A prominent Brisbane family lawyer, who was commonly known as “The Duchess of Divorce”, has died. Carmel Murray, who practised family law for 38 years, has died aged 84. Her funeral is today at 1:00pm at St Thomas The Apostle Catholic Church, 31 Perth Street, Camp Hill.
Carmel Murray started out as a typist in a law firm in the 1950s, then moving to be a law clerk at what is now Minter Ellison. She then decided to practice law, putting herself through law part-time. Her passion always was for family law. The reason was obvious – that she had a passion for people.
Being an ex-stenographer, Carmel had the rare skill of being able to take shorthand- an invaluable skill during a court appearance.
Carmel’s passions also extended to the practice of law. She was extremely passionate advocating for her clients and advocating for upholding the finest traditions of the law.
Carmel led the way for solicitors being advocates in family law. Whilst she might brief counsel on trials or more complex arguments, typically Carmel undertook her own advocacy on behalf of clients. She was feisty! When appearing before Justice Bell, for example, his Honour might tell Carmel a certain principle of law or his preliminary views of the matter. Carmel in turn would tell his Honour at first in a manner that would be persuasive and then in a manner in which she left it with no uncertain terms as to how he was mistaken in his views.
I could well imagine that today Carmel is at the Pearly Gates telling St Peter about his mistaken views about his particular role. She would have no confusion at all about the significance of her position in Heaven – but in her eyes she would explain to St Peter, patiently at first, and then in forceful tones if needed, that he needed to change his views and attitudes- and why.
Clients of Carmel’s quickly discovered that while their role was to provide instructions to her, in reality she was the one who gave guidance!
My first job in the law was to work as Carmel’s articled law clerk- way back in the 80’s. She was quite simply a fierce advocate for her clients and in her own words when appearing in court would put on a show for the benefit of her clients. It was after all their case and their lives and they were the ones paying her to turn up.
In the late 1980s at the then Queensland Family Law conference, I recall well a skit that was undertaken by some family lawyers in which the key players were named after two of the most prominent family lawyers of the day, Carmel Murrariea and Michael Horrorperson, the latter named after Michael Habermann, who was then a partner of what is now Barry Nilsson.
Carmel taught me the passion of acting for clients and caring for them, their finances and above all their children. Before I met the force of nature that was Carmel, I had no interest in family law. After working under her, I discovered a passion for family law, that came about from helping real people, not corporations, a passion that I still have all these years later. She will be sorely missed.