Peter Cousins started articles in1959 and practiced law until 2015. He was admitted to practice in 1964. Much of his years of practice was spent on the Gold Coast. In later years he travelled across Queensland helping distressed farmers mediate with their banks. He is credited with writing the official Farm and Rural Legal Service anthem. He is a great fan of the “Goons”. He writes poetry, knows the “Christmas bunyip” who he often invited to the annual Christmas party
I’m joined by Fiona Muirhead in this wide ranging interview talking to a lawyer who started practice well before mobile phones, social media, photocopiers and touch typing.
This a wonderful yarn about practice in the Gold Coast and Brisbane form the 1960’s to 2015 and includes a number of well known names, most of whom are no longer with us.
• how his guidance counsellor thought he could be a journalist, he didn’t like that idea, or a teacher and his parents thought that was not a good idea, so his parents decided a career in the law might be suitable and tricked him into it together with the family solicitor
• How he was taught about confidentiality
• What articles of apprenticeship were in the law included a requirement that the parents (father) would provide accommodation during articles, Fiona’s articles included a requirement to wash regularly and Peter’s that you could not pinch the postage stamps, his wages 3 pound 10 schillings.
• Learning estate practice as an articled clerk
• How articles could be quite Dickensian and how the quote from Gilbert and Sullivan was quite apt. I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor, And I polished up the handle of the big front door.
• How he got in trouble for breaching the ban against advertising of legal services when he mentioned where he was from to someone who called out on the street to him from a local radio station. By the time he got back to the office from filing a document at the Supreme Court, his principal has received a number of telephone complaints.
• Breaching advertising rules extended to having a sign on the office doors to indicate that a solicitor practiced within. How horrified he is about the advertising that is allowed nowadays
• Even though he learnt French at university and can speak it passably well, his hearing is such that he can’t understand his wife when she talks to him and she speak English so his ability to understand spoken French is unlikely to be the best.
• He learnt French because the University of Queensland required that aspiring lawyers also take some arts subjects which in Peter’s words were far more interesting than the law
• .How Justice Tony Skane, Justice John Helman, and Justice Jim Thomas who put Scoop together at the University of Queensladnd, the old law revue
• His acting and performance career in Brisbane and Gold Coast
• They’re a weird mob by John O’Grady an example of the sort of books Peter likes to read. A review of the book is provided here
• He describes life in the law without mobile phones, internet and touch typewriters as very normal
• Sealing wax and deeds.
• His year at law school had no women and 8 out of the 16 graduates ended up on the bench. How Quentin Bryce who later became Governor General and Nada Haxton (who became a barrister) did attend some classes with Peter but were possibly in the year behind him.
• How Sir James Killen who was in his year at law school as a mature age student decided that he was unhappy with the assignment set by Professor Walter Harrison and asked his good friend Sir Garfield Barwick (who may have been Attorney General at the time and later became Chief Justice of the High Court) for his opinion and presented that to the Professor so Sir James (or like Peter mused Sir Garfield Barwick) got 3/10 and he got 9/10. Unfortunately he never emulated that feat again,
• His move to the Gold Coast was prompted by the offer of more money but the expectation that he would run the office was perhaps a touch ambitious. His experienced legal secretary really ran the office, not the best thing for a junior solicitor to be doing.
• Law in the 1970’s in surfers paradise.
• Strange things with banking and shipping documents was apparently something that a notary public could do. There were other things they could do too. That’s why he became one
• Moving to Jimboomba ( the country in those days) that gave him a taste for country life and changed his perspective on private practice
• Rainmaking, networking and how that resulted in a disillusionment with the private legal practice and prompted him leaving the practice where he was a senior partner. Possibly not the best financial move.
• The difficulty of finding work in your fifties.
• Starting work at Legal Aid
• Helping struggling farmers with their bank, Queensland did not have any legislation to help them.
• The involvement of Colin Marshall (social worker at Legal Aid ) in the establishment of the Farm and Rural Legal Service, Women’s Legal Service and the Queensland Farm Finance service.
• A history of the Farm Finance Service (later called the Farm and Rural Legal Service).
• Dairy deregulation in the early 2000s and the involvement of the farm and rural legal service in challenging milk quotas.
• The general difference between clients of Legal Aid and the private profession as clients as needy and not greedy.
• How the profession has changed and become sales orientated.
• Building relationships through friendships and shared interest as the most effective networking tool to build real trust
• And for a special treat a rendition to a Spike Milligan poem recited off the cuff by Peter.
If you want to contact Peter, you can contact through the website www.lorettakreet.com.
Thanks for joining me on another episode of the best legal interview podcast “Lunching with Lawyers”. Find it on Youtube Anchor, Apple Google and Spotify