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Leslie Paris, 1928 - 2000

By David Stevenson

Les Paris died on 27 December 2000 aged 72.

The large framed certificate from the University of New Zealand in his office tells us that Les Paris graduated with an LLB in 1953 - his friend from Wellington College days, Spencer Smith, tells me that Les was admitted to the bar in 1954.

After stints at a couple of law firms, including Hogg Gillespie at Lower Hutt, Les joined Wellington practitioner Ernie Webb in the late 1950s. The firm, with Webb Paris as its first two names, has been in business ever since.

I first met Les whilst doing a settlement for the Ministry of Works where he acted for the vendor of a property being taken for the motorway. I remember being shown into an office with many paintings on the walls. A large jovial man with a cigar in his hand got up to proffer a friendly handshake and some light hearted conversation before we proceeded with the settlement - that was Les. Although the cigar disappeared in recent times, I am sure that many of those who dealt with Les over the 40 plus years he practised will have an enduring memory of a scene somewhat like this.

In his earlier years Les did a lot of court work, mainly civil litigation, but he also did his share of criminal jury trials. He enjoyed the cut and thrust of court work. He valued the friendships he developed with fellow litigators, most of whom practised as he did as members of firms rather than as part of the separate bar as happens now.

More recently, he preferred the office-bound life of conveyancing, small business and estate work at which he excelled.

While the practice of law was important to Les, the real passion of his life was the collecting of art, in particular contemporary New Zealand art. He and his wife Milly were enthusiastic about acquiring this contemporary art well before it was fashionable to do so. As well as collecting the works of established artists they took delight in encouraging emerging artists by buying their paintings. The Paris collection is now regarded as one of the finest privately held collections in the country.

Les's interest in art led not only to the office being festooned with paintings. We were also witness to a procession of eccentric, colourful and fascinating artists and art lovers who would meet at the office towards 5pm for a beer with Les and his culturally ignorant partner (me) before being taken to the Paris household to admire or add to the collection as the case may be.

Les and Milly not only collected art - they took a keen interest in the artists, forming close friendships with some of them - Les acted professionally for a number of them too.

It is clear from the condolence notes and phone calls received that Les Paris will be remembered by the legal community as a good natured man who not only was a pleasure to deal with but also brought us a welcome splash of colour.

He will be sadly missed.

This was first published on page 5 of the February 2001 issue of Council Brief, the monthly newsletter of the Wellington District Law Society.

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Last updated on the 25th August 2016