David Handley

BA 1987, LLB 1989

David Handley is the Founding Director of Sculpture by the Sea, held in Australia & Denmark; What Degree? Which University? a free on-line service on university for school leavers; Fiji Swims, an annual series of open water swimming races; and sculpture, food & wine (sake) tours of Japan, New Zealand and Denmark.

What made you decide to study law, and why did you choose Sydney Law School?

At the end of my Arts degree I knew that I wanted to work for myself but I did not know what so I decided to study law to get a better understanding of the commercial world.
I never considered any university other than Sydney for my undergraduate degrees.

Where has the study of law taken you in your career and/or life in general?

Studying law and practising for two years at Minter Ellison gave me the breadth of commercial knowledge to enable me to manage so many of the day to day issues that arise in business. Key to this has been drafting contracts, an ability to read a contract, managing disputes, and keeping an eye out for areas of potential negligence.

After stopping work at Minters I moved to Prague to work out what to do next and was lucky enough to follow a lead or two to set up a film sales agency. When the first distribution contract came through for my first major sale (Once were Warriors, on behalf of the New Zealand Film Commission) I knew that studying law had been worthwhile and just what I needed to understand a new industry without guidance from others. Studying law has helped me ever since.

What is your fondest memory of your time at Sydney Law School?

Besides the gong shows, sporting matches against UNSW and friendships it was getting through the degree and the knowledge it gave me, even if I only came about half way through the year in terms of results. More specifically coming to grips with the harder subjects gives you a reasonable confidence in your own ability while watching the top students gives you a significant reality check in terms of your own ability!

What one piece of advice would you give to law students today?

If you want to practice law make sure you study Equity and make sure your do really well in all key subjects.

If you want to work for yourself or in business make sure you focus on Contracts, Torts and Commercial Law sufficiently to have the core concepts ingrained.

Practising as a solicitor for two years is key to getting enough out of your degree to put it into practice in the real world.

Most important of all, when you are bored and wondering what on earth you are spending your early to mid-twenties studying for, remember it will pay off I spades down the track.