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Former Justice Carolyn Simpson retired from the NSW Court of Appeal in March, with a humility and a powerful message for aspiring young lawyers.

My first career was as a school teacher. I didn’t like it and I wasn’t good at it. I lasted five years. I left with a burning ambition to be a journalist, but nobody would employ me as a journalist, although I did come second in an interview with the late Donald Horn of the now defunct Bulletin. Although it did not seem so at the time, failing to secure employment in the world of journalism was my first stroke of luck.

A friend told me of a law course that was, he said, so easy that nobody ever failed. “Not much use to you,” he said, “but you might as well have it on your CV.” It was the Barristers’ Admission Board course conducted by the Law Extension Committee, under the auspices of Sydney University.

My friend’s advice was my second stroke of luck. We both enrolled. He never sat for a single exam. Instead, he became a successful businessman and famous restaurant critic. I sat for the exams, and, surprisingly enough, passed.

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