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Deja Vu
23 June, 2009  

From the hard copy era … Law Society singalongs on the train trip to Adelaide … “Disappointing legal advice” from Abbott Tout

From Justinian’s Theodora column, September 1991

Roll out the barrel

The Legal Convention in Adelaide came and went, possibly the last of these dinosaurs. And as in the case imageof the Perth convention some time back, a special train was put on for NSW lawyers so that they could steam into Colonel Light’s masterpiece after a delightful, rambling journey by rail.

I could think of nothing more exhilarating than being holed-up on a train for an extended time with a group of solicitors and notaries, and their charming accompanying persons.

The chemin de fer also chuffed into Flinders Street Melbourne, disgorging the conference goers for some cultural pursuits, culminating at a session of the Phantom of the Opera before they turned in, utterly exhausted, for a night at the Hyatt on Collins.

Then it was quickly back to more pressure, pressure, pressure as the intense little group fell upon the Victorian vineyards at Rutherglen to analyse the role of modern viticulture in the development of the legal profession.

Then all aboard on the train for the slow ride across the Flinders Ranges to Adelaide

Reg Mitchell, Law Society councillor, was at the piano leading the sing-alongs. Indeed, a special Law Society Songbook has been minted for the occasion, featuring all of Reg’s favourite tunes.

* * *

Abbott & Costello

Poor old Abbott Tout. First the very public row over attempts to ease out elder statesman Jim Creer. Now shock allegations that it engaged in “disappointing legal advice” to its client Woollahra Council.

Alderman David Rofe QC of the council has produced a War and Peace sized report into the foul-up of a proposed development scheme to build a library and car park in the once glitzy Double Pay area of Sydney.

The mismanagement allowed the builders to rescinding their contract, leaving the council out of pocket to the tune of $1.6 million deposit returned to the developers, $683,000 of interest on the deposit, $5.5 million for the purchase price of the land and $74,000 to lawyers and consultants.

Some say that the snafu will cost ratepayers about $18 million.

Rofe’s report was eight months late, but he still managed to give Abbott Tout a shocking serve, saying that his task force “feels that the legal advices which council received were, to say the least, disappointing, having regard to the importance of the issues involved”.

The solicitors did not provide “a sufficient level of legal service and advice, failed to execute instructions promptly and showed a lack of expertise in complex commercial dealing”.

To rub it in a bit further the Rofe report says that Woollahra Council should secure expert legal and commercial advice when it is next involved in a property deal.

More intriguing to observe though was council member and lawyer Beatrice Gray’s unsuccessful attempt to have the council get advice on the prospect of suing Abbott Tout.

But hang about. Isn’t Mrs Grey’s maiden name Bateman? And isn’t that her brother G.A.T. Bateman who is a partner of Abbott Tout?

The whole thing is just too unfortunate to contemplate.