This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012
Sir Alastair Edward Stephen (1901-1982), solicitor and company director, was born on 27 May 1901 at Woollahra, Sydney, eldest of three children of (Sir) Colin Stephen, solicitor, and his wife Dorothy, eldest daughter of Edward William Knox. He was educated at Tudor House, Moss Vale; Geelong Church of England Grammar School, Victoria; and the University of Sydney (BA, 1923), where he resided at St Paul’s College. Alastair entered his father’s firm, Stephen, Jaques & Stephen, in 1923 as an articled clerk. After passing the Solicitors’ Admission Board examinations, he was admitted as a solicitor by the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 19 November 1926 and became a partner in the firm.
Uninterested in team games, Stephen had joined Royal Sydney Golf Club in 1916, and enjoyed surfing, skiing, sailing, riding and trout-fishing. He and his friend (Sir) Herbert Schlink were among the first skiers who opened up the
Stephen specialised in company law and the law relating to trusts. From 1951 he proved a strong and effective senior partner. Although regarded by his fellow partners as 'a lawyers’ lawyer', he 'invariably sought a practical and often innovative solution to a client’s problem' rather than a legalistic response. A friend of (Sir) Warwick Fairfax from childhood, he was solicitor for John Fairfax & Sons Pty Ltd and advised the newspaper on taxation, company law and libel. His friendship with the Syme family in
As solicitor for the Australian Mutual Provident Society Stephen drew up a legal document to guide their agents in determining policies with clients. In 1962 he accepted the AMP’s offer of space in its landmark new building; the firm occupied half a floor and within two years had spread to two floors. Known for high principles and integrity, he retired as a partner in 1975 but continued as a consultant until 1982. He lunched on weekdays at the Union Club; he also belonged to the Australian Club.
Stephen’s father had been solicitor to John Brown: Alastair, a director of Abermain Seaham Collieries Ltd since 1928, continued the connection as deputy chairman of J. & A. Brown & Abermain Seaham Collieries Ltd. Later he was a director of its successor, Coal & Allied Industries Ltd, and of the United Insurance Co. Ltd.
On 12 September 1939 Stephen was appointed as a lieutenant in the Citizen Military Forces and was called up for full–time duty. Posted to
Already solicitor for
Visits from childhood to his father’s siblings in
Stephen inherited his father’s racing colours—pale blue with white cap; he raced several horses, the progeny of his father’s two mares. A regular visitor to
Martha Rutledge, 'Stephen, Sir Alastair Edward (1901–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stephen-sir-alastair-edward-15549/text26761, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 1 August 2015.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012