Michael Laval


Lavan Legal was formed on 3 April 2006 as the result of a merger between two firms then known as Bennett & Co and Phillips Fox Perth. The Lavan name recognises a distinguished Western Australian legal family and Lavan Legal’s founding roots, which date back to 1898.

Phillips Fox Perth (1984 and 2006) operated under a franchise agreement with the national firm, Phillips Fox.  It had a total staff complement of almost 200 people making it one of the largest firms in Western Australia.  Bennett & Co was a leading boutique law firm headed by Martin Bennett, which specialised in corporate and commercial litigation.  Lavan Legal’s first day of trading was 3 April 2006 and is the largest independently owned law firm in WA.

In the 10 years prior to merging with Bennett & Co (1996-2006), Phillips Fox Perth attained significant growth, an achievement of particular note given the difficult economic conditions that prevailed in the early 1990’s which resulted in static or even negative growth for other major law firms.

A demonstration of the growth was the successful merger in April 1998 with the boutique firm Majteles & Salmon (Sol Majteles is now a Partner in Business Services team and his son Simon is an Associate in the Commercial Advice and Litigation team) followed by a merger with Hely Edgar in 1999. Dean Hely is now Deputy Managing Partner and Marketing Partner of Lavan Legal.

Immediately prior to the formation of Phillips Fox Perth in 1984, the firm was known as Lavan Solomon and was located at the Griffin Centre, on the corner of Howard Street and The Esplanade. It was the 5th or 6th largest law firm in Perth.  The firm’s expertise included the areas of commercial litigation, taxation, family law, liquidation, corporate and liquor licensing.

Lavan Solomon was itself formed in 1983 when the firm of Lavan & Walsh amalgamated with Morris Crawcour & Solomon.

Lavan & Walsh, which rose to great prominence in Perth legal circles, had a long and proud history dating back to 1898.  Originally known as MG Lavan, this firm practised in Barrack Street.  From 1966 to 1972, the practice was at 12 Howard Street, which was demolished to make way for the Griffin Centre. From 1972 to 1983 Lavan & Walsh was located at 6th Floor, 524 Hay Street, Perth.

Morris Crawcour commenced practice in St George's Terrace in 1910.  In 1931 Morris Crawcour & Solomon moved to 8 The Esplanade, Perth and from 1979 until 1983 was located within the AMP Building, 140 St George's Terrace, Perth.


Michael Lavan opens his first practice in Perth
Morris Crawcour opens his practice
John Francis Walsh admitted to practice
Michael Lavan & John Wlash form Lavan & Walsh
Michael Lavan becomes president of the Law Society of WA
John Lavan joins his father’s Perth practice
John Lavan becomes president of the Law Society of WA
John Lavan appointed to Supreme Court of WA
John Lavan knighted
Lavan & Walsh merges with Morris Crawcour & Solomon to become Lavan Solomon
Lavan Solomon becomes part of national law firm Phillips Fox
Merger with boutique firm Majteles & Salmon
Merger with boutique firm Hely Edgar
Phillips Fox Perth merges with Bennett & Co to become Lavan Legal


Roll of Honour

The Hon Wayne Martin, Chief Justice of Western Australia (2006 - ) Wayne Martin commenced his legal career at Lavan & Walsh initially as a vacation clerk and then as an articled clerk.  He was articled to Ray “Loophole” Lynch and because of his interest in advocacy learned a great deal from Barry Rowland and Keith MacFarlane (see below) as well as Peter Blaxell.  He also worked with Diana Bryant (see below).  At his swearing-in speech on 1 May 2006, he said, “I don’t think there are many firms in Perth or indeed anywhere in Australia that have produced two Chief Justices, let alone two holding office simultaneously.”  He went on to say that he was “indebted to all those with whom I worked at Lavan & Walsh for the early inspiration which they provided, for instilling in me the notion that the practice of law was a profession and not a business, and for showing me that it was possible to discharge serious responsibilities and still have fun.”

The Hon Diana Bryant, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia.   Diana Bryant worked at Lavan & Walsh at the same time as Wayne Martin (see above) and conducted a matrimonial practice with Lavan & Walsh, Lavan & Solomon and Phillips Fox Perth.

Michael Gibson Lavan, KC (1875 - 1937), was born in Ireland in 1875 and practised as a Barrister at the Irish Bar until 1897.  He studied law at the Royal University of Ireland (1893-1896).  He migrated to Western Australia.  He was admitted in 1898 and opened a practice in Barrack Street called Horgan & Lavan, which later became Smith & Lavan, with Villeneuve Francis Smith, KC.  Smith subsequently founded the firm that became Keall Brinsden. MG Lavan took silk in 1930, and was President of the Law Society from 1930 to 1935.

John Francis Walsh, also a migrant from Ireland, took articles with Smith & Lavan and was admitted in 1917.  MG Lavan and JF Walsh commenced practice in partnership in February 1920. 

Leonard Douglas Seaton, K C, joined Smith & Lavan in 1930.  Seaton took silk in 1947 and was widely regarded for his learning in the law.

Hon. Sir John Martin Lavan (1911 - 2006), Michael Lavan’s son, joined Lavan & Walsh in 1934 and remained with it until 1969, when he was appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court (1969-1981).  Like his father, he was President of the Law Society (1964 - 1966).  He was also chairman of the Parole Board of WA (1960-1969).  He was educated at Aquinas College (Perth) and Xavier College (Melbourne).  Sir John was knighted in 1981. Sir John died on 1 December 2006.

Alan Gregory Smith, later a Chief Stipendiary Magistrate, became a partner of Smith & Lavan in 1947.  

Hon.John Leslie Toohey AC (1930 - ), Justice of the High Court of Australia (1987 - 1998), served articles and was a solicitor with Lavan & Walsh. He was admitted to the WA Bar in 1952 and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1968.  He was a Justice of the Federal Court of Australia and Supreme Court of the NT (1977-1987), President of the Law Society of WA (1972-1973) and was a Member of the “Bloody Sunday” Inquiry Tribunal in the UK (2000).  He received the Centenary Medal in 2003.  He was educated at St Louis School (Perth) and the University of WA.

James Joseph Keneally’s firm Maxwell & Lalor amalgamated with Lavan & Walsh in 1960.  A contemporary of JM Lavan, Keneally made a lasting mark on the firm's commercial and tax practice.

Hon. Barry William Rowland (1929 - ) joined Lavan & Walsh with Keneally.  He was appointed silk in 1973.  He was admitted to practice in 1953.  He was appointed a judge of the WA Supreme Court (1983 -1996).  He was educated at Hutchins School (Hobart) and Hale School (Perth).

Raymond John Lynch joined Lavan & Walsh.  He subsequently retired to chair a number of successful mining companies including Greenbushes Tin Ltd and Sons of Gwalia NL.

Peter Donald Blaxell, now a Supreme Court Judge (appointed 1 February 2005), was an articled clerk then solicitor and partner of Lavan & Walsh from 1967 to 1974 before going to the Bar. He was Coordinator of the Law Society’s Legal Assistance Scheme from 1974 –1975 and established the Kununurra office of the Aboriginal Legal Service in 1975. He joined the Independent Bar in 1975, practising solely as a barrister till 1991. He was a judge of the District Court of Western Australia from 1991 till 2005.

Kevin James Hammond joined Lavan & Walsh in 1978 from his own long established country practice Mayberry Hammond.  In 1983 he became a District Court Judge.  He is presently the Chairman of the Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia.

James William Prickett was admitted in December 1946.  In 1956 he commenced sole practice and in 1972 he was joined by Brian Conway and continued as Prickett & Conway until that firm amalgamated with Lavan & Walsh in January 1983, when Prickett retired.

Morris Crawcour came to Perth from Victoria and commenced practice in 1910.  His nephew Howard Austin Solomon took articles with him, was admitted in 1931 and later joined him in partnership.
HA Solomon continued as a partner until 1975 and was then a consultant with the firm.  He was awarded the CBE in 1978. He died in 1985.

Robert Edmund Jones, originally a teacher, graduated from the University of Western Australia with honours and joined Morris Crawcour & Solomon in 1951.  He went to the District Court Bench in 1970 and to the Supreme Court in 1973, retiring in 1982. 
Paul James Healy was a partner of Morris Crawcour & Solomon and of Lavan & Solomon, before going onto the District Court Bench.