When we catch up first with experienced employment lawyer Ian Dixon it’s via a Teams call. It’s a curious way for Ian to begin his Ai Group journey out of our Melbourne office, but par for the course during the pandemic’s “new normal”. Happily, he’s already adapted. Sporting a brown jumper and a twinkle, Ian’s the vision of the work-from-home professional, albeit bemoaning being on a first-name basis with Officeworks and quipping that, “printers are the new toilet paper”.
A country lad originally, Ian started work at 14 pumping petrol and washing windscreens for his basketball coach – early signs of the initiative that drove him to become a partner at 28. “That’s when I started learning the hard way”, he says. “I wasn’t influenced by anybody anymore. I had to fly on my own”, which in Ian’s case isn’t just a metaphor. His early career with Middletons (now K & L Gates) saw him advocating for the Australian Commonwealth Steamship Association, racking up frequent flyer miles 40-50 times a year representing members across the country.
Having started out in legal practice in the seventies – during the peak of Australia’s high-strike activity – Ian was inspired to pursue workplace relations as his niche. Now, after a high-profile, 42-year career in the field, there’s not much he hasn’t tackled, including extensive work on the board of Richmond FC (much to the delight of Ai Group’s Tiger’s tragics). However, despite his unparalleled knowledge of corporate governance, commercial litigation and our workplace relations landscape, Ian describes himself primarily as a “provider of solutions”. “You’re not there to show how good a lawyer you are,” he says firmly, “ that’s a given. A business doesn’t care how much you know about the latest “casual employment” case. They want to know ‘what does that mean to me and what do I need to do about it?’”.
Ian’s move to Ai Group is only the third in his career. Having been a partner at Middleton’s (11 years), Baker McKenzie (15 years) and Gadens (13 and a half years), his latest move was sparked by “the attraction of something similar, but different.”
In terms of what comes next, his reply is characteristically jovial:
“To keep enjoying what I’m doing as I have been and helping people on the way through”.