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Obituary : Kenneth Wallace Anderson (17/12/1944 – 02/02/2003)

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Cite as: (2003) 77(4) LIJ, p.34

Ken Anderson, a partner of Minter Ellison for 25 years, died on 2 February 2003 aged 57 after a short battle with cancer. The following is an edited version of the eulogy delivered by Minter Ellison partner Richard Murphy.

Ken Anderson, a partner of Minter Ellison for 25 years, died on 2 February 2003 aged 57 after a short battle with cancer. The following is an edited version of the eulogy delivered by Minter Ellison partner Richard Murphy.

Ken’s career in the law started in 1969. He was then one of the first crop of students of Monash University Law School, graduating with a Bachelor of Jurisprudence and a Bachelor of Laws. Having completed his articles of clerkship at Haines & Polites and a further year at Vail & McBain, in late 1971 he joined Ellison Hewison & Whitehead, one of the predecessor firms of Minter Ellison.

He practised initially in the personal injuries field, but progressively developed a broader insurance practice.

His expertise and reputation grew over the years, particularly in the professional indemnity insurance field, such that he became one of the small group of pre-eminent practitioners in the area in Australia. Much of this work involves litigation and Ken handled some of the very important insurance cases.

The high standards that he set for himself in all aspects of his life carried over to his work.

He loved language and writing, and would labour for hours getting his letters and documents exactly as he wanted them. Many are the junior solicitors who suffered the process of umpteen drafts to produce something that Ken was prepared to sign.

He had a razor sharp mind, an observant eye and a memory like an elephant. He missed nothing. He forgot nothing. With his wide vocabulary and wonderful turn of phrase, he could always paint a colourful picture of events.

He was tenacious, as good litigators need to be. He wasn’t spoiling unnecessarily for conflict, but if you bought a fight with Ken, you sure got one.

He was canny, quick to spot a tactical opportunity and exploit it for his client’s benefit.

Many litigators go through their professional lives collecting enemies. Ken accumulated respect. His opponents always knew that they were dealing with a decent and honourable man.

Ken had a deep appreciation for the practice of the law as a profession. He respected its abstract formalities and was a stickler for adherence to court processes and protocols, however arcane they might seem to others.

Above all, he understood the duty of legal practitioners, as officers of the court, to conduct themselves with dignity and integrity. He did so to a fault, and with a certain style. He was always impeccably groomed, always articulate and gracious.

That certain style was evident from his office. His files and papers were meticulously ordered, many of them in neat piles on the pieces of antique furniture which set his office apart from the rest.

You might think I have described Ken as a somewhat staid character. Let me balance that with an anecdote which illustrates his underlying passion.

Some years ago, Ken was leaving the office one evening in that white Mercedes which he drove for 20 years or more. He drove down the ramp and duly inserted his pass-card at the boom gate. The gate did not move. Ken put it in again... and again... and again. Still nothing happened. Another of our partners had pulled up behind him. He was flabbergasted to see Ken, mature, demure Ken, who by this stage had reached boiling point, open his car door, stalk over to the boom gate, wrench it off with his bare hands and calmly place it to one side, before returning to his car and driving sedately out past the boom gate stub!

Ken told this story against himself. He had a wicked sense of humour and a delightful, infectious laugh.

He had a genuine interest in the lives of those around him, showing warmth, empathy and compassion for the ups and downs of their lives.

He was generous in his praise of others, but embarrassed by praise of himself.

Ken was one of those increasingly rare practitioners that law firms and the wider profession really need.

In the modern era of budgets, billable units, marketing plans, electronic mail and the like, greater effort is required to maintain professional values. Ken was utterly uncompromising in that regard – intolerant of any risk of a conflict of interest and searingly critical of anything inconsistent with the highest ethical standard.

He was universally regarded as a thoroughly decent, cultured, dignified man – a true gentleman. He will be sadly missed.

Ken is survived by his wife Liz and three children, Sarah, Chris and Hugh.

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