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Embodied Experience: An interview with Ian Neil

With more than 36 years' experience within the Queensland Court system, Director of Litigation at McCarthy Durie Lawyers, Ian Neil (LLB), is one of the most experienced solicitors in the business.

Throughout his career, he has seen a range of legal scenarios and case outcomes. Ian has also been part of a justice system that has transformed over the last two decades.

With all his years in the legal business, Ian has experienced it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Highs and Lows

During Ian's 38-year career, there have been a number of positive cases as well as some low points.  

"In all my litigation experience, two cases, in recent time, are the most notable. They reflect the highs and lows of the justice system," he said.

The low came during a case in which two local Queensland residents had their land resumed by the Brisbane City Council. 

Ian believes they received not only a bad judgement from the Land Court, but also from the Land Appeal Court. 

"The residents received a poor judgement out of the Land Court, which we then took on appeal to the Land Appeal Court. But because of the perverse wording of the Land Court Act in reference to the filing and service of the notice of appeal, it became apparent that the notice of appeal had actually been served out of time."

The Brisbane City Council took issue with this technical matter, which they were entitled to. Ultimately, the Land Appeal Court and the Court of Appeal ruled that the appeal had been filed in time but served half a day late, which meant that the appeal was null and void. 

Mr Neil pointed out that because the wording of the Act was so perverse, "the Land Court itself instigated an amendment of section 65, which was presented to the state government, who amended the Act".

Unfortunately, no matter how hard they pushed, the state government would not enact the amendment retrospectively.

"So that was one of the great lows of my legal career; it was an absurd result and completely unjust and unfair. I almost gave up the law because of that."

Fortunately for Ian, a high point came not long after the conclusion of the previous case. 

The case involved a residents' group from Tamborine Mountain and a water extraction company. The residents' group, represented by Ian, argued that the extraction company was diminishing the ground water supply. 

"It was an extremely interesting case and a very pleasing result, which actually restored my faith in the justice system as a platform through which residents' views could overcome commercial pressures," he said.

Legal transformations

Having joined McCarthy Durie Lawyers in 1989, Ian has worked in a range of areas, from family law to litigation. 

Due to the sheer length of time that Ian has been a part of the justice system, he has seen a range of positive transformations. 

Although there have been several salient improvements in the last three decades, it is the intersection of technology and the justice system that stands out.

With the advent of e-filing and e-access to files, clients and lawyers can access a range of documents online for free. 

"It was not so long ago that every law office and barrister had hard copies of cases and legislation, from all jurisdictions, which had to be manually updated."

Technology has both increased transparency and ease of access for lawyers. It has also had a interesting effect on client meetings. 

"Many clients research beforehand and because of this they tend to know as much as you do about relevant case authorities and legislation," he said.

With so many years of experience in the legal business, Ian Neil is anything but slowing down. His professional approach and quality insight are a few of the many characteristics that keep clients coming back.