By Romy Stephens
After over 40 years owning and operating a legal practice in Belgrave, local identity John Wallis is retiring.
Mr Wallis began his legal career after completing the Articles Clerk Course at RMIT University and was admitted to practice in 1976.
He started at Mills Oakley and in 1978, was employed at John Kinnear & Co – a firm that had operated in Belgrave since the 1930s.
Mr Wallis became a partner in the amalgamated firm of John Kinnear & Co and MF Ross & Co in 1979.
Over the years, the firm went through numerous name changes and mergers, however, Mr Wallis remained a partner.
He solely owned and operated the firm from 1995, when it was called Armstrong Ross Lawyers, until the sale of the practice to Falcone & Adams Lawyers last year.
As he reflected on his career, Mr Wallis said he was very happy to have settled at a local practice in Belgrave.
“Working in Belgrave gave me a very good work life balance. By getting a work life balance it meant you had time to do things with your kids,” he said.
“I was able to take some time off and didn’t have to work 80 hours a week.
“It enabled me quite regularly to have more to do with my family than my counterparts in the city would have.”
Mr Wallis said the major highlight of his career was being able to work with a variety of people.
“I’ve enjoyed the diversity of people you work for, in big city firms you’re stuck with one or two clients,” he explained.
“The majority of them are people who are prepared to listen, they come for advice and they take it. They are prepared to take on board what you’re talking about and at the end of the day are respectful of the advice you’ve given.
“It’s not dollar driven, it’s more of a community.”
A career spanning over four decades hasn’t always been easy, with Mr Wallis recalling numerous challenges.
He said dealing with bureaucracy and councils was often frustrating due to them often being narrow-sighted and procedural driven.
Mr Wallis added that come members of the legal profession had lost their way, particularly when it came to them upholding ethics, something he said formed the core of what makes a profession.“Ethics you cannot teach, ethics are something that are inherent in you,” he said.
“Unfortunately with our more fractured society now, ethics are less prevalent in our society than they used to be.”
But along with the negatives, came numerous positives throughout Mr Wallis’ career.
“One of the highlights would be that the police are much better than they used to be,” Mr Wallis said.
“When I started dealing with them you dealt with old fashioned coppers.
“The way in which they deal with people now is much better. They are far better trained to deal with all sorts.”
He also said the uptake of mediation had been a “very significant improvement” in how the law was now administered.
Mr Wallis said he had “very much enjoyed serving the community” for 41 years but wanted to retire before he turned 70-years-old.
Due to Covid-19, he said his travel plans would be delayed but he looked forward to plenty of gardening and walking in his spare time.