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David Perry, 1896 - 1973

By Sir Richard Wild

Image of David Perry 
A caricature of David Perry published in "Council Brief". 

David Perry, Vice-President of the New Zealand Law Society, was on the high seas returning from a holiday in Britain when Law Society President Allan Buxton's sudden death occurred in 1959, and he came home to take up an office which, with the basic modesty that underlies his breezy manner, he would never have sought for himself. But he brought to the presidency long years of active experience in Law Society work (he had been a member of the Management Committee of the Guarantee Fund for twenty-four years), a wide knowledge of practitioners up and down New Zealand, a genial and friendly disposition, and a true love of the profession.

In the result his two years of office embraced a great deal of solid work and perhaps the most important material advance in the Society's history. At the Dominion Conference in 1960 Perry called for action in providing a home for the Law Society, a proposal that for years had been merely in the minds of members. This lead was followed up and, under Perry's presidency, District Societies were persuaded into agreement to increase practising fees substantially, land was acquired, loan moneys arranged, and negotiations carried to the point where a contract could be let.

Under his presidency too, the Legal Conference assumed a new status with a visit arranged (partly at Government expense) by the Lord Chancellor and a number of other distinguished lawyers from overseas to Wellington in 1960.

A failure by the Government to meet adequately the position of the Judges at a time of general salary increases evoked a dignified public protest by the President, and this in turn led to the adoption by the Society of a general policy under which public statements would be made on matters of controversy where legal principle was involved.

The decision to appoint an audit inspector of all trust accounts was the outcome of prolonged consideration in which Perry himself played the leading part.

From "Seven New Zealand Presidents" in Portrait of a Profession (Robin Cooke QC editor, New Zealand Law Society, 1969), page 179.

David Perry was born on 28 September 1898 in Wellington. He was a law clerk for the firm Perry, Gill & Linklater when he was called up for military service in November 1916. He served in the Army as a Lance Corporal and was overseas for just under two years. On his return from the War in 1919 he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor and began a long career of legal practice, being a senior partner in the firm Perry, Perry & Pope (later Perry, Wylie Pope & Page) in Wellington. He died in Wellington on 9 April 1973 aged 76.

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Last updated on the 23rd August 2016