and securities class actions.

“I am grateful to Lawyers Weekly, UNSW Law, and UNSW Business for enabling me to be in this position,” says A/Prof. Humphery-Jenner.

He has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles, received the Paul Bourke Award from the Academy of Social Sciences, and has been part of major grants from the Australian Research Council and Irish Research Council. 

A/Prof. Humphery-Jenner says he discovered his passion for law at school when he would try to find ways to navigate school rules. It then became clear to A/Prof. Humphery-Jenner that power comes from knowing what the law says and – more importantly – what it does not say.

He says this was reinforced when studying at UNSW Law with several legal academics about statutory interpretation in their subjects.

He has an interest in finance because he values the freedom and liberty the finance industry has historically offered.

“I strongly believe in individual liberty, and as it relates to economic and fiscal policy, I will not hesitate to advocate for it,” says A/Prof. Humphery-Jenner.

At a policy level, his pet peeve is people with zero knowledge of finance or economics trying to dictate economic policy.

“This is akin to a banker trying to dictate our COVID health-protocols or climate science (i.e., it’s nonsensical). Thus, I do aspire to influence economic policy,” says A/Prof. Humphery-Jenner.

As such, he pushes back on claims that companies should focus on goals other than wealth maximisation.

Outside of the office A/Prof. Humphery-Jenner enjoys exercise and pole dancing.

“I also somewhat collect art, though – honestly – am basically a dilettante, collecting more with my ears than my eyes” he says.

Student Lawyer of the Year finalist

UNSW Law student Sanjay Alapakkam

Mr Alapakkam is a fourth year Law/Commerce (Finance) student currently working as a Research Assistant at the NSW Inspector of Custodial Services and is Vice President (Social Justice) 2020 for the UNSW Law Society.

Mr Alapakkam says past finalists from UNSW Law are people he looks up to and he was genuinely honoured to be nominated as a finalist.

“It also made me reflect on the fact that I am incredibly privileged, in terms of my childhood and other personal circumstances, to have accrued my set of experiences which led to this recognition,” Mr Alapakkam says.

He decided to undertake his degree as he has always been passionate about the use of the law as a tool to bring about social change and protect human rights.

He will be representing UNSW at the national AAT Moot and is undertaking the UNSW Public Policy Student Fellowship which is run by Professors Rosalind Dixon and Richard Holden as part of the UNSW Sydney’s New Economic Policy Initiative.

The Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards 2020 will be hosted live via virtual broadcast on Friday at 7pm.