BILL Lasica, whose work in commercial law extended beyond corporate clients to the arts and supporting new social enterprises, has died of pneumonia at Cabrini Hospital in Malvern. He was 90.
One of the extensions of the social relationships that he built with artists such as Arthur and Guy Boyd involved the setting up of the Bundanon Trust, through which Arthur Boyd made a gift to the Australian community of his personal art collections and properties on the Shoalhaven river south of Sydney. It was a project that took more than 10 years to come to fruition a great example of Bill's tenacity and single-mindedness.
He was also part of: a group that set up the Arts-Law Referral Service another group that set up an early model of Legal Aid he was on the inaugural board of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art chairman of the Victorian Centre for Photography (later the Centre for Contemporary Photography) as well as the inaugural chairman of the Bundanon Trust.
He hugely enjoyed being able to use his legal skills to support new social enterprises. With Sandra Bardas, Hillis Maris and Lois Peeler, he helped set up The Greenhills Foundation that established Worawa College in Healesville, a residential secondary college that attracts indigenous students from around Australia.
Not long before his death he attended a graduation ceremony at the college and was proud (and felt privileged) to have made an important contribution to the school that was making a difference to the lives of indigenous girls.
Bill was born in Warsaw in Poland and came to Australia in the mid-1920s, a few years after his father had arrived and set up a clothing manufacturing business. His mother, Mariem, followed with the rest of the family.
Bill and his sisters, Bella and Hannah, were the first non-English speaking students at Princes Hill Primary School in North Carlton. He went on to Melbourne High School, where he was a keen debater.
Bill then spent nine years at Melbourne University, completing degrees in law and commerce and then a master of laws while also working with his father in his clothing business.
Bill began his career as a sole practitioner, and after a short time in a shared office moved to Temple Court, followed in 1968 by a move to 343 Little Collins Street. By 1985, his commercial and property practice had grown to nine people, with two partners, Bill and Brian Mandie. That year the practice, which was called William Lasica and Co, merged with Phillips Fox and Masel (now DLA Piper), where he became a consultant.
Bill described his practice as "atypical" in that he had a small number of reasonably large clients. But it wasn't just commercial law he dealt in. A judge in her retirement speech noted Bill as giving her "the steepest learning curve any lawyer is likely to see", with a breadth of work including crime.
Earlier, in 1955, Bill married Margaret Wickham after they met on the beach in Sorrento. Together they built a life in which their various interests and skills complemented each other.
The children's playroom in their house in Brighton, for instance, was also the rehearsal room of the Modern Dance Ensemble, the company Margaret directed. Bill revelled in his role as the unofficial entertainment director, making sure that everyone, when not rehearsing, was generously fed and watered.
George Tsindos, owner of Florentino's, was a client of Bill's, and platters of lasagne would find their way into the kitchen for post-performance parties along with trays of oysters from the Melbourne Oyster Supply and grandma's chocolate cake.
After his death, it became clear how many people from wide fields had been touched by Bill and his generosity.
He loved going out for dinner with friends, buying food and the activities that surrounded it except cooking.
A keen photographer and sailor, he loved travel, especially island hopping in the Pacific with George Swinburne on 11-metre boats, as well as legal conferences in Nepal, India and the Philippines.
One of Bill's sailing exploits found its way onto the front page of The Argus in March 1952, after he and his friend Joyce spent 90 minutes in Port Phillip Bay, having capsized their boat. They were rescued eventually by the water police, and Bill's reported comment was "we just gritted our teeth and hung on".
He touched many people with his charm and cheekiness. He was quite the dandy. And he loved being surrounded by family, especially his three grandchildren, and his wide-ranging group of friends.
He was a mentor to many and is remembered for his integrity, compassion, honesty and respect.
Bill is survived by his daughters, Wendy and Shelley, and grandchildren Asha, Ellis and Moss.