Our firm originated in 1886 when Theodore Fink [1855 - 1942] entered into partnership with Robert W Best [1856 - 1946] under the firm name of "Fink and Best".
Theodore Fink was educated at Geelong College before moving to Melbourne in 1871. He attended Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, was a class mate of Alfred Deakin, and won the school prize for poetry. He did his articles with Henry J. Farmer in 1872 while studying law part time at the University of Melbourne. He was admitted to practice in 1877 and steadily improved his knowledge of mercantile and constitutional law before entering the partnership with Robert Best.
Theodore Fink wore a number of professional hats in his time, including that of politician, solicitor and newspaper proprietor. He became a joint owner of the Herald in 1889 which served to strengthen his interest in journalism and public affairs. He was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly as member for Jolimont and West Richmond in 1894 and held that seat until 1904 when he withdrew from State politics. In 1920, he appointed (Sir) Keith Murdoch as editor of the Herald.
Sir Robert Best studied at Templeton's School, Fitzroy, and at 13, took on the role of clerk in a Chancery Lane printing office. He did his articles at the firm of W. T. Trollope, studied law at the University of Melbourne, and was admitted in 1881. After entering the partnership with Theodore Fink, he was elected member for Fitzroy in the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1889 and was chairman of the Royal Commission on constitutional reform in 1894. He served as president of the Board of Land and Works, was twice acting-premier, and represented Victoria at the 1897 premier's conference. He was appointed Knights Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1908 and held the seat of Kooyong from 1910 – 1922.
Our firm emerged out of the Golden Age of the 1880's land boom in Melbourne. Theodore Fink and Sir Robert Best's legal union was hinged onto the great land speculation of the day, and in applying their craft, they were both optimistic, intelligent, entrepreneurial men with an un-quenching capacity of persuasion.
Albeit, it would seem they had their foibles, Theodore Fink being described on the one hand as a 'chirpy gregarious man with enormous vitality and a ready sense of humour and charm', but on the other hand as having an irritating ego, demonstrating a capacity for scheming and manipulation which arguably went beyond the accepted norms of the day.
Nevertheless, they catapulted the firm into the new century on the back of their self-confidence and drive.
Phillip David Phillips [1836 - 1909] joined as a partner in 1888 and the firm then changed its name to Fink Best and P.D. Phillips in 1889, and then Fink Best and Phillips in 1892. Disagreements concerning the firm's involvement in the land boom saw Phillips leave the partnership in 1892, and the firm then continued under the name Fink Best and Co.
In 1893, A G Hall joined the partnership and the firm changed its name to Fink Best and Hall.
Norman Miller joined the firm as a partner in 1917 and the firm became Fink Best and Miller. Some time prior to 1917, A G Hall left the partnership.
Harold Holt graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1930. He was admitted to the Victorian Bar in November 1932 and served his articles with Fink, Best and Miller, but the Depression left him unable to find work as a barrister. Within a few short years, he had turned his focus towards politics.
Theodore Fink retired from the partnership in 1932 at the age of 77, and Robert Best (now Sir Robert Best) continued the practice. Norman Miller also left the firm at about this time.
In or about 1934, Cecil Hooper joined the firm as a partner and the firm's name was changed to Robert Best and Hooper. He was a man of aristocratic bent, and was always impeccably groomed. The firm still uses the shoe cleaning box that Cecil used to shine his shoes each time before he'd leave the office.
At this time, the firm occupied premises in the then Perpetual Trustees building at 100 Queen Street. This building had walls several feet thick with small windows constructed around a central light well. The upper levels were served by an open webbed steel lift with open weave steep steel stairs around it. It was these stairs that Sir Robert Best fell down in 1944 which lead to his retirement from the firm, and his then only partner Cecil Hooper becoming the personal solicitor to both the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works and the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board.
Keith Rintoul joined the firm as a partner in or about 1944 and the name then became Best Hooper and Rintoul.
Jack Shallard joined the firm in about 1953 and the name was changed to Best Hooper Rintoul and Shallard.
Cecil Hooper was a brilliant lawyer, and with Louis Voumard Q.C., was the doyen of planning lawyers in Victoria, having had a large hand in drafting the Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme 1954 which was given effect to by the first Metropolitan Interim Development Order and came into operation on 1 March 1955.
He was also the author, in 1956, of Melbourne Metropolitan Town Planning, a copy of which is in both the Supreme Court and State Libraries. He also had a detailed knowledge of the law of compulsory acquisition of land. At that time, the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works was responsible for freeway building, metropolitan planning, water and sewerage supply and was the main drainage authority. The board's revenue was greater than that of South Australia and Tasmania combined.
In about 1956 the firm acquired the practice of Shaw and Turner.
In 1959, Sholto James commenced his Articles with the firm. After ultimately joining the partnership, he retired in mid-2012.
In October 1961, the firm acquired the practice of Willam Miller and Co., which brought Russell Boughton into the partnership.
In 1966, Jack Shallard and Russell Boughton had primarily conveyancing and probate practices, this being a time when there were still both estate and probate duties.
Keith Rintoul's practice was similar, but he also ran a mortgage practice focused on the superannuation fund of the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board. The MMBW was by far the primary source of revenue of the firm. By comparison, there is now no dominant client, the client base is not susceptible to the political ebbs and flows of Spring Street and conveyancing and probate is a comparatively small, albeit important, part of the practice.
Ian Pitt commenced his Articles in 1966. At that time Sholto James was doing most of the firm's litigation and workers' compensation, again under Cecil Hooper's supervision.
Ian Pitt became a partner in 1972. Cecil Hooper retired from the firm in 1979.
When the ANZ Bank purchased 100 Queen Street for redevelopment, the firm had to shift premises. This included shifting the deed room in the basement, which housed papers going back to the 19th century, including Theodore Fink's compositions with his creditors.
The firm went to the upper two floors of what was then known as the Kozminski Building, on the corner of Little Collins Street and Collins Way. After a short time, demolition of the adjacent building commenced in order to create the site for the National Bank building. The building on the site had been made to last and it resisted all but the most determined methods of demolition. The noise and dust was overwhelming, so the partners sued for an injunction, but declined to give the usual undertaking for damages. Counsel for the demolisher thought this was a preposterous proposition but the Court seemed to think it was reasonable, so in the result, the firm shifted to the Ham Building on the corner of Little Collins and Queen Streets.
By July 1982, all the partners from 1966 had retired and Simon Raleigh was managing the firm. At that time, the firm name was changed to Best Hooper.
In 1986 Simon suggested that the firm should purchase its own premises. He did most of the initial leg-work and found a building operating as a printer, which was close to the courts and to the Titles Office. The owner was persuaded that a location in Northcote would be a good place to print envelopes, and that he could have some funds left over if he sold the premises. After some alarms and excursions, the firm purchased 563 Little Lonsdale Street and began a six month conversion to offices. Occupation commenced after twelve months with temporary telephone lines draped from the ceilings and a general sense of chaos. The move proved highly beneficial for both the firm and its clients.
In January 2015, the firm moved to a new home at Level 9, 451 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne.
John Cicero joined the firm as a partner in 1993.
At a time where mergers and demergers of legal firms and partners moving from one established firm to another has been the norm, our firm has been a place of loyalty and stability. The last merger that it was involved in was in 1961.
Sholto James and Ian Pitt QC both started as articled clerks at the firm, as did Simon Raleigh and Tania Cincotta, who are now both equity partners. In our planning practice, only one lawyer in a senior position has left to join another established firm, and that was in 1993. Tim Rintoul was with the firm from the year after his Articles until he retired, and Jim Robinson is approaching his 30th year with Best Hooper. This stability is also reflected in many of our support staff.
Our planning practice has long had a system in place of developing 'solicitor advocates'. Not only do we act as solicitors for our clients, but we also appear as legal advocates in the courts and tribunals. This is rare for legal firms. This model means that our people are versatile. They manage their client's files from day one to the end, and are directly on-call. Our clients are the ultimate beneficiaries of the reduced legal costs this structure is able to deliver.
Our dispute resolution lawyers also appear in VCAT and the courts, but for large scale matters, adopt a more conventional form of legal representation by engaging Counsel as and when the need arises for both interlocutory and final hearings.
Contact Best Hooper today to find out more about the history of our company or to talk to one of our lawyers.
Best Hooper, Melbourne, Australia