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Three NSW lawyers have been recognised for their mentorship and impact in the 2020 mentoring programs run by the Law Society of NSW.

The inaugural Mentor of the Year Award is presented to three mentors each year – one in each of the mentoring programs for graduates, early career lawyers and women. The awards acknowledge those who have shown exceptional dedication and patience in helping their mentees gain valuable knowledge and confidence in their career.

Dianne Retief won the graduate category for her excellent coaching of a mature age graduate. William Fitzsimmons SC won the early career lawyer category for mentoring an aspiring barrister, while Kylie Virtue won the women’s category for helping a lawyer navigate a non-linear career path.

Every mentee in the 2020 mentoring programs had an opportunity to nominate their mentor and provide written responses about the quality of their interactions, the support they received and what it meant to have the person as their mentor.

Danielle Manion nominated her mentor Dianne Retief (the pair are pictured above), a Senior Associate at Caroll & O’Dea Lawyers who specialises in taxation, commercial law and estate planning.

“I was extremely lucky to be matched with Dianne,” said Manion, a mature-age graduate interested in working in wills and estates. “From day one, she was thoroughly committed to the mentoring program and exceedingly generous with her time. I really struggled with my first year of practice and Dianne gave me faith in myself that I would ultimately succeed as a lawyer.”

Retief was pleasantly surprised by the win, acknowledging that mentoring is a two-way street.

“You’ve got to get them to open up with you about their struggles because if they don’t, you can’t really help them,” said Retief. “I think the key is investing time in the process and drawing that person out of their comfort zone.”

Sydney Barrister William Fitzsimmons SC was nominated by Hannah White and won the award for the early career lawyers mentoring program.

“I feel incredibly lucky that I was paired with William,” said White, who is an acting Senior Federal Prosecutor.

White was admitted to the NSW legal profession three years ago and currently works for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP). As an aspiring barrister, she found Fitzsimmons’ experience at the bar invaluable.

Hannah White Hannah White

I have this quote on my desk which says, ‘The law truly develops when practitioners impart their wisdom, dedication and passion onto others.’ William embodies that.

Hannah White, Acting Senior Federal Prosecutor, CDPP



Kylie Virtue (pictured below), a lawyer and adjunct lecturer at The College of Law, won the award for the women’s category. She was nominated by her mentee Ida Nursoo (pictured below), a lawyer and academic who currently works as an Industrial Officer for the National Tertiary Education Union.

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Ida Nursoo and Kylie Virtue

“The process reminded me of how important it is to really listen and be present,” said Virtue. “With mentoring, you don’t have to tell people what to do, you just have to help them find their way.”

Virtue acknowledged that she gained as much as her mentee through the process.

“I learnt from Ida. I was impressed by her resilience and we were both reminded that having a non-linear path doesn’t make it any less successful,” said Virtue.

Ida Nursoo praised Virtue’s wholistic approach to mentoring and acknowledged the boost it gave to her self-esteem.

“Kylie helped me value my skills and experience. She encouraged me to seek out opportunities that utilised my diverse skills, experience and background,” said Nursoo.

Several other mentors in the 2020 mentoring programs were highly commended including Paul Akon, Glenjon Aligiannis, Lisa Powell and Rita Ibrahim.

Applications for the 2021 mentoring programs open on 19 April and close on 21 May. For more information, please refer to the Law Society website.