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A record milestone - 50 years at Russell Kennedy

Mary Lou Carpenter retires after 50 years at Russell Kennedy Lawyers with the great accomplishment of being the longest standing employee of the firm.

Before she left the Business Development team had the pleasure of sitting down with her for a one-on-one chat where she shared some interesting stories from her time at the firm.

Mary Lou was hired to work at Russell Kennedy in 1968 and over the years she has had many roles at the firm, including mortgage clerk, conveyancing clerk, various legal secretary/administrative assistant positions and personal assistant roles. For the past 20+ years she has been part of the Corporate & Commercial team as a legal secretary.

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When Mary Lou started work with Russell Kennedy things were quite different from what we know and expect today.

The Russell Kennedy office was located at 401 Collins Street, with approximately 100 employees spread across two floors. The office building had no air-conditioning or heating, and on really hot days when the temperature rose to over 38 degrees, staff were allowed to go home early. There were no female principals, the average weekly wage was approximately $100 and the office had a 'tea lady' who would come around twice a day to serve staff freshly brewed tea in cups and saucers at their desk.

The trends in the office in the late '60s were also quite different; men weren't allowed beards, most people smoked indoors and tattoos were unheard of.

Mary Lou fondly recalls a very fresh faced Paul Gleeson (now Russell Kennedy’s Managing Director) beginning his career at Russell Kennedy as an articled clerk, and Rohan Harris (now a Principal leading the Corporate & Commercial team) joining the firm after graduating from university.

One of the biggest changes Mary Lou noted was how technology has advanced enormously over the past half century.

A particularly fond memory for Mary Lou was in 1969 when a partner bought in his portable TV and all staff gathered around to watch the moon landing. Staff were amazed at how someone was able to afford a portable television rather than the moon landing itself. The talk of the office was that, “he must be so rich to be able to afford a portable television”.

When Mary-Lou first started at Russell Kennedy, the firm was seen as 'cutting edge' because they had electronic typewriters. Work was done using these typewriters until the introduction of the golf ball typewriter made by IBM. Then came the photocopier, fax machine, floppy disc and conventional computers.

Telephones used to be the old school switch-board type, Mary Lou remembers having to be careful not to disconnect the wrong line as it would cut someone off mid-sentence.

Mary Lou distinctly remembers that there was once such an emergency that a telegram was used to contact a client overseas, it was a very big deal at the time and came at considerable cost.

When asked to describe her time at Russell Kennedy in 3 words Mary Lou said:  "Enjoyable, Challenging, Interesting".

Mary Lou retired on 31 October, and is looking forward to having a well-deserved break until Christmas. She is also thinking about undertaking some further study and volunteering.

We wish Mary Lou all the best in her retirement and thank her for her astounding contribution and dedication over the years. She will be missed!

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Please join Russell Kennedy in thanking and congratulating Mary Lou on her outstanding service to the firm and wishing her well on her retirement.