“The profession will never forget Sandy’s strength and resilience during the Lindt siege, after Katrina’s death and the lengthy investigation, all in turn excruciating,” Bashir said. “Sandy’s return to practice exemplified his courage and dedication to the profession.”
Well known in legal and media circles for his forensic skill and genius, Dawson has appeared in a number of high-profile libel cases, including that of former Labor Federal MP Emma Husar in her lawsuit against online publisher Buzzfeed. The parties reached an agreement in 2019.
It was reported by a number of media organisations, including Fairfax Media, now Nine, ABC, Channel Seven, Sydney radio station 2GB and his broadcaster Ray Hadley. He appeared at his last trial in late 2020, acting to The Australian Financial Review and his Rear Window columnist Joe Aston in a case brought by businesswoman Elaine Stead.
“Most recently, Sandy was the lead attorney defending Nine Entertainment in the defamation proceedings brought by Ben Roberts-Smith, handing over the reins to the case after meticulous preparation,” Bashir said.
“This only scratches the surface of his work for and against the media and does not reflect the many hours of advisory work he has done for many networks on key shows such as Four corners Y 60 minutes.”
Kate McClymont, chief investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Heraldsaid Dawson “got him sued, which is always a horrible process, not exactly nice, but much more bearable because of his humor, his humanity, his skills and his very wicked impersonations.”
“His belief in your case, and the fact that he was handling it for you, filled him with confidence.”
Bashir said Dawson “faced his final battle with cancer with his usual courage, fierce determination and devotion to his loved ones.”
“While Sandy was committed to the Bar Association, the most important thing to him was his love for his wife, children and family in general. The Bar Association, the bank and our broader members are deeply saddened by his passing.”
Dawson’s family requested privacy “and, in lieu of flowers or meals, suggest making a donation to the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation if you wish,” she said.
“A private service will be held, followed by a memorial at a later date.”
Dawson was a founding member of Chambers Bank of Sydney, which said in a statement that the death of his dear friend and colleague was “a terrible loss”.
“Sandy was really larger than life. That she is no longer with us seems inconceivable. Sandy was a rare and exceptional talent, and her wit and humor were unparalleled.
“It added color and atmosphere to the Bar, at a time when real characters are increasingly rare. His pranks at court, his stories and impersonations of him were legendary. He was also a warm and generous friend and a loyal supporter of his younger colleagues.
“Sandy joined Chambers Bank as a member at its inception in 2004, when he was a very young lawyer with just one year at the Bar and the whole company was new and speculative.
“He supported himself and us, and that says something about his fearless character. Sandy was an important part of the spirit and reputation of our cameras.
“A former member of the chambers, Fabian Gleeson, now a judge on the NSW Court of Appeal, used to taunt him as ‘Your Prominence…’, reflecting the large number of newspaper articles that would refer to ‘Prominent Lawyer’. of Sydney, Mr. Sandy Dawson, South Carolina…’. It was an appropriate title. In fact, he was prominent in the media, and appropriately so.
“Sandy endured her terrible illness with courage and equanimity. Visitors, expecting to be sad, would find Sandy telling jokes and stories.
“He never complained, never even commented on how unfair it was. Sandy was dedicated to her family, and we hold them very much in our hearts as well.”
Dawson was involved in a NSW-led process to reform the country’s libel laws. Attorney General Mark Speakman said Dawson was “a highly regarded lawyer and this is very sad news for the legal profession and the law in New South Wales.”
James Chessell, Nine’s managing director of publishing, said: “Sandy had the rare gift of earning the respect and trust of everyone she represented in the media, regardless of background or affiliation.
“He was a great lawyer and a great company. It’s hard to think of a better person to have with you in the trenches during a tense legal battle. He will be missed.”
AAP President Gail Hambly, former general counsel for the group in Fairfax, said: “Losing Sandy is a terrible blow to the legal profession, to the Bar Association and to journalism.”
“He was a great supporter, the best company, a terrific impersonator and a great, fun friend.”
Previous Herald editor Lisa Davies, now AAP’s chief executive, said Dawson was “always there when we needed him…with his clear thinking and clever quip to ease a little stress.”
“Even in his darkest hours, he embodied professionalism and kindness. We will miss him very much.”
Dawson is survived by his wife, Alex, and their four children, Jack, Freya, Holly and Henry, his parents, Jane and Alexander, aka Sandy, and his brother Angus.
Chambers Bank said they had “suffered more than any family should.”
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