Malcolm's story

Malcolm Park - IMCL's first employee lawyer - 1981-1982

Fresh out of law school and a new resident of North Melbourne in 1981, Malcolm Park came across the newly established NMLS. After a  period of time as an evening service volunteer, he was employed as the very first paid solicitor when the service began operating full-time. He recounts the service's transformation to a fully operating legal centre. 

Discovering the local legal community 

Fresh out of law school and a new resident of North Melbourne in 1981, Malcolm Park set out to find the local legal community.

"I began there in 1981. I’d just finished at Monash, I’d moved to North Melbourne in preparation for attending Leo Cussen, qualifying here, and living in North Melbourne, in Howard Street.

"I’m not sure, I can’t remember now, but I assume somewhere in the shopping centre in North Melbourne I saw a flyer for the North Melbourne Legal Service so I went along," he recalls.

"Outside the Housing Commission flats in Melrose Street there was a row of shops run by the Housing Commission. There was a passageway through the shops - a breezeway - and we had a very small office in there, at number 29. There was a small waiting area outside and there were two tiny offices: one with a desk, a telephone, a chair for the lawyer and a chair for the client; and the second with a filing cabinet and typewriter.  

"I believe there was a nominal rent of $1 per week which I found out later I don’t think we ever paid, ever," he laughs.

There he met the original Founders Peter Collinson, Will Houghton and Justice Peter Almond.

With time on his hands whilst he waited to start hisarticles of clerkship at Leo Cussen, he offered to volunteer. 

"In those days it was operating as a night service, I think two nights a week, and I just went along one night early in probably about February or March [...] I became a volunteer – not as a lawyer because I was unqualified". 

Becoming the first employee solicitor

With increasing demand for the service - and having then qualified as a lawyer - Malcolm was eventually employed to operate a day service.

"An arrangement was made where I would be paid $100 a week tax free - I think the tax free as the tax free threshold was more than $5200 - and we would open the North Melbourne Legal Service full time, not two nights a week part-time at night, but nine o’clock in the morning through to five o’clock.  Plus we continued with the night clinic twice a week, staffed by volunteers."

His salary was paid directly out of the pocket of one of the other young lawyers involved with the service at the time, Douglas McDonald. 

"We put in an application to Victorian Legal Aid to say although we’ve only been funded as a part-time service we are running at full time, we would like funding for full time. Douglas McDonald would’ve worn that. In other words he wasn’t providing me with $100 a week on the basis that he would be reimbursed. He was providing me with $100 a week and the bonus was our grant application at Victorian Legal Aid included a sum to actually pay back to him the money he’d advanced to me".

As a junior lawyer, Malcolm was supervised by the founders and another volunteer lawyer at the time, Jim Doyle.

"Douglas would provide the salary and Jim would provide the supervision [...] One morning a week, maybe two [...] I would attend at the Pancake Parlour in the city before Jim went to work and we would discuss what had happened since I last seen him. So in some ways he was supervising me. I was totally green... He looked over my shoulder even though he was full time at a large commercial law firm. He was a mentor to me."

Malcolm describes Jim Doyle as being instrumental. He negotiated the rent, recruited volunteer solicitors from his city firm and also secretaries.

"They were persuaded by his golden tongue that they should volunteer their time. We did have an IBM typewriter that he managed to secure and he actually recruited two of the Blake and Wriggles secretaries to come in at night to work, and that didn’t last long because really tchere wasn’t enough work for them. He was obviously very passionate about the needs and the service."

Malcolm recalls other trailblazing lawyers at the centre.

"We engaged Edward Tanner to do duty solicitor work for us on a casual basis. Edwin ran his own practice and sort of kept an eye part time. And he did make duty solicitor appearances on behalf of the North Melbourne Legal Service.

"Then there was Richard Reville, who took over when I signed the bar roll," he says. 

A sense of perspective 

Malcolm acknowledges that he gained as much, if not more, out of the service as he put in.  

"It was beneficial to me, it wasn’t the case that I gave and the community took. I took too and I benefitted. 

"I think it was valuable in the sense that it gave me - and other privileged law students and newly graduated solicitors or law students - good grounding. Most of the clients were from the housing commission flats," he explains.

"I think it was a very good start for my legal career. Again it’s not me being selfless."

40 years on

"I knew it would [...] I believed it would last. I don’t know about the 40th year, it never even occurred to me [... ] when I first became a volunteer there was no suggestion of full time. So, yes, if you had of asked me then I would’ve said yes, I won’t be here in 40 years time, but we’ll still be in the little shopping centre and we’ll still be two nights a week," he reflects.

You can find out more about IMCL's current staff here.