When James “Teddy” Horsburgh was 23 he was in his prime, playing university rugby as a 110-kilo hooker, leading students as head of St Albert’s College (known as Albies) at the University of New England in Armidale, and doing well in his fourth year of a law degree. His world fell apart when he spotted some friends wrestling in a fountain on campus and dived in to join them.
What Horsburgh didn’t realise was that the water was less than a metre deep. The dive opened a cut in his head that needed 58 staples to repair and left him a quadriplegic. His rugby career was over and his future as a lawyer hung in the balance.
“I remember it as if it was yesterday,” Horsburgh says. “I was lying there and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Bugger’. I knew exactly what had happened. I remember thinking, ‘I really hope somebody sees me’. I couldn’t move at all and was lying face down in the water. Thank God my mate was a prop, because I was 110 kilos and a dead weight. He dragged me over to the side. Oddly, I felt no pain whatsoever.”
Horsburgh was rushed to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney by plane, his younger brother by his side, and he spent 10 weeks in hospital then five months in rehabilitation at Ryde. In 2005, he moved to Bathurst to live with his parents, a wool buyer and community nurse, and to continue his law studies as an external student.
Two years later, he was admitted as a solicitor and started work in a small practice in the Central West town. In 2011, he completed a Masters of Law and in 2013 became an Accredited Specialist in family law. In 2009, he married a woman he had met in high school.
The pair have two daughters and a third child is due in October.
In early 2013, Hornsburgh made partner at Bird Legal before a merger in 2016 with McIntosh McPhillamy and Co, a firm established in 1845.
He is one of five partners in one of the largest partnerships in NSW.
”The iPad has changed my life incredibly. My personal assistant, Emily Commens, comes to all court appearances and part of her job is basically to be my hands. Before the iPad came out in 2009, my personal assistant would have to sit in on every client interview to take notes. Nowadays, I can do that because of the iPad. I can type on it and when using a computer I use Dragon Voice Recognition, which allows me to talk and then it types what I say.