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Our History.

Standing by our clients for close to 50 years

Ryan Carlisle Thomas was founded in 1975 with its original charter being the pursuit of social and industrial justice. Today, the firm continues to hold many of these values while also presenting a throughly modern approach to the law and the diverse legals areas it now practices.

Across its near 50-year journey, the big union disputes the firm was embroiled in during the 1970s and 1980s have given way to broader engagement in social justice. Our legal services have now expanded to provide full support to our clients and their specific needs, including sexual and institutional abuse, family law matters, wills & estates, superannuation TPD insurance claims, personal injury and more.

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.

Today, the Managing Partner of the firm is Ron Pearce, who started with the firm as an Article Clerk in 1975. Ron has guided Ryan Carlisle Thomas to establish a forum to encourage cooperation among labor law firms and to resist legislation detrimental to working people, and ultimately led the formation of the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers Association in 1994. This organisation eventually became the Australian Lawyers Alliance and Ron was the first national treasurer of that organisation.

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 approachability and client care ethos of a smaller organisation.

A modern law firm staffed by dedicated people

Today, Ryan Carlisle Thomas employs over 100 people across Victoria, from Wonthaggi in South Gippsland all the way through to Portland in the Western Region, offering a wide range of services designed to cater for the broadest possible legal needs of Victorians.

Over the years, Ryan Carlisle Thomas has expanded its traditional industrial law expertise into a full service law firm, capable of handling a variety of different matters, with its largest department being WorkCover. However; we also handle claims for road accident injuries as well as public liability matters. The firm is highly skilled 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. In more recent years, Ryan Carlisle Thomas has strong practice in securing compensation for the survivors of sexual and institutional abuse. Family law and wills & estates round out our suite of services which are all designed to meet the legal needs of our clients.

Book your first free appointment with one of our caring, committed and courageous lawyers today!


Expert Legal Services & Support Across Victoria.

We believe legal help should be available in close proximity to where our clients live and work. In association with our sister firm, Stringer Clark, Ryan Carlisle Thomas provides expert legal advice across seventeen offices spread across metropolitan and regional Victoria. Throughout this network, we’ve fought for our clients and achieved successful results in more than 100,000 cases.

Call us on 1300 366 441 for a free, no-obligation and confidential first appointment.