Sydney Law School has appointed Corrs Chambers Westgarth Partner James Whittaker as its first practitioner-in-residence.
He has previously acted for Sydney Night Patrol (SNP) in relation to the recent investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) concerning the provision of security services to the university.
ICAC found that SNP had engaged in corrupt conduct during their contract with the University, including falsifying timesheets, bribery and fraud.
Whittaker has also defended 12 cases against the Department of Defence for gas exposure, and acted for Thiess Services — the world’s largest contract miner — in relation to a bushfire class action where 57 homes were destroyed.
Additionally, he ran High Court proceedings in 2011 on behalf of British American Tobacco, challenging Australia’s plain packaging laws.
In his new role, Whittaker will work alongside Simon Bronitt, Dean of the Law School, and other executives to assist with student research projects, teaching and mentoring.
This will include “assist[ing] with student extra-curricular initiatives, such as judging student competitions, collaborat[ing] with academics on assessment and curriculum development and marking; and help[ing] to build on the law school’s Indigenous program.”
Whittaker’s appointment comes at a time of austerity measures and restructuring across the university, occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Teaching staff at the Law School are increasingly being forced to work long hours, quality of teaching is declining, and students are experiencing financial hardship as a result of job losses and heightened job uncertainty,” one law student told Honi.
“It’s appalling that the Law Faculty is using their resources to prioritise its corporate partnerships rather than supporting its staff and students”.
Another student told Honi: “This is just another example of the increasing corporatisation of the Law School, which comes at the cost of exposing students to progressive ideas and important community justice initiatives.”
A USyd spokesperson states: “As an adjunct position, the role is unpaid with no cost to the School or the University and forms part of the School’s engagement strategy to strengthen relations with the legal profession for the benefit of students and staff. A semester-long position equating to one day a week, the ‘practitioner-in-residence’ is part of the School’s broader year-long partnership with Corrs Chambers Westgarth to support and widen our student experience.”