find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Competition, Policy & Regulatory
Category: Other | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Work with a well regarded Partner · Sydney CBD
View details
Commercial Litigation Senior Associate
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Lawyers Weekly Australia Partner of the Year 2016, Insolvency
View details
MULTIPLEX Regional Legal Counsel (Vic) | 7 to 10 years + PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Career defining in-house role · Tier One international contractor
View details
Junior Lawyer - Personal Injury Law
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Parramatta & Western Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Highly specialized practice · Challenging role with great opportunities
View details
IR Advisor/Member Advocate
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: St Leonards NSW 2065
· Permanent (0.8-1.0 FTE) role in a developing team
View details
Thrills, scandal and diversity celebrated

Thrills, scandal and diversity celebrated

Scandalous divorces, expensive leasing arrangements signed just prior to recessions, and encounters with "flamboyant" lawyers over multi-million tax bills were fondly reminisced as Freehills…

Scandalous divorces, expensive leasing arrangements signed just prior to recessions, and encounters with "flamboyant" lawyers over multi-million tax bills were fondly reminisced as Freehills celebrated its history last night (5 April).

High-profile current and former members of Freehills celebrated the launch of Suzanne Welborn's new book, Freehills - A history of Australia's first national law firm, at the firm's Sydney office in Martin Place.

The book traces the development of the firm from 1838 until 2000, when the firm changed its name from Freehill Hollingdale & Page to Freehills and became a single partnership.

"So much courage has run throughout the history of this firm," former journalist and author Welborn told Lawyers Weekly. "It is such a wonderful story, with its themes of courage, enterprise and intelligence fascinating me."

Welborn said that particularly under the stewardship of Brian Page, who was a partner for nearly 50 years with the firm before retiring in 1988, the firm championed an open employment policy that did not discriminate against Catholics or Jews who might have had their career paths blocked at other firms.

'The firm would not be here today without him," said Welborn. "He was a wonderful man, charming and intelligent, and he would hire people on ability."

Page died at the age of 96 in 2008.

The book deals with many interesting episodes in Australia's legal history, and in particular, the story of how the firm came to represent the former Attorney-General and High Court Justice Lionel Murphy on charges that he attempted to pervert the course of justice. Freehills partner Gary Kelly told Murphy not to give evidence as a witness in the successful appeal case in the NSW Court of Appeal and he was eventually acquitted.

The book also tells of how the firm's first Vietnamese clients were sourced after a partner heard a conversation between two disgruntled businessmen in a bar, and a cautionary tale about how alliances with overseas firms can become costly exercises.

In the 1990s Freehills had ties with Indonesian firm Makarim & Taira. Freehills was left with a multi-million tax bill after it severed ties with the firm.

Welborn writes that when senior partner Martin Hudson flew to Jakarta to sort out the problem, "a flamboyant partner from Makirim & Taira threatened Hudson with unspecified consequences if he and the firm's resident partners did not do as they were told".

Freehills paid the tax bill.

Speakers at the book launch included Welborn, Freehills partner and board chairman Robert Nicholson, and one of the firm's early female partners, Rebecca Davies, who was appointed to the partnership in 1983 and remains a consultant.

"I hope this firm remains one that is prepared to take a risk sometimes without 5000 business plans behind it," she said.

The book was officially launched by David Gonski, the chair of Coca-Cola Amatil and the Australian Securities Exchange, and a Westfield Group director, who was appointed a partner at Freehills at the age of 25 in 1979. He left the firm in 1986.

"It is an honour to launch the book," Gonski said, before adding with slight tongue-in-cheek: "It is a privilege to be with a firm that accepted me as a partner".

During his address, Gonski made the point that lawyers and law firms should not be afraid to delve into other areas and be "much more than the commodity of the law".

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Thrills, scandal and diversity celebrated
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Two businessman, growth
Sep 19 2017
Aus catching up on international arbitration front
Australia is starting to see a spike in international arbitration with this set to continue over the...
Prison
Sep 19 2017
Manson family killer suffered ‘miscarriage of justice’: former lawyer
A retired Australian barrister has published a book on the Manson Family murders of 1969 and called ...
Belinda Lonsdale, WA
Sep 18 2017
New judicial appointments welcomed in WA
The Law Society of Western Australia has congratulated Belinda Lonsdale on her appointment to the di...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...