5 minutes with… Michael Dowling

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Michael Dowling tells Australasian Lawyer why he was sent tree prunings during one of the strangest cases he’s worked on.

What made you decide to become a lawyer?
I’ve always had a fascination with architecture, history and property.  I was never going to make an architect, nor an historian, so coming to property through the law was the way forward for me.

How long have you worked at Russell Kennedy, and what brought you to this positon?
This is week 2 at Russell Kennedy after 21½ years at Maddocks.  At 55 years of age, it was a case of make a move now or never and so I made the move.

What is the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
Actually, two cases come to mind.  One was acting for a Government authority in a land compensation claim in which the disgruntled land owner delivered to my office a huge box of what turned out to be tree prunings in protest at what he perceived to be an unjust settlement of his claim, including a dispute about the maintenance of his gum tree.  The box generated something of a security scare. 
The other matter was acting for a Government department in a proposed relocation and re-development of a wharf.  When it came to a site inspection, an angry mob of local fishermen turned up and engaged in what came close to a physical altercation with the client.  The surveyor and I beat a hasty retreat to a nearby coffee shop.

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Jesus Christ, the Queen and Nelson Mandela because all 3 exemplify leadership by example, personal sacrifice and service.

You’re based in Melbourne – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
The Tandoori Den in Camberwell – a great Indian restaurant which is a 30 year old family business.  It offers great food and service.  I often combine a meal there with a movie at the Rivoli.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Know when to stop for the day and come back to things afresh the next day.

Do you have any hobbies/interest outside of work?
Swimming, cycling, growing roses and reading, mostly crime fiction, history and biographies.

Complete this sentence.  If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be...
... a Christian Minister!

What do you think will be the single biggest issue facing the legal space in Australia in 2015?
I’m not sure about the single biggest issue but certainly the integrity and credibility of various public and religious institutions is under challenge as never before in respect of abuse claims.

If you had Tony Abbott’s job for one day, what would you do?
I’d invite my best friends to The Lodge (once restored of course) for dinner.  No, seriously, release women and children from detention and increase the amount of foreign aid.

What do you love about your job?
The grass roots nature of the local government industry within which I work, with its concern for local and community issues and its engagement with skilled professionals of all kinds, be they surveyors, town planners, architects or the like.

What would you change about your job right now if you could?
It’s too early to tell given I’m only week 2 in the job.