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Our history

Standing by our clients for over 45 years

In 2020, Ryan Carlisle Thomas celebrated its 45th birthday. While in many respects the firm today little resembles its early incarnation, it has nevertheless remained remarkably faithful to its original charter in the pursuit of social and industrial justice for ordinary working people.

The big union disputes in which the firm was embroiled in the 70's and 80's have given way to a broader engagement in social justice, perhaps best expressed today in its fight against sexual and institutional abuse and its strong advocacy for workers' rights to compensation and fair workplace laws.

Founded in 1975 under the name Ryan Carlisle Needham Thomas, the firm's founding partners, John Ryan, Bob Carlisle, Gary Needham and Orm Thomas had been active in representing unions and their members while at the firm Holding Ryan and Redlich. The new firm was a natural extension of their commitment to social justice and the objectives of the organized labour movement. A close association with the union movement, industrial representation and legal support for the victims of workplace injury were and remain at the heart of the firm.

Ryan Carlisle Thomas assumed its current title on the retirement of Gary Needham in 1983. The Managing Partner of the firm today is Ron Pearce.

In seeking to establish a forum to encourage cooperation among labor law firms and to resist legislation detrimental to working people, Ryan Carlisle Thomas led the formation of the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers Association in 1994. This organisation eventually became the Australian Lawyers Alliance. Managing Partner, Ron Pearce, was the first national treasurer of that organization.

As its portfolio of legal services has grown, so too has its presence across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. The three offices in which it was once housed in Dandenong, Melbourne and Bendigo have grown into a comprehensive network that spans 17 offices across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. The largest single expansion of the firm's reach occurred in 2007 when it acquired the 100-year-old law firm Stringer Clark. The acquisition saw it become the largest law firm in Western Victoria. Stringer Clark continues to operate under its original name.

Yet, in spite of its growth, the firm has held fast to the easy informality and client care ethos of a smaller organisation.

A modern law firm staffed by dedicated people

Today, Ryan Carlisle Thomas employs more than 110 people across the State, offering a wide range of services designed to cater for the broadest possible legal needs of working people and their families at work and in their private lives.

Over the years, RCT has extended its traditional industrial law expertise into one of Victoria's most successful personal injury compensation practices, its largest department being WorkCover. We also handle Comcare claims for those injured at work and covered by the Federal rather than state-based workers compensation scheme, along with claims for road accident injuries while working and asbestos exposure in the workplace. The firm is also expert at helping people unlock the benefits of insurance policies which are often provided by a worker's superannuation fund, where death or temporary or permanent disability is involved.

RCT's strong employment law practice enables it to handle unfair dismissal claims, employment contract queries and disputes and discrimination and bullying in the workplace, along with representation at and advice on disciplinary hearings.

Outside of the workplace, the firm has strong practice in securing compensation for the survivors of road accidents, accidents in public places, asbestosis and silicosis, and sexual and institutional abuse.

Family and relationship law, wills and estates, property and conveyancing and small business advice complete our suite of services which are designed to meet the legal needs of our clients both in and outside of work.

Since its establishment, RCT has successfully settled many prominent cases. For more information, please see significant cases.

Call 1300 366 441 to be connected to your nearest office, find an office near you on our office locations map, or email us using the form below and we will contact you on the same or next business day.

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