The power of mentorship – Roger and Kathryn take our passion for justice across the generations
Roger Singh and Kathryn Townsend are a formidable force. Twenty-five years of legal experience may separate them, but these two colleagues are united by a fierce resolve to stand up for what’s right.
Over three decades, Roger's relentless lobbying has generated landmark outcomes in the dust diseases space.
Today, Kathryn carries on the plight, seeking justice for clients who have suffered injury through exposure to toxic substances.
Humble yet unshakable, mentor and mentee share their story of challenging the status quo.
The start of a remarkable career
Raring to make her mark on the world, Kathryn Townsend was in the final year of her law degree when she began a four-week Summer Clerkship at Shine Lawyers. It was her first taste of working in a law firm - and it made her hungry for more.
On her first day, Kathryn and her fellow students were immersed in their induction when “this man called Roger walks in”. That man was Roger Singh, National Practice Leader - Dust Diseases & Specialist Litigation, whose law career now spans three decades.
“Right off the bat, I knew it was the place for me. Every single person was there for their clients – that’s what motivated me then, and it motivates me now. Roger started talking about his cases, and I thought, ‘I would give my right hand just to run one case with that man!’ He was so passionate and interesting. We all walked out of the induction like, ‘Oh my god, what was that?!'”
Little did Kathryn know that meeting Roger marked the beginning of her incredible career into the Dust Disease legal practice. After her summer clerkship had ended, impressed by her work, Roger soon offered her a position as her paralegal.
“Straight away, I said yes! I worked for Shine part-time in the last year of my studies, then when I graduated at the end of 2017, I worked full-time. After 14 months of being a Paralegal, I became a Law Clerk and started running my own files. I was admitted as a Solicitor in 2018, and then made Associate in 2022. It has been pretty swift – I’ve been very lucky.”
Kathryn may attribute her outstanding career progression to luck, but not Roger. From the outset, he could see in Kathryn that same tenacity, care and thirst for justice that’s driven him all these years.
Daring to be different
Born and bred in the UK, Roger’s working-class upbringing infused him with a deep well of empathy for everyday people doing it tough. He also had an unwavering desire to do something about it.
"If I ever came across someone who’d been wronged in some fashion, that really got my back up. So, I naturally gravitated towards that discipline of work in the law. I was courted by several ivory tower firms, but it never caused me any level of excitement. Then I began working in medical negligence and dust diseases, and that stoked the fire in the belly."
Roger’s first case in the dust diseases space was for a man in the UK who was dying of mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure.
Thus, the tone of Roger’s career was set. After a few trips to Australia, he discovered his mission to stand up for the little guy was passionately shared by Simon Morrison, co-founder of Shine Lawyers. Simon offered Roger a role at the firm, and in 1998, he moved to Australia.
During his 20-plus years at Shine, no fight has been too big for Roger. He’s renowned for representing 74-year-old Zorko Zabic, who developed mesothelioma 40 years after working in a Northern Territory alumina refinery in the 1970s.
In 1997, legislation was passed that abolished the right for workers to bring a court-based claim to recover fair and proper compensation. Roger took this fight to the High Court of Australia, where he succeeded in enabling cases like Zorko’s to be brought to the courts. And thus, he created ground-breaking law to assist asbestos disease sufferers.
Roger has also worked extensively on silicosis claims - a deadly disease attributed to silica dust particles in the manufacture of stone benchtops. His dedication in this area was recognised with the Australian Lawyers Alliance’s 2021 Civil Justice Award. His lobbying also resulted in critical legislative changes to create safer workspaces.
“I’ve been on the Shine journey for over two decades, so I’ve seen a lot of changes in the firm. We’re much bigger, and the areas of practice are so vast and varied, but the underlying values of the firm have always been a constant: standing up for the little guy, daring to be different, ahead of the pack. These values underpin who we are, and by living and breathing this ethos, we remain true to our roots.”
Kathryn and Roger have worked on several high-impact cases together, and although they’re on separate journeys now, they regularly touch base. As an Associate, Kathryn is an integral part of the Dust Diseases team at Shine, running her own files and mentoring the next generation of experts in this complex area of law.
And if you’d like to find true purpose and a proven path for success at Shine? Kathryn offers this simple yet powerful advice...
“Be yourself. It takes all types to make this business so robust. Not everyone is a bleeding heart, and not everyone is a hard nose. But we all care about our clients, and we all engage in the values. That’s the first thing we look for: ‘Are they our people?’ And when we ask that, what we’re really asking is: ‘Do they care, then they’re our people.”