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She is Australia's top mergers and acquisitions lawyer, is passionate about nurturing the next generation of the law professionals, and likes to spend her downtime visiting great wilderness places like Antarctica. Now Brisbane's Teresa Handicott has been named the Queensland University of Technology Chancellor's Outstanding Alumnus for 2012.
The annual QUT Outstanding Alumni Awards were handed out at a breakfast ceremony this morning (July 17) at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, where Ms Handicott was revealed as this year's major winner.
Mechanical engineering graduate Mark Dutton was named the university's Young Alumnus of the Year for his work is as a race engineer for Triple Eight Race Engineering Australia and Team Vodafone, Australia's leading V8 Supercar team.
Special achievement awards also went to Brisbane singer Kate Miller-Heidke (QUT Master of Music) and the team behind the Fruit Ninja gaming brand - Shainiel Deo (Bachelor of IT), Phil Larsen (Bachelor of Business) and Luke Muscat (Bachelors of IT and Creative Industries).
Now in its twenty-first year, the annual QUT Outstanding Alumni Awards recognise the exceptional professional achievements and community contributions of graduates of QUT (and its predecessor institutions) at local, state, national and international levels.
Ms Handicott is a partner with leading national law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth and the youngest person - and first woman - to be appointed chair of its board.
With over two decades of experience in mergers and acquisitions including nine years as a member of the Takeovers Panel, she has spearheaded some of Australia's most challenging corporate transactions. Her client list is impressive, including long-term relationships with Suncorp, Jupiters Limited and Macarthur Coal.
In 2008, Ms Handicott advised Suncorp on its $7.9 billion merger with Promina and was named Australasian Law Awards 'Dealmaker of the Year'. Every year since, she has been named 'Best Lawyer - Mergers and Acquisitions' in the Best Lawyers Peer Review.
She has also served as an associate commissioner of the ACCC, a member of the Takeovers Panel and as a director of CS Energy Limited and the Queensland Cultural Centre Trust.
In addition to being named QUT's 2012 Chancellor's Outstanding Alumnus, she has also been awarded the QUT's Faculty of Law's top alumnus award for 2012.
The QUT Outstanding Alumni Award faculty winners for 2012 are:
Business - Trisha Perkins, Public & Government Affairs Manager, ExxonMobil Development Company
Creative Industries - Chye Leng (Jeffrey) Tan, Head of Com.mune Participation, Singapore Arts Festival
Education - Margaret James, author and publisher, Honey Ant Reader Education Program
Health - Graham Fraine, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Transport and Main Roads
Law - Teresa Handicott, Chair of Corrs Chambers Westgarth Board and Partner
Science and Engineering - Graeme Newton, Chief Executive Officer, Queensland Reconstruction Authority
Ms Handicott graduated from QUT's School of Law in 1985 and joined Corrs Chambers in 1987. She was attracted to M&A work from the beginning because it was "extremely interesting and exciting".
"It is really the overall thrill of forging a deal," she said.
"It's intellectually very challenging - it's legally complex. You lead a large team that must deliver on all aspects of the transaction - corporate, employment, IT law - whatever is required.
"It's where law meets commerce so you have to understand the strategy at board level and go beyond the legal aspects - you have to have to be a commercial animal and put effort into understanding your client's view of the world."
Her reputation as a first-class dealmaker is built on exceptional results for clients and her professional integrity.
"It's important to have a reputation that you do what you say you'll do, act in a way that's trustworthy and treat everybody respectfully," she said.
"If you are under pressure to do something or treat people in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to have the courage to say you won't do it. Over time people come to trust you, even the other side. It means you can deal with issues quickly and stops a lot of circling and worrying about hidden agendas."
No wonder wilderness environments are so appealing in the down times.
Ms Handicott's latest adventure voyage took her to the Antarctic Peninsula, the Falklands, and South Georgia, an island dubbed "the Serengeti of the Southern Ocean" for its abundant wildlife. There, she saw whales, seals and six penguin species, including the hip-high king penguins.
Nurturing students is another of Ms Handicott's passions. She has chaired QUT's Law Founders' Scholarship Fund for more than 10 years. The fund has assisted more than 40 students to overcome a disadvantaged background, many of whom have now completed their studies and have gained a law degree.
"We have helped students who were refugees, disabled, homeless, from families where no one has a job, or where they are supporting a disabled parent or working to support younger siblings. The fund enables them to work a little less and study more.
"It's humbling and inspiring to read through their applications. When I think it's getting too hard, I just have to think about what they go through. Despite these incredible challenges the success rate is in line with everybody else. Once they get their law degree they can always look after themselves and then give back to others."
Media note: Profiles are available for all award recipients. High-res images also available.
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Teresa Handicott is the QUT Chancellor's Outstanding Alumnus for 2012.