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Obituary: William Edward (Bill) Impey


Cite as: (2007) 81(12) LIJ, p. 40

(29/10/1943 – 13/10/2007)

Skilled family lawyer Bill Impey was noted for his willingness to share his expertise with clients and colleagues.

Bill Impey was born at IIford, Essex in 1943. He spent his early years in post-war England but came to Australia with his family in 1950 at the age of seven.

He attended Oakleigh High School, and commenced law at Melbourne University in 1962 with the assistance of Commonwealth and Myer Scholarships. He was a sound student and generous with his knowledge. Gareth Evans, later Foreign Minister and then Student Union president, asked on the eve of a major exam to borrow Bill’s notes. Bill obliged. Evans took the exhibition. What this illustrated was not Gareth Evans’ brilliance, but the care and quality of Bill’s work, his deep understanding of the law and its principles, and his willingness to share his knowledge (which continued throughout his career).

Bill was a pre-eminent debater. He was elected Speaker of the Union House Debating Union, toured New Zealand with the Australian Universities team, and later represented Victoria in four Australian championships.

After graduating in 1966, Bill joined Roy Schilling & Co where he was articled to Alan (later Senator) Missen who was a huge influence on him, training him and turning him loose as an advocate – where Bill shone.

He was admitted to practice on 1 March 1967, soon becoming a partner with Schilling Missen & Impey and later Wisewoulds, before helping establish the new specialist family law firm Kennedy Wisewoulds in 2001.

Bill’s greatest gift was the gift of friendship. He had a remarkable range of friends from all parts of his life and from all parts of the world and was proud of the friendships he had formed. The huge attendance at his funeral was eloquent testimony to the esteem in which he was held.

He had a rich professional life. He was a first-rate lawyer – respected and trusted both by the judges before whom he appeared and by his opponents – and built an enormous and loyal client and referral base.

He was meticulous in his preparation and presentation, both as an advocate and as a solicitor. His paperwork was of the highest order and any counsel who received a brief from him could be sure that it was immaculately prepared. Near enough was never good enough – and his clients benefited immensely.

Bill also made many significant contributions to the legal profession in Victoria and nationally. He served on the Legal Aid Review Committee from 1992-1994 and on the Family Law Specialisation Advisory Committee from its inception in 1996 until his retirement, as chair, in 2004. He was appointed by then Attorney-General Lionel Bowen to the Administrative Review Council, serving two three-year terms, and presented regularly at various Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) and other conferences, both in Australia and overseas. He was delighted when in 2006 his outstanding contributions to the legal profession and beyond were recognised in the LIV President’s Awards. The citation noted “Bill’s broad knowledge of family law matters at a specialist level”, his “sense of balance and perspective that reflected his extensive experience”, and his “personal qualities of patience, tact and good humour”.

Bill died on 13 October – two weeks short of his 64th birthday – at home, as he wished, with his beloved wife Robyn Trevaskis by his side.

But he has left a considerable legacy.

We think of Bill the lawyer: skilled, knowledgeable, committed and ethical – a gifted teacher and a respected and trusted opponent; Bill the person: his humour, his humanity, his agile mind and quick wit; his warmth, his strong moral compass and his plain decency – not to mention his quirks: his love of making lists; his animal-patterned ties; his countless thoughtful gestures and acts of kindness; his enthusiastic, but not very skilful, attempts at tennis; his ever-hopeful essays into horticulture (so often doomed to failure); and his talents as a cartoonist and photographer.

We are infinitely richer for his life.



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