31 March 2020

In memoriam | Laurie James AM

Laurie James AM

Laurie Edmond James died recently at the age of 78. He was a founder member of the Institute of Arbitrators Australia in 1978, a former President of IAMA and one of Australia’s leading advocates of the use of ADR.

A pupil of Kent Street Senior High School in Victoria Park, Perth until 1959, he obtained a place at the Law School of the University of Western Australia where he achieved a Bachelor of Laws with first class honours in 1963.

That same year he joined law firm, Kott Gunning, as an articled clerk. He was admitted to the Supreme Court of Western Australia in 1965. He was made a partner of Kott Gunning in 1967, only two years later. He remained a partner at Kott Gunning until his retirement in 2019 including a period as managing partner. Vidal Hockless, one of his successors in that role, commented of Laurie; “He knew everything… I never got over his amazing ability to manage his working environment and not succumb to the more usual formula of files and paper everywhere. There was just never anything but one file on his desk.”

Laurie’s expertise covered many fields, but he was a renowned expert in building and construction law in WA. One barrister who had appeared before him in an arbitration commented, “there’s nothing he doesn’t know about construction law.”

He was committed to the amicable resolution of disputes. This commitment reflected his personality: while he might disagree with your position or that of your client, there was never any rancour in the disagreement. 

He was one of the founding members of the Institute of Arbitrators Australia in 1978. He was responsible for substantial growth of the organisation and was WA Chapter Chair for extended periods of time and twice National Chair. He was also a national councillor of IAMA for many years. A grade 1 arbitrator with Resolution Institute, Laurie was also an adjudicator, an NMAS accredited mediator and conciliator.

He was a strong advocate for ADR as Convenor of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee of the Law Society of Western Australia; Convenor of Western Australian Dispute Resolution (WADRA) Inc and Member of the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration. 

He also served the community as a councillor and Vice President of the Law Society of Western Australia.

Laurie first proposed the merger of IAMA and LEADR during his national chairmanship of IAMA in the late nineties. He was delighted to see the merger come to fruition in 2015. The same year he was honoured with the award of Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List; “For significant service to the law, particularly alternative dispute resolution, as a practitioner, and to professional organisations.” 

Members of Resolution Institute past and present will remember Laurie as always ready to impart his knowledge, and opinion, on any matter of law that related to arbitration. Recipients of such advice were reassured because of the straightforward way he dealt with complicated issues. Laurie gave many incisive presentations on topics related to arbitration and adjudication to members, all without needing to resort to PowerPoint, or even the personal use of emails. There are very few arbitrators or adjudicators in WA who have not benefited one way or another from his presence and advice over the years.