A 1913 photo, featuring a number of prominent Western Australian lawyers, inspired the Old Court House Law Museum’s Armistice exhibition to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War One. Some of the individuals in the photo were unable to contribute to the war effort, some returned after active service and some never returned. Max Kott (pictured far right in the second row) returned to establish what is today, independent commercial law firm Kott Gunning.
Think Rumpole of the Bailey and you start to get a picture of the firm’s founder, Max Kott. A rotund, cigar-smoking, quick tempered whisky drinker, he loved nothing more than a flutter on the horses and to read the obituaries of tall, athletic, non-smoking teetotallers.
Messy desk? Always. He wielded a nib pen with equal disarray, much to the chagrin of his secretaries. His memory, on the other hand, was impeccable. He could always find what he needed among the chaos.
Max Kott served on the Claremont Council for 26 years, and was a founding member of the Swan River Conservation Board. He died in 1976.
Fresh from his WWI post as Lance Corporal in the Australian Infantry, 28 year-old Max Kott set up as a sole practitioner at Weld Chambers on Perth’s St George’s Terrace in 1919.
A brisk dash to court was common for Ivan Gunning, who joined the partnership in 1957. Despite his tendency to leave things to the last minute, Gunning was the partner whose name stuck when the firm finally settled on its current moniker Kott Gunning in 1982. (Other incarnations were Kott & Lalor, Kott & Wallace, and Kott, Wallace & Gunning.) Ivan Gunning was a Judge of the District Court from 1977 to 1998.
Some faces of note have graced the Kott Gunning corridors in its time. Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC (partner from 1962-68) went on to serve as Governor of Western Australian from 2011-2014. The Hon John Quigley LLB JP MLA (partner from 1978-1992) is now Western Australia’s Attorney General. Bob Wallace AO (partner from 1949-1972) went on to be a Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Nick Tolcon (managing partner 1970-1991) became a Judge of the Family Court.
Two years before Margaret Thatcher took Britain’s top job, Ruth Kott became Perth’s first ever female managing partner of a law firm. One of founding partner Max Kott’s four daughters, Ruth was managing partner from 1977-79.
All of the law tomes, all of the files, all of the desk knick-knacks. They’ve been packed up and moved a total of five times in the last century as the firm has made an easterly shift along St George’s Terrace. A major office refit in 2017 has secured the AMP building as Kott Gunning’s HQ for the foreseeable future.
The firm’s corporate image has evolved with the times. The current brand was unveiled in 2014 to reflect Kott Gunning’s contemporary, progressive, commercial and independent nature. The 6 chevrons in the logo reflect the six key attributes that the firm holds dear: clients first, partner access, legal expertise, value for money, history and quality of service.