The Paw Paw Lawyer

Kate Galloway
3 min readNov 7, 2015

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Iconic Queensland, Townsville

Not long after the birth of my first child, I started practising part time in the Cairns law firm Bottoms English. John Bottoms and Anne English set me up at home with a fax machine, I got a computer and an exorbitantly expensive printer, and set to work. My work was interesting, varied and creative — as has been my overall experience as a solicitor and legal academic in North Queensland.

The other night, Judge Dean Morzone QC of the Queensland District Court launched the newly published book Paw Paw Lawyer: Tales of Practice in North Australia — written by my old employer and colleague, John Bottoms. As expected, knowing John, the book takes the reader on an engaging tour through his career in tropical Australia including many of his more colorful encounters.

An engaging tale of regional legal practice

John’s career started in Canberra, where he qualified. From there he moved to Alice Springs, followed by a stint in Mareeba, then Townsville, and finally settling in Cairns. It is interesting in reading John’s tales, to observe his reflections on how his experiences in practice have shaped him, and in particular what his diverse clientele have taught him.

For example, it is in my view, almost impossible for lawyers practising in Northern Australia to avoid interaction with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. I enjoyed reading John’s insights into what he has learned from attending meetings on country, from observing the interaction between Aboriginal culture and legal culture, and from experiencing the Northern Australian landscape for himself. For those who believe that cultural competency and a sense of place are not vital skills for a lawyer, John’s book presents a compelling account of the reality of practice in the north. And, I would suggest, a salutary tale for our southern counterparts.

Of particular interest to me, especially as it intersects with my own work with John and his partner, is his account of the well-known Wik litigation. John acted for the second respondent, and saw the matter through to the High Court. While not every regional practitioner will run a matter that ends up before the High Court, it is an example of the importance of the work we do on a daily basis in regional and remote areas. This is why I think John’s book is an important book — for our own law students studying in a regional university, for regional practitioners early in their career, but also for metropolitan practitioners who have a tendency to dismiss anyone from the sticks.

When my partner and I moved from a Brisbane CBD firm to practise in Cairns, we were told that we would lose our skills; that the only work available would be small-ticket, turn-the-handle drudgery. Having undertaken due diligence activities locked in a bank safe for a couple of weeks while working in Big Law, I wasn’t so convinced by this argument. Certainly, we have not been disappointed by the path our careers have taken since we moved to the North — and John’s book reflects our own experiences, telling a story of the quality of the profession outside the South East axis. His story will likely resonate with lawyers and perhaps other professionals who have made the move to the tropics.

I’m grateful for the time I spent working with John and Anne, and northern colleagues since. Certainly, I continue to benefit from the collegiality of the local profession even in my academic work. I can only hope that like John, my own career has qualified me to adopt the moniker ‘paw paw lawyer’.

John Bottoms signing copies of his book Paw Paw Lawyer at the launch

John Bottoms, Paw Paw Lawyer: Tales of Legal Practice in North Australia ISBN: 10:0992469910

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Kate Galloway

Legal academic, Queensland | Property law; women; justice; legal education; the tropics