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Cite as: May 2011 85(5) LIJ, p.83

Blue collar on Mr Brown’s white shirt

Sydney man Ross Brown could well be the only person in this wide brown land we call Australia with the following on his business card – LLB, GDLP, Assoc. Dip Eng., Dip. Plumbing Services, Lic’d Plumber, Drainer and Gasfitter and Lawyer of the Supreme Court of NSW.

That’s right: Mr Brown is a lawyer and a plumber.

Mr Brown left school at 15 and worked as a drain surgeon until he was 22 before taking an office job requiring him to explain building codes and statutes to members of the public.

Finding some of the legislation to be “quite complex”, he decided to undertake a law degree – at the age of 35.

“It is really just something I fell into,” Mr Brown said.

“I used to get laughed at at uni, with people saying that I would make more money as a plumber than as a lawyer.”

Now he works as a “consultant” with his brother, a plumber turned civil engineer, and their semi-retired plumber father in their dad’s company, Neville Brown and Associates.

But having “a foot in too many camps”, he is hard-pressed to describe his job. He is a plumber and a solicitor, but doesn’t work as either.

“I am sort of a middle man. I get lots of solicitors ring me up about specific plumbing issues that need to be addressed,” Mr Brown said.

“I will go out and do site inspections and tell the occupant or the solicitor what the plumbing problems are and what the legal options are.

“There are lots of solicitors versed in construction law, but not plumbing law specifically.”

Mr Brown told WADR of a recent house call where the owner wanted a long-term plumbing problem fixed.

Dressed in a suit, Mr Brown told the owner that he would need to chop a bit of plaster out to see what was happening behind the wall.

“The owner said ‘What, are you going to call a plumber out?’,” he recalled.

“I said ‘No, I have the tools’ and knocked out the section and fixed the problem.”

This reminds WADR of the story about a lawyer who came home one night to find his Toorak mansion flooded. The lawyer immediately called a plumber who lobbed carrying a spare set of overalls and a trucker’s cap.

The lawyer, wearing an expensive suit, told the plumber he was the first tradesman he had met who took a change of clothes to a job.

Before too long the plumber had the problem fixed and wrote up the bill.

While he was doing this he told the lawyer that he had the spare clothes because he was seeking an assistant and asked the practitioner if he knew anyone who might be interested.

“I am a lawyer,” the lawyer replied. “Who would I know who would want to work as a plumber?”

The plumber shrugged and handed the lawyer his bill. A few minutes later, when the plumber was packing up his truck, the lawyer burst from his house dressed in the cap and overalls.

“I have had a chance to look at your bill,” he said. “And you’ve found yourself an assistant.”

Melbourne solicitor Frank Murone recently received a letter from a firm of solicitors that gave himself and his staff at BTE Flynn Murone & Co. a good chuckle.

The letter related to the service of a divorce application and stated: “If I do not hear from you within seven days, I shall endeavour to serve the divorce application directly ‘up the husband’”.

“Now I understand divorce can be a bitter thing,” said Mr Murone from his Coburg office.

“But I really don’t think there is any need for that.”

Enjoy laughing at the failings, foibles and faux pas of others? Of course you do.

Then why not contribute to WADR? By email to, by fax on 9607 9451 or by mail C/- LIJ, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000.


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