John Mann, Special Counsel from our Windsor office, recently celebrated 50 years in practice. His colleague Gerard McMahon, Partner of our Newcastle office, had the below comments to document this achievement;

I can’t say precisely when I met John, but it was over 50 years ago. John started his career as an articled clerk to Alan Cornwell who was the principal of William Walker and Co, Windsor which was the oldest continuous legal practice in NSW.

My aunt, Elaine “Peggy “McMahon was the probate clerk of the practice and in about 1970, a young English solicitor , David Roberts, aiming to make a fresh start joined the practice. Mr Cornwell left the practice, Peggy married David Roberts and John and David went into partnership trading as Roberts Mann and Co. So, it came that I first met John when visiting Peggy and David as a kid. Many years later, on 4 July 1988 and fresh out of Sydney University Law School, I joined the practice which by then was known as Roberts Mann Davies Giles and Weller.

When I started out, John had a large Wills, Estates, and conveyancing practice. In the Hawkesbury, a knowledge of old system title was essential because many rural properties were held as qualified title, and some old system title conveyances were still being performed. Though he is far too modest to admit it, he was one of the best solicitors in NSW as far as Wills, Estates and Conveyancing practice was concerned. This was reinforced by the fact that he was one of the first accredited specialists in Wills and Estates and was asked by the law Society to set the exam questions for subsequent accreditation applicants in conjunction with Pam Suttor, something he did for many years.

There is one conveyancing matter that sticks in my memory. I was playing rugby at the time and a teammate was a local turf farmer who wanted to purchase more land on the lowlands surrounding the Hawkesbury River. I was asked to do the conveyancing and of course it was an old system title conveyance, my first one. The last conveyance was affected decades before and on reading the Deeds that comprised the title I couldn’t understand the archaic language used to describe the boundaries which included metes and bounds, rods, and perches . After examining the Deeds, John told me that I had better get the land surveyed because the rear boundary had been fixed by reference to the position of a willow tree on the banks of the Hawkesbury River in the late 1700s. I did as he suggested, and my teammate ended up with more land than he agreed to pay for! But the point is John was generous with his time and knowledge and was always willing to help those who sought his advice.

John believed the practice of law to be an honourable undertaking and making money from it was almost a secondary consideration. I mean no disrespect in saying that. What counted to John was doing the work properly and to a high standard. The fact is that he undertook many complex matters for a modest fee. Other local solicitors regularly consulted John for advice in difficult matters, which he gave for free, which was in due course passed on to their clients as their own advice, for which the client was charged a significant fee. Such was his experience in practice and reputation as an honourable solicitor, John served on the Professional Conduct Committee of the Law Society for many years.

In 1996, I was offered partnership and so became John’s partner. By 2000 I saw the writing on the wall for the old-fashioned country/suburban practices and so I left and started with Turner Freeman at Parramatta in December 2000. Many years later, Turner Freeman effectively acquired John’s practice and he joined us as a consultant.

I have been practicing continuously for almost 36 years. I can truthfully say that there aren’t any solicitors in this state who know more about their chosen areas of practice than John knows about his. In addition to that, and more importantly, John is a fundamentally honourable and decent man who deserves far more credit than he would be comfortable accepting.

We congratulate John on this amazing achievement and celebrate with this him.