In 2007 the Law Council introduced the Presidents Medal - an award recognising an individual for their outstanding contribution to the legal profession.
Victorian lawyer Mr Mark Woods was awarded the 2012 Law Council of Australia President's Medal in recognition of his enduring commitment to the law and the advancement of justice for the Australian community.
Mr Woods is a partner at the leading regional Victorian law practice law firm, Tyler Tipping & Woods and has 30 years' experience in the legal profession.
He played an integral role in the aftermath of the Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria by helping coordinate a group of Gippsland legal practitioners to offer pro bono advice and assistance to both community groups and individuals.
Mr Woods was integral in establishing and implementing the Law Aid Trust and served as its founding Chairman; has made an extraordinary contribution to the Law Council as a Director and through its Access to Justice Committee, which he currently Chairs; and he was also the first country President of the Law Institute of Victoria and is the longest serving member of its Council.
"Recognition by one's peers that you've made a contribution is the most exciting thing about winning the award," Mr Woods said.
"Mr Woods is clearly a man of compassion and commitment, as well as an excellent role model for all lawyers - I congratulate him for everything he has achieved throughout his distinguished career in the law," said Law Council of Australia President, Ms Catherine Gale.
Victorian lawyer Debbie Mortimer SC won the annual Law Council of Australia President's Medal and was presented her award by Law Council of Australia President Mr Alexander Ward, at a dinner reception held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Ms Mortimer SC has over 23 year experience in the legal profession-including eight years as a silk-and has practised across a diverse range of disciplines.
Ms Mortimer SC is particularly renowned in the public law sphere and was lead counsel in the applications to the High Court on behalf of Afghani asylum seekers under threat of removal to Malaysia. She has also represented clients in environmental law, Indigenous land rights and has clients across the government, non-government and pro bono sectors.
Ms Mortimer said she felt honoured and privileged to receive the award.
"When I look at the past winners, I do find it a little hard to conceive of myself in that category -it's thrilling, but difficult to come to terms with," Ms Mortimer said.
"Ms Mortimer embodies the very best traits of Australia's legal profession and it was a privilege to present her with the Law Council of Australia Presidents Medal," Mr Ward said.
Colin McDonald QC was awarded the 2010 Law Council of Australia Presidents Medal.Law Council President, Glenn Ferguson awarded the medal at a dinner held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Mr McDonald is one of Australia's most experienced barristers in human rights issues and cross-cultural professional engagement.
Mr Ferguson, in particular, praised his work with Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory. "Colin has a well-earned reputation of fighting for justice issues for Aboriginal Australians and has also worked extensively in the fields of refugee law, immigration, workers compensation and criminal law.
"He is a compassionate lawyer and throughout his 35 years of legal life has given generously both to his colleagues and clients. He has been a great mentor to countless members of the legal profession over the years - a considerable number of whom have gone on to become QCs and even judicial members.
"Colin is an esteemed member of the legal profession, and it was a privilege to present him with the Law Council of Australia Presidents Medal," Mr Ferguson said.
Sydney barrister Bret Walker SC won the 2009 Law Council Presidents Medal. Law Council President John Corcoran made the announcement at the 36th Australian Legal Convention in Perth.
Mr Walker was nominated for his outstanding service to the legal profession and the wider community in his various capacities as a community lawyer, barrister, senior counsel and philanthropist.
A practising barrister for nearly 30 years, his extensive list of clients includes many household names, and he regularly advises the Australian Government on a wide variety of constitutional issues. Mr Walker's contribution to social justice and the rule of law in Australia has also been extraordinary.
In presenting the medal, Mr Corcoran said, "Both his practice at the Bar and his time spent giving pro bono assistance to a wide range of causes reflect both his incredible legal skill and deep understanding of people from all walks of life."
"His commitment to social justice and his ability to interpret and apply the law at the highest level make him an invaluable member of the profession, as well of the wider community," he said.
"On behalf of the Law Council and the wider profession, I congratulate Mr Walker on this award. It is formal recognition of his substantial contribution to the law and the community," Mr Corcoran concluded.
Former judge the Honourable Ted Mullighan QC won the second annual Law Council Presidents Medal for his outstanding contribution to the Australian legal profession, particularly his active promotion of cultural awareness amongst his peers.
Mr Mullighan, who was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia in 1989, began his legal career in 1962, taking Silk at the South Australian Bar in 1978.
He has been a leader in the establishment of advocacy training programs in South Australia and has been instrumental in inspiring instructors and hundreds of young advocates to develop and enhance their skills.
Since the early 1990s, he has supported innovation in the sentencing of Aboriginal defendants and championed Aboriginal Reconciliation among his peers and within the community in general.
In 2004, he was appointed by the South Australian Government as Commissioner of the Inquiry into Children in State Care. In 2007 he was also made Commissioner of the Children on APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands Inquiry. Both inquiries dealt with the abuse of young children in South Australia.
Law Council President Ross Ray QC said that “He carried out his duties in an extremely conscientious and thoughtful manner and gained the confidence of a section of the population who had never before been able to speak about their experiences.”
“Mr Mullighan is clearly a man of compassion and commitment, as well as being an excellent role model for all lawyers. He is a very worthy recipient of this award,” Mr Ray concluded.
The inaugural winner of the medal, Melbourne Barrister Lex Lasry QC, was presented with the award at the 35th Australian Legal Convention in March 2007.
Mr Lasry was nominated for his pro bono representation of convicted Australian drug trafficker Van Nguyen in 2005, and for his outstanding work as Independent Legal Observer for the Law Council at the Military Commission hearings for David Hicks in 2004 and 2005.
A Victorian barrister with more than 30 years experience in the law, Mr Lasry was admitted to practice in 1973 and appointed Queens Counsel in 1990.
He was counsel assisting in a coronial inquiry into the fatal police shootings in Victoria, he was involved in the trial of two Australian National University law students who were charged with the murder of an ACT man, and has been acting as senior counsel assisting the coroner in relation to the Canberra bushfire disaster.
In presenting the award, Law Council President Tim Bugg said Mr Lasry was an outstanding criminal barrister who, throughout his career, had demonstrated a dedication to issues beyond his practice.
"He has been involved in a great deal of pro bono work and his commitment to the protection of the rule of law is well-known. This makes him a very appropriate candidate and richly-deserving recipient of this award," Mr Bugg said.