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Michael Cowley

Succession + Estate Planning + Structuring + Property + Water

With 25 years in rural legal practice advising clients in South West Queensland and Northern New South Wales Michael is one of the region’s most experienced and respected local lawyers.

Michael’s legal experience covers a wide range of issues with his particular expertise being in the areas of succession and estate planning, business structuring, complex rural transactions and water law.

He has advised clients on matters including:

  • Structuring for purchase of $40M mixed irrigation and dryland farming operation to allow for tax management, asset protection and future succession planning for family
  • Regularly advising on estate and succession planning for farming families with net farming wealth in excess of $50M
  • Recently completed implementing a 14 year succession plan to separate joint ownership by parents and two children of a mixed grazing, dryland and irrigation farming operation. Our solution gave the parents security in retirement, and each child their own independent and profitable farming operation with very little capital gains tax and stamp duty incurred

Michael understands and appreciates the legal issues which arise amongst his client base having grown up on a sheep and cattle property at Bollon and spending his entire professional career advising rural and regional business and individuals.

Michael has a particularly in-depth understanding of the complex area of water rights and entitlements and has presented on rural property topics at state legal conferences.

After completing a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Queensland, Michael started his legal career with Ian Coutts at AR Coutts and Sons in St George. AR Coutts and Sons merged with Fox and Thomas in 1999 and Michael became a partner of Fox and Thomas in 2007.

Outside of the office Michael enjoys spending time with his wife, Louise, and their 3 children and maintaining a connection to the land through regular visits to their old family properties at Bollon.


  • Carbon Farming Advice Rebate Program – Approved Advisor


  • Bachelor of Commerce
  • Bachelor of Laws

Awards & Recognition

  • Doyle’s Guide:  Leading Agribusiness Lawyer Queensland

Memberships & Appointments

  • Admitted to Supreme Court of Queensland
  • Qld Law Society – Member
  • NSW Law Society – Associate Member
  • Downs & South Western Qld Law Association – Member
  • Law Australasia

Sixty Seconds with Michael Cowley

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
21500 acres at Bollon was not divisible by 4.

If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
Something else involving agribusiness, possibly in science or engineering.

What brings you the most joy in your job?
The often visible relief and peace of mind clients obtain from a well-structured and implemented estate or succession plan.

What’s the best advice you could give your clients?
Plan early, plan often, plan together.

What are the downfalls of being a lawyer?
Spending too much time inside… except in Summer… and Winter!

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive who would they be and why?
Winston Churchill – love his turn of phrase and often acerbic wit, Mahatma Ghandi – An inspiring lawyer, his combination of compassion and relentless drive and determination intrigues me and Robin Williams – need someone to introduce some humour when the discussion between the other guests gets too heavy.

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