When lawyer Tony Robinson moved to Warrnambool to start his career, he only planned to stay for a couple of years.
Nearly four decades later, the family and criminal law specialist has retired from Dwyer Robinson Legal.
Mr Robinson joined the former Desmond Dunne and Dwyer in 1983 and was a partner of the firm from 1987 through to June 30 this year.
Throughout his 36-year career, he has worked on a number of high-profile cases, including the 1989 murder of an RSPCA inspector at Mortlake, the infamous fracas involving former Aboriginal leader Geoff Clark at Warrnambool's Criterion Hotel, and the punter shot by a publican at a Terang hotel in the early 1990s.
Mr Robinson grew up in Melbourne's north-west, studying at Essendon State School before Melbourne Grammar and then Melbourne University. He studied Arts Law and spent 18-months in the CBD before deciding he needed a tree change.
"I loved school and I loved university but when I started working in the CBD I thought 'is this it?' I decided that I'd go to the bar and become a barrister and I'd go to the country for a couple of years to get some court experience," he said.
"I knew I wanted to be somewhere on the coast and for me, somewhere off the beaten track. So that cut out Gippsland and I knew Geelong and the Surf Coast too well as my family had a holiday house there, so that left Warrnambool or Portland.
"I was 24 when I started in Warrnambool on August 15, 1983, which was just as we were winning the America's Cup. And from there the days got longer and the weather got better and by Christmas I thought 'this is just unbelievable'. It was like living in a resort town and even after 36 years, I still feel like that."
Mr Robinson said he initially interviewed for Taits Legal but decided Desmond Dunne and Dwyer would offer more court experience.
"I took the second job and I still remember my first day and my first phone call was from (the then director) James Tait. I thought 'oh no, I'm in trouble here' but it turned out he was calling to welcome me to the town. It was a really lovely thing to do," he said.
"I also remember in my first week there was an article in The Standard about three young lawyers that were all leaving the town and I thought 'wow, this wouldn't happen in the Essendon Gazette'."
Mr Robinson worked at the firm for about two years before travelling overseas for five months.
He became partner in 1987, aged 28, and married his wife Chris three years later.
The pair have three children - Oscar, now aged 26, Erica, 24, and Benjamin, 22.
Mr Robinson said his career opened his eyes to a side of life he might never have seen if not for his involvement in the legal industry.
"You read about it in the papers but it's just not the same," he said.
"I acted for Leonard Squire, who was accused of killing RSPCA inspector Stuart Fairlie after he was found in a shallow grave off Connewarren Lane in Mortlake in 1989.
"The police officer involved was (Victoria police top homicide detective) Charlie Bezzina and at that point we were both pretty young. It was a fascinating case with a hung jury at Warrnambool and a second trial in Melbourne where Squire was acquitted.
"Bezzina has since gone on the record to say police weren't looking for anyone else as they were sure it was him but I was heavily involved in that case and you could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he was guilty.
"Squire sent me a Christmas card every year until his death."
In the early 1990s, Mr Robsinson represented a Terang publican who shot a punter in the stomach at close range.
He said it was accepted in the county court the publican acted in self defence.
"My client had good cause to be scared of this chap, who was banned from the hotel," Mr Robinson said.
"Police wouldn't transport him to Warrnambool because it was too late at night. So he comes back to the hotel and appears in front of my client and that's where the stories diverge.
"The publican says he shot him at close range in the stomach in self defence. He was fearing for his life after undergoing open heart surgery about six weeks beforehand.
"The other chap's version is that he backed over and said 'don't shoot' before being gunned down. We won the case after it was accepted he acted in self defence.
"Then the victim got a legal aid grant to sue for serious injuries. Doctors said it was the sickest they had ever seen a person that lived.
"But we fought that too and we won. Then in a fit of enthusiasm I put in a crimes compensation claim for the publican who was traumatised by having to shoot this guy in self defence and we won, so we got him a little bit of money."
A decade later, Mr Robinson appeared beside high profile barrister Robert Richter for two weeks following the infamous pub brawl involving former Aboriginal leader Geoff Clark at Warrnambool's Criterion Hotel.
"If (Clark) was found guilty he wouldn't have been able to remain in the chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), so that was a big deal at the time," he said.
"It was really interesting to see how Richter operated. I had two of the four people involved and it was just me, working alone. I got my clients off on a no case submission, which was comforting. At the end of the case there could well have a been a headline saying Clark was acquitted and the other two were battling on with a local solicitor."
Mr Robinson said his working life was filled with plenty of fun memories, including an urgent call from a police sergeant in the mid-1990s.
He said he had just sat down at work when he found out three of his staff members had been locked up for being drunk and disorderly in the CBD.
"I couldn't believe it. I told the officer I would come straight down and I walked through the reception and got halfway down the street, marching to the police station, when it dawned on me that one of the people I was going to bail out was behind the reception counter," he said.
"I got back and they all broke into hysterics and told me it was April Fools."
Outside the courtroom, Mr Robinson has been a long-time member of the Rotary Club of Warrnambool Central, president of the Warrnambool Lawn Tennis Club and Western District Law Association and a self-proclaimed "long-suffering" supporter of the Melbourne Football Club.
He is also a keen surfer and sailor, a "hack" golfer and an avid road tripper.
He said he would continue his involvement throughout the community, while staying on as a consultant for the newly merged firm Dwyer Legal.
Mr Robinson said his retirement had created a "curious mix of feelings and emotions".
"It will be a very interesting change but one I think I will handle well and enjoy," he said.
"I was worried I would feel a loss of identity or purpose but one day in and it seems pretty good. I am excited for the newly merged firm and am glad I am keeping my hand in as a consultant. I won't be taking any clients but will be available for advice and mentoring.
"From here I will hopefully get back into sailing, try to improve at golf, continue to play on one of the 36 lawn tennis courts that I love and most of all just catch my breath and see how life unfolds.
"I am looking forward to having some great times with my wife and family during our 60s, that you can't necessarily guarantee you can do in your 70s and beyond."
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