William Lye, OAM
Barrister of Law
By Billie Ooi-Ng Lean Gaik
Striding in a well-cut suit, and a Turnbull & Asser bow tie, William Lye, barrister at law, cuts an impressive figure in Her Majesty’s court rooms as well as the book-lined corridors of his chambers in the Melbourne CBD.
Not just there for aesthetics, he holds a Master of Laws, (specialising in Intellectual Property), and a Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship, amidst an impressive list of achievements and accolades. The cherry on the cake was the 2017 Australian Law Awards, where Lye took home the Barrister of the Year and Lawyers Weekly Excellence awards. “I was truly overwhelmed by the acknowledgement from my peers.”
Born and schooled in Malaysia, Lye has always defied staggering odds. Afflicted with bronchitis and asthma as a teenager, he managed to excel in sports and played softball for the state and national team. At 16, he nearly lost his life in surgery due to an allergic reaction to general anaesthetic. “As that defining moment dawned upon me I started thinking seriously about my life. I’ve always had a sense of justice. Right wrongs. Law seemed logical.”
In 1982, he arrived in Melbourne to study Computer Science and Law at Monash University. “I held three jobs while studying – cleaning houses and industrial properties, worked in a restaurant as an assistant chef and did gardening jobs. I’d work in the factories or farms during summer.”
“My pet peeves are hypocrisy and mediocrity. I hate maintenance mode and always say buck the trend and think outside the box.”
When Lye graduated, no jobs were available. “It was extremely difficult for Asian migrants. For me the hardest thing was to feel accepted. Even though there wasn’t any conscious effort to put you down, you’d feel like you’re never good enough, no matter how hard you tried. I joined the Leo Cussen Institute for practical legal training and met two inspiring barristers Max Perry, Max Cashmore and later, my mentor and close friend Simon Wilson, who really defined the legal process for me.”
Lye started his legal career at the office of public prosecution. “That helped me gain confidence in dealing with matters of the crown. There were no Chinese barristers around then. I never felt racism but received many funny looks. When I walked the corridors, people didn’t think that I was a barrister.”
Nearly 30 years of practicing and lecturing the law, gave Lye many significant milestones. He was instrumental in setting up the Asia Practice section, Commercial Bar Association of Victoria in 2008. Championing diversity at the bar, he founded the Asian Australian Lawyers Association in 2013.
On Australia Day this year, Lye was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to the law, business, and the promotion of cultural diversity. “One of my proudest moments, this is an important and humbling recognition to me.”
This Australian Day ambassador for Victoria devotes his time to numerous charitable causes when he is not indulging in personal pursuits like the Argentine Stroll and Iaido, a Japanese martial art of drawing the sword and responding to a sudden attack.
一套剪裁考究西装上系着 Turnbull & Asser 的领结-黎尤铭(WilliamLye) 这位出庭律师无论是在法院审讯室或在他墨尔本中央商务区走廊堆满书籍的房间内，都令人留下深刻印象。
直至毕业他也没有获得工作机会。“对亚洲移民者来说，就业是极其困难的。对我来说，最艰难的就是接受的心情。那时莫名的失落沮丧，觉得自己永远不够好，不管怎么努力。接着我参与了 Leo Cussen 的实践法律培训，并遇到了2位鼓舞人心的律师Max Perr与Max Cashmore。还有后来，我的导师和密友Simon Wilson，是他为我真正定义了法律进程。”
近30年的实践和训诫，让他累积了许多宝贵的里程碑。2008年，他在维多利亚商业律师协会推动亚洲实践区(Asia Practice section) 时发挥重大作用。他在律师协会倡导多元化，并在 2013 年创立了澳大利亚亚洲律师协会 (Asian Australian Lawyers Association)。