Michael Gibson Lavan KC was born in County Galway, Ireland in 1875. He was educated at Trinity College and called to the Irish Bar where he practised as a barrister until migrating to Western Australia in 1897.
Michael was admitted in Western Australia in 1898 and commenced practice that year in Barrack Street, Perth. Michael’s firm became Lavan & Walsh in 1920 when a partnership was formed with John Francis Walsh, another Irish lawyer. The firm rose to great prominence in Western Australian legal circles. Michael took silk in 1930 and was president of the Law Society of Western Australia from 1930 to 1935.
In 1934 Michael's son, John Martin Lavan, was admitted to practice and joined the family firm. John remained with the firm until 1969 when he left to join the Bench of the Supreme Court. John was president of the Law Society of Western Australia from 1964 to 1966. In 1981 John was knighted in the New Year’s Honours List.
From 1966 to 1972, Lavan & Walsh was located at 12 Howard Street, Perth which was eventually demolished to make way for the Griffin Centre. From 1972 to 1983 Lavan & Walsh was located at 524 Hay Street, Perth, after which it relocated to the Griffin Centre (now the BGC Building).
In May 1983, Lavan & Walsh merged with another long established Perth law firm, Morris Crawcour & Solomon, and became Lavan Solomon. The two firms had both enjoyed enviable profiles in the legal marketplace and their respective areas of practice were remarkably compatible. In combination, the new firm had the capacity to provide nearly every legal service a client may require. The creation of the new firm coincided with the relaxation of the practice rules regarding marketing by lawyers. The announcement and advertising of the new firm was most novel by legal professional standards at that time. The new firm publicly announced and promoted the fact that it took an innovative approach to the practice of law.
Morris Crawcour & Solomon had held agency relationships with an old established Melbourne firm, Phillips Fox & Masel, and a Sydney firm, Smithers Warren Davenport & Mant. Lavan Solomon built even closer relationships with the two firms and this resulted in an amalgamation of all firms two years after Lavan Solomon was established. The firm operated under the collective name Phillips Fox and was the first national law firm in Australia.
Phillips Fox became one of Australia’s most progressive and respected law firms. The association of firms arose from a perception that the practice of law needed to keep pace with the rapidly changing face of Australian business. Phillips Fox also perceived a need to provide a service for clients which would extend beyond state and national boundaries. This led to the creation of branch offices initially in Vietnam, and subsequently in the other mainland Australian states and New Zealand.
The firm operated as Phillips Fox from 1985 to 2006. Contributing to the growth of the firm, Majteles Salmon merged with Phillips Fox in 1998 and the insolvency and reconstruction practice of the boutique firm Hely Edgar joined Phillips Fox in 1999.
The firm returned to being an independent stand-alone practice and returned to operating under the Lavan name in April 2006. The firm, as Lavan Legal, was formed when the majority of the Perth partners of Phillips Fox and partners from Bennett & Co, including Martin Bennett, recognised the unrealised potential in the marketplace for an independent Western Australian legal practice.
It was a significant and somewhat brave move for the firm to step back from a relationship that had been ground breaking in its time and which had endured for more than 20 years. It recognised, however, that the partners of the firm had a real desire to be independent and to create a firm which was markedly different and unique in many aspects of its practice. It also recognised that the early history of the firm was an important foundation, not to be forgotten, and its traditions something to be built upon. Western Australia had also reached an important point in its development with an economy significant in world terms and a focus and outlook that extended well beyond its boundaries and shores. It was apparent that the firm with aspirations to ‘box well above its weight’ was based in a state with similar aspirations.
Lavan Legal shortened its name to Lavan in 2016. This change in name was in acknowledgement of the firm’s growth and presence in the market place as one of Western Australia’s most reputable and recognisable legal practices.
The firm moved to its current location at 1 William Street in 1990. The firm’s premises at 1 William Street underwent significant refurbishments in 2006 and again in 2016.
In 2018, Lavan celebrated 120 years of providing legal services in Western Australia.
In 2019, while retaining its independence Lavan entered into an association with Gadens to carry out work for specific institutional clients on a national basis.
In 2023, Lavan celebrates 125 years of providing legal services in Western Australia.
Following are the biographies of three former partners who were influential in the development of the firm and achieved prominence in their areas of law and in the community:
John Martin Lavan Kt embarked on a course of five year articles in 1929, at that time one of the modes of entry to practice. John’s association with the law clearly preceded this, going back to his father, Michael Gibson Lavan KC.
John Martin Lavan was educated at Christian Brothers College in Perth and Xavier College in Melbourne. He was admitted to practice in 1934 and commenced employment with his father’s firm Lavan & Walsh. John was away from the practice for five years on military service during World War Two, initially with the 10th Light Horse Regiment and later in the Islands with the Australian Army Legal Corps. He attained the rank of Captain. After the war, John returned to Lavan & Walsh and remained with the firm for the remainder of his practising career, in the main as senior partner.
John built up a very wide and varied practice as both a barrister and solicitor in areas ranging through the criminal, civil and licensing courts as well as non-litigious matters in the commercial sector. From 1934, John was also involved with the St. John Ambulance Association. He was a member of the Council of the Association for many years and was president from 1964 to 1969. John was also chairman of the State Board of the City Mutual Life Assurance Society.
John was an active member of the Law Society of Western Australia. He was the president from 1964 until 1966 during which time he also represented the Society on the Law Council of Australia. He was elected a member of the Barristers’ Board in 1960 and remained a member until 1969.
When John was appointed to the Bench of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in 1969 he brought with him an all round ability and knowledge which, with the modern trend towards specialisation, is unlikely to be matched in the future.
John was made an administrator of the state during the interregnum between governors and when the Lieutenant Governor was absent from the state in 1980. He became Senior Puisne Judge in 1977 and was for seven years chairman of the Parole Board. He was knighted in the New Year’s Honours List in 1981.
The Honourable Diana Bryant AO QC was Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia from 2004 to 2017. Prior to her appointment she was the Chief Federal Magistrate of the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia (now the Federal Circuit Court of Australia) from 2000 to 2004, having guided the emergence and growth of that Court as the inaugural Chief Federal Magistrate.
Before her appointment to the Bench, Diana practised as a family law partner with Lavan & Walsh and its successor firm Phillips Fox. Diana became the first female partner of Lavan & Walsh in 1979. During her time as partner the firm developed a significant family law practice and, as Phillips Fox, was one of the first firms to have a national family law practice.
Diana then spent ten years at the Victorian Bar, being appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1997. Diana has had a longstanding commitment to the advancement of women in the law and was appointed as the patron of Australian Women Lawyers and a board member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and president of the Australian Chapter of the AFCC.
Diana received a Centenary Medal in 2001 for her role in the establishment of the Federal Magistrates Court. She was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2011 for her distinguished service to the judiciary and to the law, particularly to family law policy reform and practice through the establishment of the Federal Magistrates Court, and the advancement of women in the legal profession.
Proudly continuing Diana’s legacy, Lavan re-established its Family Law practice in February 2015.
His Honour Kevin James Hammond AO was educated at Sacred Heart Convent and Christian Brothers College and then at the University of Western Australia.
Kevin completed his articles with Howard Austin Solomon at Morris Crawcour & Solomon and worked for a period of time in Perth before moving to establish Mayberry Hammond in Northam, York and the Central Districts.
In 1978 Kevin returned to Perth and became a partner at Lavan & Walsh where he remained until February 1982. During this period he was a member of the Barristers’ Board, the first chairman of the Land Valuation Tribunal of Western Australia and a member of the Committee of Inquiry into the Future Organisation of the Legal Profession in Western Australia.
Kevin was appointed to the Bench of the District Court in 1982 and was appointed Chief Judge of the Court in 1995. He remained in that position until 31 December 2003.
Kevin was also president of the Crime Prevention Council of Western Australia from 1983 to 1984 and chair of the Review Committee established in 1996 to review all aspects of remission and parole, which was referred to as the ‘Hammond Committee’.
Kevin was a member of the Working Group on Criminal Trial Procedures established by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in Melbourne and Sydney in 1999, a member of the Deliverative Forum on Criminal Trial Reform, Melbourne in 2000 and a member of the Advisory Board of the Crime Research Centre (UWA). He was also for some years chair of the Supervised Release Board for young offenders at Banksia Hill Detention Centre.
In 2004 Kevin capped a truly distinguished career of exemplary service to the community by becoming the Commissioner for Crime and Corruption. After his retirement from that post in 2007 and until 2014, Kevin was involved with the voluntary criminal case conferencing system in the Supreme Court.
The Lavan Legacy
Lavan is leading, independent Western Australian law firm. We are proud of our commitment to Western Australia which spans over 125 years. We bring to our clients a specialised local knowledge, local networks and a first hand understanding of the Western Australian business community. We are proud to continue our commitment to being real people providing real solutions for our clients.
Lavan is a full service firm. We provide legal advice in the areas of aged care, seniors living and disability; Asian investment; banking and finance; construction and infrastructure; corporate and commercial law; education, employment and safety; energy and infrastructure; family law; government; intellectual property; liquor licensing and hospitality; litigation and dispute resolution; media and defamation; mining and resources; oil and gas; planning and environment; property and leasing; private clients; restructuring and insolvency; and wills and estates. Our Property Services group is one of the largest in Western Australia.
Lavan’s Vision is to be Western Australia’s pre-eminent law firm. Our Vision is supported by five Pillars, namely our people, our clients, our brand, risk management and financials. These pillars are central to the firm’s long term success and are the foundation of everything we do.
Lavan’s Purpose is Making A Real Difference. Together. Our Purpose is supported by five core Values of Excellence, Integrity, Collaboration, Fulfilment and Courage. These Values are the foundation of our individual and collective behaviours.
At Lavan we believe that our people are our most valuable assets. We are committed to creating a culture that is supportive, that values learning and celebrates each individual’s contribution to the firm’s overall success. As a firm, we aim to be a leader in social engagement within the broader community and we are always seeking new opportunities to give back to the community. We encourage our employees to participate in philanthropy, reconciliation and volunteering projects.