Our History

Our History

This section to cases that Slater & Gordon has conducted in the past and is not necessarily indicative of legal services Slater & Gordon currently provide. Please contact us if you have any queries about our current legal services.

1930s - 1940s - 1950s - 1960s - 1970s - 1980s - 1990s - 2000s - 2010s

 

March 1935 - Slater & Gordon is founded

In a small room in the Australian Railway Union’s Unity Hall Building on Bourke Street in Melbourne, William (Bill) Slater and Hugh Gordon founded Slater & Gordon to service unions, particularly in workplace entitlements and claims. The heritage listed Unity Building is now a hotel, but the original façade and entrance hall mosaic remains.

 

March 1941 - Hugh Gordon enlists in the RAAF

Hugh Gordon enlists to fight in the Second World War, joining the No. 460 squadron RAAF as part of the Pathfinder squadron flying Lancaster aircraft.

 

October 12, 1942 - William Slater is appointed Australia’s first Minister to Russia

At the height of the Second World War, the Curtin Government appointed Bill Slater as Australia’s first ambassador to Russia. Bill moved to the relocated Russian wartime capital of Kuybyshev (now Samara), and was in the role for a little over a year before the cold Russian winter got the better of Bill’s poor health.

 

October 28, 1942 - Ted Hill rejoins the firm, and the firm’s name is changed to Slater, Gordon & Hill

After working for the firm briefly in the late 1930s, Ted Hill rejoined the firm to manage its operation while Bill Slater was overseas.

 

October 1942 - Hiring women and paying clerks

Slater, Gordon & Hill began offering articled clerkships to women and also began paying clerks, rather than demanding a training premium.

 

June 14, 1943 - Hugh Gordon is killed in action, aged 34

On his 30th and final mission before he was due to be transferred back to Australia, Hugh’s aircraft encountered a German night fighter. The plane was shot down, with the loss of three men on board, including Hugh Gordon. Hugh was buried at Jonkerbos Cemetery, near Nijmegen, Holland. The name ‘Slater & Gordon’ has been retained to this day in Hugh’s memory.

 

November 19, 1945 - Bill Slater becomes Victorian Attorney General for the second time

Bill Slater is appointed Victorian Attorney General and Solicitor General, serving in the role until 1947. A revered Labor politician, Bill served in Parliament from November 1917 to April 1932; July 1932 to October 1947, and June 1949 to June 1960. Bill would also serve as Attorney General and Solicitor General again between 1952 and 1955. (Image circa 1945-52, courtesy of State Library of Victoria [SLV])

 

April 1946 - Victorian Workers Compensation Act and Employers and Employees Bill Introduced

As Attorney General Bill Slater introduced an act in Parliament to improve the rights of Victorian workers. The Bill lead to pioneering legal work being done by Slater & Gordon on behalf of previously unprotected workers whose welfare and health were affected. This included workers from the Wonthaggi colliery.

 

February, 1946 - Geoffrey Llewellyn Jones joins the firm as a staff solicitor

Geoff Jones joins the firm, staying at Slater & Gordon for 38 years. In 1948 he would become general manager of the firm.

 

April 1948 - Ted Hill leaves the firm

Ted Hill leaves firm to become secretary of the Victorian branch of the Communist Party. He would continue to be briefed by the firm as a barrister

 

November 1948 - Geoff Jones becomes secretary of the Firefighters Union

Juggling his work running the firm, Geoff would began on improving the conditions of Victoria’s firefighters who at the time were paid poorly and on call up to 108 hours a week.

 

1952 - Bill Slater is appointed Attorney General under Premier John Cain Senior

Bill Slater is appointed to the position of Victoria’s Attorney General and Solicitor General

 

1956 - Bill Slater returns to Europe, and visits the grave of Hugh Gordon

Bill wrote in his diary of his sorrow, wondering “what he would have been today in the full bloom of manhood had he been spared the supreme sacrifice he had to make.”

 

1957 - Annual profit: £12,248

Now operating for almost 22 years, a return in 1957 shows the firm’s profits at just over £12,000 pounds was split between the partners.

 

1958 - Frank Vincent commences articles with the firm

Frank Vincent, who went on to enjoy a revered career as a barrister and judge, ruling in several high profile murder cases, started working for the firm.

 

June 19, 1960 - Bill Slater passes away

Bill died suddenly in 1960 while still a Victorian Member of Parliament. His family declined the offer of a State funeral, as Bill had asked for a private service ‘of the simplest character’. But the Victoria Police had other ideas. Remembering his role in the 1924 Police Strike Royal Commission, and later as the police union’s honorary solicitor, police blocked every intersection for 30 kilometres for his funeral procession. On his death, Labor Leader Clive Stoneham would say “He was intolerant of injustice, and was at all times a dauntless defender of civil liberties.” Conservative Liberal Premier Henry Bolte would label Bill a man of “sterling qualities”, and a “clean, straight shooter.”

 

1964 - Slater & Gordon wins landmark HMAS Voyager case

The family of Horace Jones, a 44 year old contract electrician on HMAS Voyager, is compensated following landmark legal action by Slater & Gordon.

 

1966 - Morwell Office opens

Following a spike in workplace claims in the Latrobe Valley, Slater & Gordon opens an office in Morwell.

 

November 1967 - Slater & Gordon takes the Dennis O'Donnell conscientious objection case

At the height of the Vietnam War, Slater & Gordon takes the (ultimately unsuccessful) case of student teacher and conscientious objector Dennis James O’Donnell, to the Privy Council.

 

1967 - Geoffrey Eames commences articles with the firm

Geoffrey Eames, who worked closely with Jim Hill (brother of Ted Hill) during his time at Slater & Gordon, went on to eventually become a Supreme Court justice.

 

1971 - The firm continues to grow with new partnership appointments

Michael Maplestone, William Rutherford, Jonathan Rothfield and later County Court Judge Michael Higgins are made partners. Herman Borestein would be made partner shortly following Jim Hill’s death in 1973.

 

1981 - Jennifer Lush made first female partner

After joining the firm as a staff solicitor in 1972, Jennifer Lush, the daughter of Supreme Court Judge Sir George Lush, was made Slater & Gordon’s first female partner.

 

1984 - Footscray office opened

The Footscray office went from strength to strength under the guidance of a young Peter Gordon.

 

June 30, 1984 - Geoff Jones Retires

After decades in the role of General Manager, Geoff Jones retires with the firm having grown to 125 staff and 10 partners.

 

September 1985 - Landmark Harold Plimer claim is won

Harold Plimer worked as a general hand at McPherson’s in Collins Street following World War 2, where he was exposed to asbestos. Plimer instructed Slater & Gordon to sue McPherson’s for compensation, and this was the first time such a case had come before the Victorian Supreme Court. Plimer was awarded $225,000 in damages; in Australia’s first common-law case relating to such exposure. Harold passed away four years after the case was completed.

 

December 24, 1985 - Jonathan Rothfield assumes control of Slater & Gordon after a tumultuous few years

On the verge of collapse, and enduring internal battles for control, partner Jonathan Rothfield assumed sole control of the business for a four year period to stabilise the firm. Jonathan bore much of the financial burden to keep the business afloat. It was against this backdrop of near ruin that Slater & Gordon would fight some of its toughest cases. In August 1986, Jonathan issued the following statement in a memo titled ‘Slater & Gordon Principles’: This firm is different to most. We aim to assist the underdog and provide legal services to the disadvantaged. To do this, we must be in business. To be in business, we must be profitable.

1986 - Sydney office opens, primarily to handle Dalkon Shield cases

Slater & Gordon opened an office in Sydney to help deal with the approximately 3000 people who had come forward to contest a class action against the makers of a faulty IUD, Advertising for the class action was also some of the first advertising undertaken by law firms in Australia. in Australia’s first common-law case relating to such exposure. Harold passed away four years after the case was completed.

 

1986 - Julia Gillard joins Slater & Gordon

Julia Gillard joined Slater & Gordon in 1986. She went on to become a partner, and then Australia’s first woman Prime Minister in 2010.

 

1986 - Perth office opened to accommodate Wittenoom cases

Following changes to the statute of limitations, Slater & Gordon rushes to launch a class action against CSR on behalf of people who lived and worked at the mining town Wittenoom. The Wittenoom mine in remote Western Australia was operated by CSR from 1943, and was staffed largely by migrant workers arriving from post war Europe. Of the 6700 people who worked at either of the two Wittenoom mines, an estimated 1000-3000 would die as a result of their employment at the mine.

 

February, 1987 - Geoff Shaw joins the firm

Geoff Shaw modernised the firm’s practices and procedures, changing the management structure of the firm and positioning the firm for future growth. He was instrumental in the creation of the “No Win No Fee”  payment structure. Tragically Geoff passed away suddenly in December 1997.

 

February 1, 1988 - Ted Hill passes away

One time partner and prominent barrister Ted Hill passed away at the age of 72. On Ted’s death, The Age labelled him a “dogged warrior of the working class.”

 

May 23, 1988 - Landmark Klaus Rabenalt case is won

Due to advertising restrictions in some states we are prohibited in publishing information about some of these cases and the legal services and assistance we provide.  We are able to provide further information  when specifically requested. If you would like to receive more information please call Slater & Gordon at 1800 555 777 or make an online enquiry.

 

30 November, 1989 - Wittenoom class action cases settled

The final Wittenoom cases settled, with an $18.2 million payment to the remaining ex-employees.

 

December 22, 1990 - Slater & Gordon conducted one of the world’s first medically acquired HIV/AIDS common law cases in the world

The case of PQ, a 44 year old haemophiliac who received HIV from a blood donation , was one of the world’s first successful cases involving medically acquired HIV.

 

May, 1994 - BHP Ok Tedi class action is launched

From January 1984, tailings from BHP’s Ok Tedi gold and copper mine in Papua New Guinea were fed directly into the Ok Tedi and Fly rivers, destroying the hunting and farming grounds and the livelihood of 40,000 villagers who lived in the area.   Amid a protracted ‘PR’ battle, the brave villagers of the Ok Tedi basin were successful, and in 1996 BHP was forced to end the environmental destruction and compensate the villagers.

 

July, 1994 - No Win No Fee introduced

Slater & Gordon introduces the revolutionary No Win No Fee ™ legal fee structure.

 

July 7, 1996 - Peanut butter class action

Slater & Gordon conducts Australia’s largest food contamination class action on behalf of hundreds of people who ate contaminated peanut butter.

 

October 13, 1998 - ‘That disreputable firm… the inside story of Slater & Gordon’ book is launched

Historian Michael Cannon’s detailed book accounting of the history of the firm is launched.

 

1998 - Brian Crimmins case is won in High Court

Since the late 1980s, cases by former waterside workers exposed to asbestos were turned away by the courts, until Brian Crimmins, a Melbourne truck driver who had been a wharfie, walked in to Slater & Gordon in 1997. The Commonwealth fought Brian’s claim relentlessly but in 1998, Slater & Gordon won Brian's case in a landmark High Court judgment.

 

May 2001 - Dow Corning Settlement

After a prolonged legal battle, Slater & Gordon concluded the world-first settlement of more than 3000 breast implant claims.

 

April 12, 2002 - Rolah McCabe v Big Tobacco

In a first, Rolah McCabe is successful in suing the world’s second largest tobacco company, British American Tobacco. The decision is later overturned in the Victorian Court of Appeal.

 

2004 - James Hardie commission of inquiry

In 2004, a Slater & Gordon team headed by Peter Gordon and Ken Fowlie acted pro bono for the ACTU, the union movement and asbestos support groups in the James Hardie Commission of Inquiry. Not all of our submissions were adopted by the Commissioner, but many have since been taken up by ASIC in civil prosecution against Hardie’s directors.

Following the inquiry, Slater & Gordon partner Ken Fowlie acted for the ACTU in the negotiation of the historic agreement which compels James Hardie to fund its payments to those affected for the next 50 years.

 

May 21, 2007 - Slater & Gordon becomes world’s first publicly listed law firm

Slater & Gordon took the bold move to list on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), after ownership laws changed to allow people other than lawyers to own a law firm.

 

February 5, 2008 - Tim Lacone donates $200,000 to the Asbestos Research Fund

Slater & Gordon secured a record payout on behalf of inventor Tim Lacone whose medical condition was contracted whilst developing a highly innovative swimming pool and industrial water filter. In an out of court settlement, the 58 year old Melbourne inventor was awarded $2.75 million in damages.  At his post-victory press conference, Tim pledged to devote a significant portion of his compensation to research to help others similarly afflicted via the Asbestos Research Foundation. Slater & Gordon matched the donation with a $300,000 donation.

November 19, 2008 - Cranbourne gas leaks class action commences

Slater & Gordon launches a class action on behalf on behalf of hundreds of Cranbourne property owners in Victoria whose properties were affected by methane gas leaking from a nearby landfill site. The class action was settled in 2011.

 

2009 - Thalidomide

Due to advertising restrictions in some states we are prohibited in publishing information about some of these cases and the legal services and assistance we provide.  We are able to provide further information  when specifically requested. If you would like to receive more information please call Slater & Gordon at 1800 555 777 or make an online enquiry.

 

May, 2009 - Slater & Gordon offers social work services

Slater & Gordon becomes the first law firm in Australia to offer social work services to its clients.

 

September 2009 - Compensation for Australia’s first female commando

Slater & Gordon’s High Court victory for Australia’s first female commando was a decision that would benefit thousands of other veterans. Retired Lieutenant-Colonel Robyn Fellowes, whose 22 years in the army included service in Bougainville, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, was the subject of the successful test case.

 

2010 - Slater & Gordon celebrates 75 Years

Slater & Gordon celebrates 75 years, growing from its humble beginnings in a small room in the ARU building in 1935, to a national law firm and nearly 800 staff. The ‘True Believers’ documentary was also produced at the time in recognition of the significant milestone.

 

August 13, 2010 - Slater & Gordon Acquires Trilby Misso Lawyers

Slater & Gordon completes its biggest acquisition to date, acquiring south east Queensland based Trilby Misso Lawyers. The acquisition followed a number of smaller acquisitions.

 

January 11, 2011 - Slater & Gordon Acquires Keddies Lawyers

Following the acquisition of Trilby Misso Lawyers, Slater & Gordon completes the acquisition of leading New South Wales based law firm, Keddies Lawyers.

 

May 20, 2011 - Fincorp Collapse

The Federal Court of Australia approved a $29 million class action settlement in 2011 on behalf of more than 5000 investors who lost money when Fincorp Investments Limited collapsed in 2007.

 

July, 2011 - Oz Minerals class action is settled

The Federal Court of Australia approved a class action settlement in 2011 on behalf of more than 7500 individual participants who purchased shares in the minerals resources company, Oz Minerals, in 2008. The predominantly ‘mum and dad’ retail investors shared approximately $16 million in compensation.

 

July, 2011 - Storm Financial class action is settled

Slater & Gordon negotiated settlement outcomes for more than 1000 former clients of the collapsed financial planner Storm Financial. Retirees and pensioners were among those who were encouraged to sign up to large investment loans and margin loans despite limited assets and income.

 

September, 2011 - Fixed Fees for Family Law launched

In an innovative move, Slater & Gordon replaced billable hours with a fixed fee service for family law clients. Family law guide, Know Where You Stand was authored by Ian Shann and was launched by Justice Michael Kirby and Lisa Curry Kenny.

 

November, 2011 - Conveyancing Works acquired

Slater & Gordon acquired Queensland conveyancing firm Conveyancing Works, as the firm diversified outside traditional compensation services.

 

January, 2012 - London Calling: UK firm Russell Jones & Walker acquired

In its first move overseas, Slater & Gordon announced it would acquire UK Law firm Russell Jones & Walker. With similar backgrounds, RJW was the ideal partner to join with  Slater & Gordon in the UK legal market.

February, 2012 – Fixed Fees for Family Law Launched in QLD, NSW & WA

Slater & Gordon’s successful fixed fee service for family law clients is expanded to Queensland, New South Wales & Western Australia.

 

April, 2012 – Slater & Gordon supports changes to the Marriage Act

One of Australia’s leading family law experts, Heather McKinnon speaks out in support of proposed changes to the Marriage Act. The changes would remove the last significant piece of legislative discrimination against gay and lesbian members of the community.

 

April, 2012 – Acquisition of UK law firm Russell Jones & Walker complete

Slater & Gordon’s £53.8 million acquisition of UK law firm Russell Jones & Walker (RJW) was finalised following the approval of an Alternative Business Structures (ABS) licence by the UK Solicitors Regulation Authority.

 

May, 2012 – More Australian’s protected by a legal will

For the second year in a row, Slater & Gordon offered free online wills during National Law week, with more than 7,500 Australians protecting themselves with a will in 2012. Research shows nearly half of all Australian’s don’t have a will.

 

June, 2012 – Regional Queenslanders have access to national law firm

Slater & Gordon announces three visiting services to open in the offices of Conveyancing Works in Mackay, Rockhampton and Wide Bay in Queensland, making it easier for those communities to access Slater & Gordon’s wide range of legal services.

 

July, 2012 – Successful Conveyancing platform rolled out across Australia

Slater & Gordon announces its successful Queensland conveyancing platform will be rolled out nation-wide as the firm begins to offer conveyancing services to other states.

 

July, 2012 – Lynette Rowe’s case is settled

Australian woman Lynette Rowe settled her case for a multi-million dollar sum with the help of Gordon Legal and Slater & Gordon.

 

August, 2012 – Slater & Gordon expands its Tasmanian footprint

Slater & Gordon announced a merger between its Hobart office and well-known law firm Hilliard & Associates, consolidating its offices and offering more legal services to the people of Tasmania.

 

October, 2012 – Settlement reached in Sigma shareholder class action

A $57.5m agreement to settle a shareholder class action against Sigma Pharmaceuticals Ltd was reached following a court-ordered mediation, after a surprise full-year result announced by Sigma in March 2010 saw the company’s share price halve.

 

November, 2012 – Nufarm class action settlement approved

The Federal Court approved a $46.6 million class action settlement between agricultural company Nufarm and more than 3800 group members who registered to participate in the settlement.  The claim was brought on behalf of Nufarm shareholders who acquired Nufarm shares in the period 28 September 2009 – 31 August 2010 and who suffered loss as a result of alleged breaches by Nufarm of its ASX reporting obligations in FY2010.  

 

 2013

January, 2013 – Landmark victory against Victorian Government construction code

Victoria’s peak construction union – the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) - and Slater & Gordon Lawyers secures a landmark victory against the Victorian Government’s new construction industry code in the Federal Court after the government introduced new guidelines for builders seeking to work on publicly funded projects.

 

February, 2013 – Landmark fuel surcharge class action concludes

A world-first class action, that has changed the way international airlines pay commission to Australian travel agents, was finalised with the Federal Court approving a settlement with carrier Air New Zealand.

The class action was commenced in 2006 by Slater & Gordon on behalf of travel agents seeking to recover commission on fuel surcharges imposed by airlines on international airfares.

 

May, 2013 – S&G plans to expand further in the UK

Slater & Gordon announces details of a $63 million equity raising to fund an accelerated UK expansion with plans to acquire three more law firms, increasing Slater & Gordon’s practice area diversification to more people in the UK.

 

May, 2013 – Thousands of GPT investors to share in $75 million in class action settlement

Thousands of shareholders who took on listed property trust GPT Management Holdings Limited and GPT RE Limited (GPT) in a class action will share in $75 million after a conditional settlement was reached.

Slater & Gordon had filed proceedings in the Federal Court in 2011 on behalf of 2300 investors who acquired stapled securities in GPT between February 27, 2008, and July 6, 2008, alleging the company had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and breached its continuous disclosure obligations.

 

June, 2013 – Slater & Gordon announces launch of New Zealand bank fees class action against ANZ

Slater & Gordon announces a class action against the New Zealand subsidiary of ANZ Bank will be launched after thousands of bank customers signed up to recoup unfair penalty fees.

The firm partnered with New Zealand lawyer Andrew Hooker, who will lead the Fair Play on Fees class action, and litigation funder Litigation Lending Services in an action which follows similar cases in Australia.

 

August, 2013 – Slater & Gordon acquires Gibson & Gibson

Slater & Gordon expanded its footprint in Western Australia with the acquisition of Perth-based law firm, Gibson & Gibson, growing the firm’s operations by one-third in the state and increasing the total number of staff to more than 80.

 

September, 2013 – Growth trajectory earns Slater & Gordon a place on the S&P/ASX 300 index

Slater & Gordon was named on the S&P/ASX 300 index, recognising the firm’s status among the country’s 300 biggest companies based on criteria including market capitalisation and share turnover.

Slater & Gordon was Australia’s first publically listed law firm, listing in 2007.

Due to advertising restrictions in some states we are prohibited in publishing further information about some of these cases and the legal services and assistance we provide.  We are able to provide further information  when specifically requested. If you would like to receive more information please call Slater & Gordon at 1800 555 777 or make an online enquiry.

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