Life beyond Radford

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Last updated 9.08.2023

James Haddock

Class of 2003
Lives Canberra, Australia
Attendance at radford Years 7-12
House Acacia
  • Bachelor Degree, The Australian National University, Arts and Law, 2004-2008
  • Graduate Diploma, The Australian National University, Legal Practice, 2008-2009
  • Masters, The Australian National University, Law Specialising in Government and Commercial Law, 2011-2013
  • Certificate, Law Society of New South Wales, Accredited Specialisation in Family Law, 2015-2015
  • Certificate, The New South Wales Bar Association, Completion of the New South Wales Bar Examination, 2016-2017
Work history
  • Family Law Solicitor, Legal Aid ACT, 2009-2014
  • Senior Family Law Team Leader, Legal Aid ACT, 2014-2016
  • In House Counsel and Head of Practice for Family Law, Legal Aid ACT, 2016-2018
  • Barrister-at-law
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What does life look for you now?

I am a barrister at Blackburn Chambers in Canberra. I specialise in family law, care and protection, domestic violence and criminal law matters. Immodestly, I am lucky to be rather good at what I do and have been recognised as one of the ACT's leading family law barristers in the international rankings of Doyle's Guide since being called to the Bar in 2018.

This means that I get to do a lot of complex and challenging court work in the Family Court, Federal Circuit Court and Supreme Court here in Canberra, in Melbourne, in Sydney, in Woollongong, and occasionally in Brisbane. At any given day you can usually find me robed up and ready to argue a point of law or cross-examine a witness or pouring over a legal brief at Harvest. As you might imagine, this all keeps me rather busy but it is fascinating and intriguing work, especially the exceptional challenge of advocacy.

Outside the courtroom, life revolves around running and motorcycle riding, excellent stress reduction techniques that I totally recommend.

Tell us what you are passionate about?

I love my work in the law. I know that sounds awfully cliched, but I have truly been lucky to find my niche. There are simply very few things better in life than cross-examining a witness, one of the few truly intellectual battlefields that remain in modern society. I am passionate about social justice issues and my work has allowed me to pursue that passion. I also have a Radford instilled love of Rugby Union and enjoying the company of good friends and people.

When you were young, what were you hoping to be when you grew up?

I pretty much always wanted to be a lawyer because that is what my mother did and I used to go and watch her do court work whilst I was in primary school, and at Radford. I am sure some classmates would have been slightly preturbed to know that I often spent early Saturday mornings sitting on the steps of the cells in the ACT Magistrates Court whilst my mother interviewed clients for Saturday morning bails- I learnt all kinds of interesting things, especially the swear words.

Despite my wish, I never thought I I would get the UAI to do law. Then in Year 10 something just seemed to click in my head. I studied harder and the work just seemed easier. I was lucky enough to do really well, which I would not have been able to do without some of the wonderful Radford staff (particularly Mr Walsh, Mr Boyce and Mr Ryan) and my friends.

What is your favourite Radford moment?

It is so very hard to pick a favourite Radford moment. I think overall my Radford Rugby experiences form a string of wonderful moments for me. Radford Rugby connected me with people in my year I did not usually hang out with and the friendships we formed were, and remain, a wonderful part of my life.

Do you have a particular role model or inspirational figure from Radford or now?

Mr Walsh came to Radford when I was in Year 9 and he was an inspirational person who had a massive impact on my life (and not just because he is in looks and manner Mr DiMartino from Daria).

Mr Walsh taught me to think critically and love history and political theory. He was always a kind but firm teacher who expected the highest standards from his students and rewarded honesty and hard work. I have many fond memories of classes spent learning Greek and Roman history with Mr Walsh whilst occasionally being dazzled by the hammer and sickle emblems festooning his belt.

How easy was it to decide what to do in life?

Deciding what to do is easy but perseverance and dedication to achieving a goal is hard. I have found throughout my career that it would be exceptionally easy to sit where I am and not grow professionally or as a person. Challenging yourself and always trying to be better is hard but the rewards it brings are fantastic. Never settle and never be complacent.

Did your further study or career go exactly as you'd planned?

When I left university I had a plan that I was going to work as a consumer lawyer for the ACCC who never appeared in court without a barrister. Instead, I ended up taking a job in which I learned both family and criminal law and became entranced with its complexity, humanity and challenges and discovered a talent for advocacy.

One of the things being a lawyer who is always in Court has made clear to me is that it is always good to have a plan and work the plan, but you have to be flexible. Rigid thinking and adherence to a plan will close your mind to possibilities and the ways in which all situations can be viewed. Sometimes you have to walk away from the plan you have carefully considered.

What do you know now, that you wish you'd known when you were at Radford?

I wish I had known that everyone finds their niche eventually but sometimes it takes a while and that is okay. I am certain that would have saved me an awful lot of stress, even if I might not have believed it at that time.

What advice do you have for current students?

I have seen how truly awful and how truly wonderful human beings can be to themselves and each other. Being kind to yourself and each other is the most important thing you can do.

School is hard, there are significant pressures on everyone and we all have bad days where we say things we should not. Thinking about the other person's view and extending some kindness will make your life easier, the lives of those around you easier and the world a slightly better place.

This sounds like such a simple thing but if more people understood and practiced it I am certain we would all be a lot happier.

Where are you now?