“Down to earth” isn’t really a character trait most people would ascribe to a lawyer, but Bill Baker is as genuine a person as you would ever hope to meet.
Raised on a farm in Parkes NSW (near Orange), Bill grew up with four brothers and one sister…two of whom went on to become lawyers, one a dentist, one an architect, and one a teacher.
Not knowing what else he might like to do, Bill also decided to become a lawyer, leaving the farm for Canberra in 1967 to study law at ANU.
“I enjoyed Canberra life so much that I decided to stay, and have been here ever since,” says Bill. “I really enjoyed university life at ANU, and Canberra has been very good to me all these years.”
After finishing his law degree, Bill was hired as an articled clerk with the then Deane & Deane & Nutt law firm in Queanbeyan.
“An articled clerk is a bit like an apprenticeship. It gives you the opportunity to learn about law in the real world after you graduate. When I started, I was making $46.50 a week, which became $52 a week after six months.
“To supplement my salary, I drove cabs in Canberra for almost 12 months. It wasn’t easy as I was working long hours all week, then driving cabs all day Sunday, and Tuesday nights from 6 pm till about 1 am.”
Bill stopped driving cabs after being admitted as a lawyer – an evening he recounts with fondness.
“Me and a mate were probably the only two attendees at the admissions ceremony in Sydney who had spent the previous night in a men’s shelter. We had booked a hotel, but when we got there we found that it had been demolished! The only place that was open was the Salvation Army’s People Palace, and they were kind enough to take us in.”
Once admitted as a lawyer, Bill worked incredibly hard and was offered a partnership with the firm after just three years. He worked under John Nutt, who he says is an extraordinary fella, a great lawyer, and a wonderful person.
“I was blessed to fall under his guidance. The firm has a history dating back to the mid-1800s, but the current culture really started with John Nutt’s arrival in the 1960s. The measure of the firm is not how it performed in 1851, but how it performs in 2018 and into the future.”
As a partner, Bill helped to facilitate the firm’s expansion to include a second office in Canberra.
“The Canberra office has been very successful for us. We opened initially so that we could better serve our clients who live in Canberra with personal injury and compensation services. However the practice has since broadened to include wills and estates, conveyancing and commercial transactions.
“We endeavour to be a family-style business, where people can come to us with any legal matter or concern, and get the help they need. We love the size of our firm, because it means we are close with all of our staff, and clients have a better grip of who is inside our walls than if we were much bigger.”
Bill says they try to avoid a hierarchical structure, with all lawyers being treated as equals and a great rapport and respect for the support staff.
“Lawyers don’t have the best reputation for being welcoming, and I think it’s harder when you just start out. But it’s the culture we build here, and I think we’ve had great success with that. We’re also active in supporting our local community because we want to help the region that helps us, and also show people that they can relate to us and that we can relate to them. It’s so important, and it is how we have survived on reputation and referrals alone for so many years.”
For the past 40 years, Bill has continued to enjoy the farm life he grew up with, on a property located between Queanbeyan and Captains Flat. When he’s not being a lawyer, you’ll find him feeding hungry cattle in the wee hours of the morning or late into the evening!
Original Article published by Rachel Ziv on the RiotACT.