History repeated itself for former Queensland Law Society (QLS) President Greg Vickery AO with the official re-opening of Law Society House last night.
The Norton Rose Fulbright consultant and member of the original premises committee spoke at the re-opening event in Ann Street, 36 years after attending the building’s opening night.
Greg, who was president from 1989-1990, was a part of the team that turned a vision into a reality. The long-term vision was to position QLS centrally in the Brisbane CBD, close to members, while building a significant asset.
Greg paid tribute to Elizabeth Nosworthy who was president at the time, commending her leadership and contribution to the profession. He spoke to the strong relationship the QLS had with the original architects and the thoughtfulness of the design which complemented the adjoining heritage building – The People’s Palace.
He said the committee determined that paying rent for premises was not a long-term option. So when it was made aware of the vacant lot in Ann Street, it was able to quickly mobilise to develop the building, and in turn, create the members’ largest asset.
The refurbished foyer and ground floor.
Current QLS President Chloé Kopilović said it was “difficult to imagine that the work of the Society originated from the single desk of part-time Secretary, Neville Vicars Henderson, inside a small suite of the Queen Street office of firm Henderson and Lahey, just two blocks away from here”.
“It’s clear that the past leaders of the Society were dedicated not only to fulfilling the demand for more physical space, but also to ensuring the space itself delivered when it came to fulfilling QLS’s purpose,” she said.
“I was filled with a great sense of pride and achievement as I walked through the front entrance this evening – and I am sure those feelings are shared by everyone who contributed to bringing this remarkable project to life.
“It really is a stellar achievement by all involved, and I commend each of you for your dedication, perseverance, and hard work for the benefit of the members, our staff and the Queensland legal profession.
“It is also fitting that the project has come to fruition in the Society’s sesquicentennial year.”
Law Society House new entrance.
QLS CEO Rolf Moses said the refurbishment project had taken three years of planning and 54 weeks of demolition and construction. Following delays due to COVID 19, QLS Council resolved on 25 August 2022 to approve the refurbishment.
“Last year the building turned 36 years old, and as one would expect had a number of end-of-life and non-compliant items that needed to be replaced or upgraded and which were impacting the building’s functionality, its valuation, rental income potential and maintenance costs,” Rolf said.
“Advice from our property valuers (Knight Frank) and modelling from our external property consultants (KPMG) demonstrated that delaying a refurbishment was risky, given escalating building costs, maintenance costs and reduced rental capacity.
“Much like the decision taken to develop LSH in the 1980s, we needed to make a decision for the future.”
And the future looks bright. In 2022, more than 21,000 people attended events, with more than 1300 room bookings made.
More than 8000 people attended mediations and arbitrations, while close to 4000 took part in events, seminars, training, workshops, and functions.
Chloe commented on the usage numbers, saying: “These statistics underpin the value of this beautiful new design. They also provided the QLS Council with certainty that the renovation was not only necessary, but a valuable exercise in future-proofing the physical home of the Society.”
“I am confident that the new-look Law Society House will become a beacon for the profession and a landmark for all Queensland solicitors, now and for generations to come.
“No matter where our members live, we want everyone to call Law Society House, home.”
The main council boardroom was also formally unveiled at the event and officially named the Beryl Donkin Room after the Society’s first full-time employee who dedicated more than 40 years to QLS.