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John Hall joined the Slater and Gordon Albury office last year as a senior consultant specialising in family law and estate litigation matters having had more than 30 years of experience, both as a solicitor and barrister in Victoria and Queensland. But during his lifetime John has done more than just chartering clients though troubled waters.
Sailing is a drug of addiction that flows through his veins. His grandfather was a Cray fisherman at Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula and his father and elder siblings were both keen sailors. ‘At seven years of age my dad put me in a sabot, which is a little eight-foot boat, at Frankston Yacht Club and pushed me off the beach and away I went,’ he says. ‘Since then sailing has always been a big part of my life.’
Ever since that significant day John has never looked back, competing in events from fundraisers to club championships, bay championships and all the way to the state championships. In 1974 he reached the pinnacle of the sport by qualifying for the Fireball World Titles after coming sixth out of a field of 110 yachts at the National Titles in Glenelg, SA. When pitted against the world’s best yachtsmen he earned a respectable twelfth placing.
The skills John has acquired during a lifetime on the water have been of great benefit when helping his clients. ‘Sailing is about problem solving,’ he says. ‘It’s about working out the best way of getting from A to B. This could be said for family law and estate litigation as well. We are always advising our clients on the best way to move forward in a given situation. We are thinking through a problem and coming up with a solution that best fits.’
For John, family has always come first, which I’d imagine would be a good quality of a family lawyer. He is the proud father of three, which he says has given him a mature and well informed knowledge of parenting and the challenges that children bring.
Interestingly, his children have also inherited the sailing gene. One of the proudest moments in his life was winning the line honours in the Melbourne to Launceston Rudder Cup in 2011 with both his sons on board.
In 2006 John sold his legal practice to embark on a 12-month sea voyage with his wife and youngest son who was 13 years of age at the time. They sailed up the east coast from Victoria to far north Queensland, spending a large proportion of the time island-hopping around the Whitsundays. His wife, who has a background in teaching, home-schooled their son on board.
Among John’s all-time best experiences is while heading south along the East Australian current about 45 miles off the Fraser Island coast. It was night-time and the current was teaming with life from whales to turtles, sharks, sea birds and dolphins. ‘It was very quiet and everything was pitch-black,’ he says. ‘Suddenly, we hear this grunt like squeal from underneath the hull. A school of about 15 whales had surrounded us, blowing bubbles and singing, luminescent in the water. It was extraordinary.’
Sailing yachts is only part of John’s talents; he also renovates them. At 11 years of age he built his first boat, which he describes as ‘like bathtub with a sail on it’, and over the course of his life he has rejuvenated a plethora of poorly conditioned boats into tip-top racing condition. Being good with his hands has also translated to an aptitude for building homes. He has designed and built 12 homes.