90 Year Anniversary Blog

Coleman Greig through the 1940s - 1950s

Posted by Warrick McLean on 8 May 2018

With a number of our recent blogs making reference to Parramatta Park, and in turn Ralph Coleman's personal connection as Chairman of the Park Trust, we thought it fitting to begin our latest piece with another interesting fact regarding this connection.  In conducting research relating to the history of the firm, our team was reminded of the fact that within Parramatta Park lies Coleman Oval.   

It should come as no surprise, at least for those familiar with Ralph's 25 year stint as Chairman of the Park Trust, that his work was both widely appreciated and highly regarded.  As thanks for this quarter century of service, and as we have recently learned thanks to the team at Parramatta Park Trust - Coleman Oval was indeed named after our very own Ralph Coleman!  As a celebration of this fact, and as a tribute to our founding partner, the firm has decided to re-route this year's Coleman Greig Challenge to take participants through Coleman Oval!  

Source: Parramatta Heritage Centre (LSP00364)

As avid readers will know, throughout his time as a practising lawyer, Ralph Coleman took it upon himself to provide assistance to Western Sydney community endeavours wherever he reasonably could.

Whilst the firm does like to write about our early ties to the Parramatta region, we are of course similarly proud of our history as Western Sydney's leading law firm.  On this note, we look to take a step back from Ralph's community work and cast our eyes back to the history of Coleman Greig Lawyers as a business.

We last left you in the late 1930's, when Ralph was helping to organise the first Parramatta Grand Prix - and just a few years prior to Malcolm Greig joining the firm as partner.  We have mentioned that following his £100 purchase of Bowden & Bowden in 1931, Ralph moved his practice to the rear of the Rural Bank of NSW.  Sharing this space, then known as Bowden's Chambers, was Malcolm Greig, who himself had only been admitted as a solicitor in 1937.  

At the time, Malcolm Greig was similarly involving himself in the local community wherever he could.  When Ralph asked the 29 year old solicitor to join his firm as a partner on 1 April 1940, leading to Ralph renaming the firm of R. E. Coleman to Coleman & Greig, Malcolm had already been Granville's District Scoutmaster for two years, and was regularly partaking in local celebrations and fundraising efforts in his own right.  Once the partnership was official, the pair announced the firm's new name in the 17 April 1940 edition of the Cumberland Argus - and the rest, as they say, is history!

Soon after joining the firm as a partner, Malcolm Greig joined the Australian army and did not return to his regular vocation until 1945.  Whilst Malcolm's absence was a slight strain on the partnership's overall productivity, Coleman & Greig did continue to flourish, and a few years later in 1951, Ralph's son Robert Coleman was invited to join the firm as a partner.  One year later, the firm had three partners, one articled clerk, a receptionist and four secretaries.  

Of course, in 1952 there were no computers, photocopiers or electric typewriters.  Letters and documents were either drafted by hand or dictated to a secretary who would take shorthand and then type the full text up on a manual typewriter, using carbon paper to create a file copy.  This was an understandably tedious process, especially if the solicitor in question was required to answer telephone calls while dictating.  Similarly tedious was the fact that staff would not have many opportunities for second or third drafts: documents would need to be right the first time.

Work for the firm remained steady throughout the 1950s, and in 1959 Grant Cockburn joined as a partner.  Now with four partners and additional support staff, and with the Bank having no plans to enlarge their building, the partners decided that more space would be required in order for the firm to grow.  It was at this time that Coleman & Greig decided to join forces with a number of other prominent local firms in creating a company known as Legal Chambers Pty Ltd - which was subsequently used to organise the construction of a new building, suitable for use by the four member firms.  

In our next blog, we will delve further into the construction of the custom construct known as Legal Chambers 9 George Street, as well as the many changes that came about following the firm's move from Bowden's Chambers.  

Stay tuned!