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Charles Edward (Ted) Graham, 1933 - 2014

By Christine Grice

Ted Graham died on 31 October 2014. He spent a long career practising law in Matamata with the firm Bell and Graham and was highly regarded and respected in the legal profession as a key participant in the history of the Waikato Bay of Plenty legal community.

Ted was born on 13 September 1933. He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the (then) Supreme Court of New Zealand in Hamilton on 16 February 1961. He had been working at the Matamata firm of Bell and O’Brien before his admission and he began work as a solicitor at the firm on 1 February 1962. Over his long career Ted became an expert in rural land and livestock conveyancing.

Ted quickly moved into the partnership and the name of the firm became Bell and Graham on 1 April 1964. Ted retired in 2008 after nearly 50 years in practice. Earlier this year he held a special practising certificate from 1 July to 1 August 2014, to enable him to move the admission of his grandson – also named Charles Edward Graham. He remained an Associate Member of the New Zealand Law Society until the day he died.

He was a member of the Council of the Waikato Bay of Plenty District Law Society from 1998 to 2007. Ted never sought recognition and although I was not alone in trying to persuade him to stand for president he did not want the limelight that the role would bring. Preferring to work quietly in the background, he also held the office of Vice President and Treasurer of the Waikato Bay of Plenty District law Society (which became the Waikato Bay of Plenty branch of the New Zealand Law Society in early 2009) and represented the District Law Society at national level from time to time. Those 20 years were the most challenging years that the legal profession has ever encountered. The rate of change brought on by technology and the increasing complexity of the law transformed the way lawyers had to operate.

Ted shone as Treasurer. He served in that role from 1993 until 2001 and then for a further term from 2003 to 2007. In that time there were substantial demands on Law Society funds and, in particular, the cost of the law libraries was going through the roof. Ted had the double poison chalice of the Library portfolio and the Treasurer’s office. This was at a time when technology was making an impact on legal information services but it was not clear what that would do to increase accessibility to law library material, particularly for provincial practitioners who found it difficult to get into the libraries. Ted led a review of library services and the subsequent challenging change management process (not called that then of course) that saw a substantial refocus of the library services in the region in order to keep a lid on the cost but to provide a level of access for all lawyers to library services. As you can imagine, this took an amount of skill and determination in the face of many differing views held by a number of very vocal lawyers. Ted succeeded.

Ted ran the finances with great care and kept tight rein on expenditure. He also oversaw the administration of the society during a period when the Secretary suffered a sudden and serious illness which necessitated the appointment of an Acting Secretary and a review of the secretariat. Ted was also in the hot seat when the legal profession’s reputation suffered from a series of defalcations culminating in the “Renshaw Edwards” debacle where two law partners were stealing money from the same firm and committed New Zealand’s biggest fraud by a law firm. The need to cover the claims on the Solicitors Fidelity Fund led to the unprecedented step of imposing a levy of $10,000 on every principal of a law firm. In the Waikato Bay of Plenty Ted dealt with many complaints about this from lawyers and did this in his usual calm and careful way. Ted later was a member of the national New Zealand Law Society Committee for Management of the Solicitors Fidelity Guarantee Fund.

He served on many specialist committees. He recognised the importance of supporting the profession to deliver high quality legal services and was generous in providing his expertise, particularly in the area of conveyancing. He served on specialist committees as well as chairing the Conveyancing Practice Committee in the early 1990s. This committee dealt with many knotty and difficult legal issues arising in the course of legal land transactions. It would be difficult to find someone who knew more than Ted in the area in rural land and livestock conveyancing.

I worked closely with Ted. First, when I was a member of the Council of the Waikato Bay of Plenty District Law Society, and subsequently in my time as President of first the District and subsequently the New Zealand Law Society.

This recital does nothing to describe the hours, energy and expertise that Ted devoted to the Law Society for over 20 years. I will miss him enormously. I spent a lot of time with Ted over the last 30 years and together around the council table we grappled with many difficult issues. He was enormously proud of his grandchildren. Having a grandson follow him into the law was very special to him. The photos of that admission will be family treasures.

Ted was a true professional. He was an expert in his field, unstinting in sharing his wisdom, energy and time. He held the values that the legal profession aspires to. I know this from personal experience. The Waikato Bay of Plenty profession in particular, but also the national profession owe Ted an enormous debt of gratitude. 

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Last updated on the 6th November 2014