The art of partnerships

In September 2012, two of Canberra’s prominent law firms, Bradley Allen Lawyers and Williams Love & Nicol, merged to form a practice focused on commercial law. Bradley Allen Love Lawyers now has a comprehensive suite of specialist lawyers in the fields of employment and industrial law, business law, commercial property, planning law, local government, environmental law, administrative law, estate planning and litigation. The firm takes pride in its talented and innovative lawyers who are capable working as an extension of their clients’ businesses, to go beyond the traditional legal role of reactive adviser.The firm currently operates in two separate locations whilst it searches for new premises to accommodate not only their expanded workforce, but also their ever-growing collection of contemporary art. Clients visiting the law firm’s premises in Canberra House are welcomed into the attractive foyer decorated with original paintings, prints and handcrafted furniture, many of which are created by local and emerging artists. This prominent display is symbolic of the engagement and support of the Canberra community espoused by Bradley Allen Love Lawyers.

Keith Bradley AM, Director of Estate Planning, explained that the collection of art started many years ago with Bill McCarthy, Special Counsel in Litigation and Personal Injury. Bill is well-known to artists and arts organisations in Canberra through his pro-bono work and appointments to the Board of many local arts organisations, including ANCA, Canberra Youth Music, Megalo and past organisations of Studio One and MUSE. He also assists local artists in his capacity as pro-bono lawyer for the Arts Law Centre of Australia. Through this community interaction Bill has gained considerable insight into how arts organisations and artists operate, what their legal and financial requirements are and how to ensure responsible management without stifling creativity. Bill is highly sympathetic to the financial constraints imposed on many artists and willingly delivers sage advice. In return, Bill is constantly attuned to the local art scene and over the years has used his eye for art to collect pieces he loves to have around him in the office, “According to current psychological profiling, artists tend to be imaginative, emotionally sensitive, open to new ideas and experiences, unconventional and perceptive. We know that support for the arts in its varied forms authors, visual and performing artists and craftspeople that their primary purpose in life is the creation of art; that is, passion, rather than money, drives most artists”.

Bill’s enthusiasm encouraged Keith to begin acquiring contemporary art. Together they have built an impressive collection by both established and emerging art and craft practitioners that now adorn the walls of Bradley Allen Love Lawyers, from well-known names like John Coburn, Phillip Wolfhagen and David Rankin, to up-and coming artists such as Carol Sullivan and Geoff Farquhar-Still. Keith is quick to point out that they do not collect for investment purposes they buy purely in response to a real connection with the work itself. Bill agrees, “Art should not be seen as an investment, rather it adds a certain intangible aura to our lives. Any rise in value should be seen as a bonus.”

As testament to this Keith and Bill both support the annual ANU School of Art Graduate Exhibition by regularly attending the Patrons Preview to purchase work by graduating students. Keith is particularly interested in photography and owns several early works from the ‘Vanity Feminine’ series by Majella Brown, and the apt “Two High Shelving” by Madeleine Donovan hangs above his desk.

Another work that Keith loves to look at each day are two small dioramas discretely nestled on his bookshelf amongst the law tomes. The first diorama has a tiny superman emerging from a red phone box in the middle of a tropical beach; whilst the other scene involves sunbathers, windsurfers and palms trees swaying in the breeze. Keith is amused by the whimsical actions at play within these tiny works of art, allowing his mind to relax and perhaps find creative solutions for the work-related legal problems at hand.

Their eclectic collection inspires not only clients but also staff, who are able to choose pieces to adorn their walls or alternatively to bring in their own artworks for their office. Providing an aesthetically pleasing and intellectually engaging environment for over 80 staff enables a relaxed, creative and productive workplace because, as Keith points out, directors and staff often spend more time in the office than they do in their own homes. Keith believes that the warmth and humanity emanating from original works of art is reflected in the aspirations of the firm.

Bradley Allen Love would like to further their relationships with Canberra artists in the future through targeted events that provide artists with pro bono legal advice on important issues that are often overlooked, such as making a will, consignment contracts, small business issues and intellectual property advice.

Bradley Allen Love Lawyers are already strong supporters of the Canberra community as Official Legal Services Provider and Sponsor of the Brumbies; as a supporter of Clubs ACT; by running a Small Business Legal Advice Clinic in conjunction with the University of Canberra and through the support of many other organisations such as SIDS, Movember and ACT Diabetes to name a few. Through their involvement with the ANU School of Art and their ongoing relationship with Craft ACT, Bradley Allen Love Lawyers will continue to express their passion for the arts not only through philanthropy and art collection, but by providing the artistic community with much-needed strong, sound legal advice.

Julie Ryder
Julie Ryder is a freelance textile artist and designer based in Canberra.