Coleman Greig celebrates 90 years

Warrick McLean

This year sees Coleman Greig Lawyers celebrate our 90th anniversary as Western Sydney’s leading law firm.  With such an outstandingly rich timeline behind us, the firm is set to celebrate with a year-long walk down memory lane.

Although the partnership between Ralph Coleman and Malcolm Greig was initially founded on 1 April 1940, Coleman Greig’s roots can be traced back to 1928 - the year when Ralph Coleman first opened his legal practice on Church Street in Parramatta.

Not long after moving his family from the north-eastern NSW town of Bowraville and setting up his office above Stewards Shoe Store in Parramatta, Coleman chanced upon the opportunity to purchase another Parramatta-based firm (one of just five in practice in the area at the time) - Bowden & Bowden, after the firm went into receivership following the unexpected passing of the firm’s owner, Eric Bowden.

The growth brought about by the purchase of Bowden & Bowden came with it the move from the firm’s original premises to a new space in the rear of the State Bank - later to be known as the Rural Bank (just a short stroll from Coleman Greig Lawyers’ current Parramatta offices). 

Following the firm’s acquisition, a number of interesting documents were found in Bowden’s strongroom, including the often-referred-to wax seal (or ‘the great seal’, as it is known within the walls of Coleman Greig) - used by Governor Phillip and found attached to a grant of 30 acres of land near Parramatta to Edward Varndell, dated 22 February 1792.  This particular grant is believed to be one of the earliest deeds of land grants issued by Governor Phillip - an exciting discovery for Coleman at the time, and a wonderful piece of Western Sydney history.

In 1941, just one year after Ralph Coleman invited Malcolm Greig to become a partner in the firm (leading to the partnership being known as Coleman & Greig) - Greig joined the Australian army, rising to the rank of Lieutenant by the time he re-joined the firm after being discharged in 1945.

The following decades saw significant growth for Coleman & Greig Solicitors and Notaries in both reputation and size, with the addition of several new partners.  Ralph Coleman’s son Robert Coleman became a firm partner in 1951, having come from a number of years working with Hughesdon & Davis, a city firm that acted as the Sydney agents to Coleman & Greig Lawyers.  In 1952, the firm consisted of just three partners, a legal clerk, a receptionist and four secretaries.

Over the past 90 years, Coleman Greig Lawyers has both seen and been a part of Parramatta’s expansion from what was described by Robert Coleman as ‘a country town surrounded by orchards and small farms’ to what is now the hub of Greater Western Sydney, Australia's third largest economy. 

The life of the firm has seen an incredible stream of growth from its humble beginnings back in 1928, partly thanks to the incorporating of a notable list of firms such as Hazell & Lucas, David Andrews & Associates, Robilliard & Robilliard, White & Halbert, GK Strong & Associates, Grech & Bannerman, and most recently - Pavlis & Co. Solicitors.

The firm’s Principals have always recognised the importance seeing practice growth and the careful management of staff succession as running hand in hand – having observed a number of previously significant Parramatta legal practices shutting down, as partners started to retire and were not actively replaced.  This is simply one example of the forethought which has consistently placed us as industry leaders within the area, across everything from early-adoption of niche word processing procedures and the utilisation of high-rise office spaces, to the firm’s commitment to the community - which has seen us raise well over $1 million for a range of charities.

Coleman Greig Lawyers is excited to celebrate its 90th anniversary this year, with a number of historical plans already underway for the remainder of 2018.  We suggest keeping an eye on the firm’s social media accounts - as we’ll be publishing plenty of interesting historical facts focused on the Parramatta area, those companies with whom we work closely, and of course - Coleman Greig Lawyers!