27 July 21 - In the News
Journalist: Lauren Croft
Publication: Lawyers Weekly
Publisher: Momentum Media
Royal commissions are not only vital for the sake of public interest, but have also taught this partner some valuable lessons.
Speaking on The Lawyers Weekly Show, Holding Redlich partner and winner of the BigLaw Partner of the Year category at last year’s Women in Law Awards Alexandra Tighe explained what working on royal commissions is actually like and reflected on what she’s learned.
“They’re fast paced, they’re front page, it’s high pressure,” she said.
Ms Tighe has worked on four different royal commissions, including Lawyer X and the Crown Casino royal commission, which is still ongoing.
“I had some involvement in the AWB royal commission shortly after I started here at Holding Redlich as a junior lawyer, I really enjoyed it,” Ms Tighe added.
“I started to really just follow my nose and look for other opportunities for us. The opportunity for the role of solicitors assisting presented itself for the Lawyer X Royal Commission, which we were absolutely thrilled with.
“Now stepping out into a different role, we’re acting for the state of Victoria in the Crown Casino Royal Commission. But I think the learnings that I’ve taken from the role of solicitor assisting across into the Crown Casino role have been really invaluable, and I think it’s about knowing the process, understanding the rules, and how to cut through things in a very, very quick way.”
Royal commissions have provided ample opportunity for learning, Ms Tighe said – especially as the work is so high-pressure and fast-paced.
“Ordinarily in a litigation, you’ll have a presiding judge, you’ll have a time table, and I wouldn’t say it’s leisurely, but compared to a royal commission, it really is quite leisurely. You might have a six-month timetable. In a royal commission, you’ll have three weeks,” she said.
“Things come up very quickly. You have to make a decision on the spot and without being able to go into too much detail on those things. They just presented almost daily.
“It’s all about ensuring that the people who need to know certain things have those things available to them and they are across those issues, and if they’re not, you have to bring them up to speed very quickly.”
Although working on a royal commission may be high-pressure, Ms Tighe said that it’s a lot “more nerve wracking for someone who’s got to attend in the witness box than, say, the lawyers who are involved in the inner workings of the commission.”
“Generally speaking, a commission will just conduct its own affairs, and as I said, it’s very high profile, it’s very high pressure, but it’s very interesting and very effective at the same time,” she said.
“[But] apart from procedural fairness, there’s not really any other formal rules. The commissioner can conduct the commission in any way that they consider fit.”
Ms Tighe’s skills have developed throughout the process of working on an increasing number of royal commissions – and she said she’s learnt a lot about making quick assessments, alongside her team.
“I’ve got an amazing team behind me all working incredibly hard and all building on their own experience and expertise in this area as well,” she said.
“Your skills evolve as you get more experienced in operating in this environment. In our environment, there’s not much authority often, and it’s about interpretation of the act and understanding those rules of procedural fairness and understanding that even though when you’re acting for a party, they’re looking at you and saying, ‘Are they allowed to do this?’
“You’ve got to make an assessment about those things and you’ve got to make it quickly.”
Ms Tighe added that one of the things she most enjoys about royal commission work – and one of the things that makes it so important – is the “critical way in which a commission can cut through” for the sake of public interest, in addition to feeling a sense of purpose in the work she’s doing.
“They’re very effective in terms of shining a light on things that might otherwise have been buried in a bit of red tape and court rules and process,” she concluded.