Farewell to Brian Withers AM
It was with great sadness that members of our firm gathered with a large number of members of the legal profession, and members of the family of Brian Withers on 22 April 2021, to farewell Brian at his funeral and to honour his legacy in the law.
Brian joined with Elliott Johnston QC to become part of our firm in 1970. A few years later he became a partner and subsequently a director of Johnston Withers when it was incorporated in 1986. He continued in that role for the most part as Managing Director of the firm, until his appointment as Master of the Supreme Court in November 2004. He was a leader of the firm, managed it with skill and built it up to the success it has become today.
Brian was renowned as an excellent solicitor. He managed a very large file load, primarily in personal injury, workers compensation and employment law. He would have assisted thousands of clients in achieving a settlement of their claims over his many years as a lawyer. He had a strong reputation for his sound judgment and clear advice. He was also a very supportive mentor for other lawyers.
Apart from his role in Johnston Withers, Brian took on many roles with the South Australian Law Society and the national Law Council of Australia, in particular with a focus on access to justice. He was committed to ensuring that those with a low income would still be able to obtain proper legal representation in the courts. Brian was a member of the Law Society Council, the governing body of the Law Society, for many years. He was President from 1990 to 1991 and was granted an honorary life membership, the highest award of the Law Society, in 1997 in recognition of his service.
Brian was a driving force behind the establishment of the Law Society Litigation Assistance Fund which commenced in 1992. He was the first Chair of its Advisory Board and remained in that position until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 2004.
Brian was also a member of the national Law Council of Australia Legal Aid Committee and again remained on that Committee until he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2004.
In 2005, following his appointment to the Supreme Court, the Law Society established the Brian Withers Award for services to the Law Society and to the profession. This Award is given each year to lawyers who are recognised as having made an outstanding contribution to their profession. In 2015 Brian was also appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for his significant service to the law.
Brian’s name remains with the firm along with that of its founder, Elliott Johnston QC. He will continue to be remembered as a role model for those lawyers who see the role of lawyers as bringing justice to all members of our society, rich or poor. He will be sadly missed.
We all express our profound sympathy to Brian’s widow, Mary Walters, his children and other family members for their loss.