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Providing legal services to local communities for over 100 years – Stringer Clark's history in Western Victoria

While the firm enjoys a lineage that stretches back over 100 years, it is only from the 50's that a clearer and more vivid image emerges from the pages of official records.

It was in the harbour city of Portland that the firm gained a strong foothold and was the setting for its consolidation over the opening decades of the century, although official records are sketchy. So we take up the story in the early 50's, when the firm was called Harris & Williamson, named after John Samuel Harris, and one of only two law firms in town. It was then located at 41B Percy Street.

An early employee of the firm, Mrs. June Amos, still has vivid memories of working in the office. Each solicitor had his own secretary but even then, the office was always busy, partly because there was so much manual labour required in running an office.

Mrs Amos recalls typing copies of the leases for the Portland Harbour Trust, one of the firm's major clients at that time. Four copies of the lease were required and, as this was long before the advent of photocopiers, the lease was composed on a manual typewriter with a sheet of carbon paper inserted between each copy to make the duplicates. If a mistake was made, each copy had be corrected with the use of an eraser and re-typed in exactly the same place.

Our philosophy

Stringer Clark, along with Ryan Carlisle Thomas, has always strived to make the law work for everyday people.

We pride ourselves on looking after you, which means being available when you need answers, and keeping you up to date with progress on your case.

Personal care and attention is important to us and is part of our training and service.

We understand how difficult it can be - coping with injury, the disruption to careers, lives and family members. You often feel up against it when trying to get support and financial compensation.

At Stringer Clark, we are always ready to listen and prepared to fight. For you and your rights.

A new focus on industrial and employment law

In the early days, the firm mostly represented local employers. This all changed when Austin Stringer joined the firm in 1968. He had originally set up a branch office of a major Melbourne law firm before moving to Portland to buy into the local business.

A man with a big heart and a social conscience, Stringer set the values and the direction of the firm for the years to come when, in the early 70's, he took up the then highly unpopular cause of Indigenous rights. The case was against Alcoa, which had not been that long in operation, when it tried to bulldoze some land against the will of the local Aboriginal people. Stringer sided with the Aboriginal people.

The fight against Alcoa alienated many previous business and industry clients and the firm lost a lot of work. It was then that Stringer started to take up workers' legal rights more broadly, representing the employees of Alcoa and other local companies and organisations in their push for adequate injury compensation.

The firm cut its teeth on industrial issues and health and safety, winning benefits and compensation for local workers. The expertise gained led naturally into representing all local people who had been accident victims, especially in work and car accidents. It was by specialising in personal injury work that the firm rebuilt its standing.

The reputation it had gained for its tenacity in fighting for people's rights was further strengthened when, in 1981, Gary Clark arrived. He was known as a hard, pugnacious lawyer and an even tougher footballer. In 1985, the firm became Stringer Clark and Newby.

Providing legal services throughout Western Victoria

The next period of transformation for the firm commenced in 1988 when Richard Morrow, who was eventually to lead the practice, joined. This was a further period of expansion as the firm capitalised on its reputation by opening new offices in locations across Western Victoria, including Warrnambool, Hamilton, Horsham, Colac and Ararat.

The final step in the evolution of the practice was taken in 2007, when Richard Morrow accepted an offer to join the firm with the leading Melbourne law firm, Ryan Carlisle Thomas, which had itself been in practice since the early 1970s and likewise had grown its reputation and influence on high profile cases run on behalf of workers and ordinary people. Both Stringer Clark and RCT have a proud record of assisting clients with injury compensation claims.

The union of the two firms, one with strong local roots deep within the communities of South Western Victoria, and the other with arguably the State's most distinguished injury and industrial practice, has given the broader public access to the best rights-based law services available. A legal firm that retains its common touch with local people while at the same time tapping into some of the best legal brains in Victoria.