Carroll & O'Dea

Extract from Justin Fleming's The Vision Splendid

John Joseph Carroll was born in 1871, and died almost 91 years later on August 10, 1961. "J.J." began his education in Dubbo. At the age of 14, he went to St. Joseph's College, Hunter's Hill, in Sydney, where he spent nearly four years. On 22 August, 1896, he was admitted as a solicitor and in 1899 he went to Sydney, and commenced practice on his own behalf at Australasian Chambers, 28 Elizabeth Street, in October of that year. It was the foundation stone of the firm, Carroll & O'Dea, which turns 100 in October, 1999.

Described as a "pioneering visionary" and "moving spirit", in 1929, J.J. was knighted by Pope Pius XI to the Papal Order of St. Sylvester. The crossing of paths with Cecil O'Dea owed itself to a fruitful confluence of friendship, accident and serendipity. Cecil's son, Michael O'Dea, now managing partner of the firm, takes up the story:

"J.J.'s son Stanislaus John Carroll, otherwise known as "S.J.", "Stan" or "The Fox", joined the firm in the 20s. The Carrolls and the O'Deas were family friends. Dad went out on his own to start a practice at Park Street above The Macombo cafe on the corner of Pitt Street. He called the practice Cecil O'Dea. When the war came, J.J. said "Put your practice in with us. Let's be partners." S.J. and dad took the firm into the post war years"

The merged firm was at 11c Castlereagh Street, Cathcart house, on the 7th floor. Cecil was ebullient, charismatic, larger than life, who made clients feel at their ease. He was a master tactician. S.J. was quieter, a gentle, pensive and diligent man with a prodigious memory. Both men were widely admired for their diverse human and professional gifts. The differences of personality between S.J. and Cecil gave the partnership the bite and benefit of variety. Together, they were a firm for all seasons. The bond between the two men fascinated those who knew them, and gave assurance to clients of all kinds. They were in the last analysis, good men of vision.

Cecil's interests were eclectic: they included an abiding passion for the land, Fresian cattle, sailing, the surf club at Bondi, poetry, song and football. He represented N.S.W., played for three first grade district sides, and at Sydney University, his team won the competition three years in a row. In the 1920s, Cecil was part of the famous front row of Windeyer, Waddington and O'Dea. This was a talent buried deep in the genes, for in 1925 Cecil's Law team won the inter-faculty football; in 1962 Michael O'Dea was in the winning Law team; and in 1987 Law won, with Michael's son, John O'Dea, in the team. Michael's office wall is adorned with this triumphant succession.

Michael O'Dea admits his vocation in law owed partly a debt to his father's influence. Michael noticed from childhood that his father loved "words, word play, and Webster's Dictionary", and that his day was characterised as "full of vigour and energy." A popular sentiment held that it was a bonus in life to have Cecil O'Dea on your side. Michael carries on the legacy of combining an immense workload with a renowned professional and personal attention to clients.

S.J.'s son, Tony Carroll, presently a partner of Carroll & O'Dea, began studying law straight after school in 1955, dividing his time between his studies and his employment as an articled clerk. His was a long and demanding day. He graduated in 1960 and has been at the firm ever since. He is described as one of the firm's most accomplished and experienced lawyers, an impeccably honest, caring and hard working member of the team.

Tony Carroll and Michael O'Dea have both received the honour of A.M. [Order of Australia] for services to the community. They both embody the firm's twin commitment to the needs of clients and to the benefit of the community at large. They continue the century-long tradition as the central pillars and driving force of the firm today. They have devoted formidable energies to a wide range of welfare, health, educational and social purposes. Despite a remarkable contribution, they remain first and foremost family men. Today, at its present location at 111 Elizabeth Street, the firm has 11 Partners and 5 Associates, including Tony's son, Paul Carroll, and Michael's daughter, Philippa O'Dea.

Carroll & O'Dea are true pioneers in a diversity of fields, including Labour and Industrial Law, Commercial and Property, Compensation and Personal Injuries, Trade Practices and Contracts, and are at the cutting edge of the legal and human ramifications of Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and The Stolen Generation. Their work for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, The Australian Workers' Union, Health, Education and Religious Orders, and their place in a range of historic landmark cases, are legendary.

Poet Les A. Murray wrote that in defiance of fashion is the beginning of character. In a world where the processes of justice are so often criticised, Carroll & O'Dea uphold the premise that the client is what counts. The honest, personal touch continues to be the stamp which indelibly announces the centenary of this historic firm.

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