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Philip Anthony
Philip Anthony, Senior Associate at Hall Payne Lawyers.

Whatever Ekka brings to mind for you – be it showbags, stuntdrivers, sideshow alley or strawberry sundaes, the Royal Queensland Show is a true celebration of city meets country.

For one Brisbane solicitor who ran cattle as a kid and whose father kept a small Brahman stud, the Ekka growing up was all about the animals; a showcase of bulls, cows and calves in the thousands.

Fresh out of university in 1989, a young Philip Anthony started his articles at a small firm in Brisbane city – Callaghan and Reidy – where he gained a broad range of experience, touching on criminal, family and industrial law, personal injuries, debt collection, will-making and conveyancing.

Next came Comino & Associates, where Philip ended up managing the Loganlea office. He was offered to buy it, but decided he’d rather go backpacking. So, at 28, he set off to the Middle East for a few months, travelling through Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel.

Coming back to Australia, Philip realised he hadn’t seen much of his home state. He explored more of Queensland, and when an opportunity came up to fill a locum position in Dalby, he jumped at the chance.

His first regional stint was short, but sweet, because Philip then deliberately sought out work in the regions for the next five years.

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“It’s a huge state and there are a lot of opportunities out there, and I really enjoyed my time in the regions,” Philip said. “The distance didn’t worry me – and that was even when technology was nowhere near what it is now.”

One in 10 practising solicitors in Queensland are based in country or rural locations, according to the 2022 National Profile of Solicitors. Country and rural areas have witnessed little employment growth since 2011, at only 14 per cent.

Philip sat down with Proctor to talk ‘regional practice’; some highlights of his time working in Dalby, Gladstone and Toowoomba as a young lawyer, and why he thinks more legal practitioners should take up jobs away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Days in Dalby

Carvosso & Winship was Philip’s first taste of work in a rural town, in 1996. Back then Dalby was home to about 10,000 people, but drawing on the surrounding local townships, Philip said the firm’s catchment was about three times that size.

“One thing that really stood out there was when a client would ring up to make an appointment,” Philip said. “They would say to me – when are you available? That doesn’t happen down here.

“I was only there for a short time, although I got to know some of the accountants and some of the other people in town. Friendly people, very hospitable – I enjoyed getting to know the locals and their businesses.”

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Philip Anthony
Mary Barry and Philip Anthony in the ’90s.

“The Commercial Hotel was owned by a grand lady of Dalby, Mary Barry,” Philip said. “Sadly, she passed away a few years ago and, more recently, the pub burnt down.”

During his stay in Dalby, Philip lived at the hotel on the main street and would take the short stroll to work each day.

Philip Anthony
The view from the balcony at the Commercial Hotel, Dalby.

“I remember one morning I heard the traffic report for Brisbane,” Philip said. “I laughed and thought, ‘well okay, I’ll count the steps from the front of the pub to the front of the office’. I didn’t jaywalk – I walked down to the crossing and came back… it was 129 steps.

“I really enjoyed that… I was able to save money actually. And it’s quite close to one of Queensland’s most beautiful places, the Bunya Mountains.”

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Bunya Mountains
Sweeping views to the west of the Bunya Mountains.

“The biggest difference was pace, the pace of life,” Philip said. “It was literally nine to five – there was such a thing as work-life balance which was really quite pleasant.

“I’m not saying regional practice isn’t busy, but because I suppose people are happy to work around your schedule, as long as you keep your eye on limitation periods and those sorts of things, it’s all going to work.”

Glad in Gladstone

Once he’d fulfilled his role as a locum in Dalby, Philip came back to Brisbane for a few months to fill in at a firm in the city, but kept a look out for regional opportunities.

“I was ‘watching’ the ads in the newspaper, and a spot came up in Gladstone,” Philip said.

He started work at Tony Goodwin & Company with a small team whose client base also included Mount Larcom, Calliope, Tannum Sands and Boyne Island.

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“I was there for a little while longer – I ended up buying a house there,” Philip said. “I played touch footy and got involved with things outside of just the law.

Philip Anthony
Tony Goodwin & Company go camping.

“The firm went camping together for a long weekend. The trip included a ride on an old red rattler train and a visit to a client’s dairy farm – a very happy workplace.”

While in Gladstone, Philip appeared as advocate in three unrelated coronial inquests. One was an inquest into the death of a marine pilot.

“He was a passenger in a helicopter that collided with a crane on a bulk carrier, and flipped into the sea,” Philip said. “Sadly, he was unable to get out of the helicopter and drowned.”

To give Philip an understanding of the marine pilot’s work, his principal arranged for him to sail out of Gladstone Harbour on a bulk carrier with a marine pilot, and to be helicoptered back in.

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Philip Anthony
Philip prepares to set sail and take flight.

“Gladstone’s also got a lovely harbour with islands,” Philip said. “They’re very proud of their town, and whenever I called it a town I was corrected – it’s a city, they kept telling me.

“There’s more opportunity to get imbedded in your community in different areas – different areas of life as opposed to areas of law.

“The Queensland Symphony Orchestra came to town, and for $20 I got to see our leading orchestra. I don’t know how much it would’ve cost me down here in Brisbane… I think they just dropped their prices because they wanted people to go along – it was fantastic!

Philip Anthony
The Grand Hotel in Gladstone, owned at the time by Philip’s cousins.

“One Friday night I’m at the Grand Hotel, just up the road from the office,” Philip said. “The phone rings and I’m at the bar and I’m talking to some people there. The bar maid turns around with the phone – says ‘it’s for you’.

“It was a friend of mine who owned a restaurant down the street, and she said: ‘I knew you’d be there… you haven’t eaten, have you?’ No, I haven’t. ‘Okay, would you like a plate of stuffed mushrooms?’ I’d love them. And anyway, she came up with a plate of stuffed mushrooms – I had dinner at the pub. It was just lovely.”

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Road back to Brisbane

Philip then worked in Toowoomba for a year at Clewett Corser & Drummond, where he and his team serviced clients across the Darling Downs, and in Crows Nest, Yarraman, Gatton and Ipswich.

“Coming back to Brisbane, it was almost as though my circle of connections got smaller,” Philip said. “I fell in with the old crowd again and they were all lawyers, but when you’re in a smaller place, you can’t do that. You meet people who have different backgrounds; you’re working with miners, farmers, with factory hands or engineers.”

Once Philip was back living in Brisbane, he started doing some volunteer work at a community legal service in Nundah.

“They had PLT students and law students,” he said. “I said to them, ‘if you don’t have to stay in Brisbane, don’t. Go to the regions – you’ll get a broad range of experience, good quality work’.

“One young fellow took up my advice and got a job in Gladstone, which led to him having a job in Rockhampton. He ended up being there five years … he’s back in Brisbane now. While he was up there he said to me: ‘what if I come back?’

“I said, ‘well, if you enjoy it there, why would you bother coming back? But if you do come back, you’re going to be able to say you’ve had five years when you were in court four days a week, you were interviewing clients, you were cross-examining police, and you were doing this and that for five years’ … and that’s what happened.

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“Certainly be open to going to the regions, even if you end up coming back to the city because you prefer it back here, or the type of work brings you back here – it doesn’t hurt to broaden your horizons.”

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