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Wayne Seymour Chapman, 1944 - 2020

By Nick Butcher

To the many staff at Buddle Findlay, lawyer Wayne Chapman who died on 27 January after a short illness was a colossal personality. He’ll be remembered not just for his legal skills but also for his immense connection with people.

Wayne Chapman was 75 years old and a property law consultant at the firm’s office in Wellington.

A firm Tōtara

Paul Beverley is the Buddle Findlay national chair and describes Wayne as the tōtara at the firm.

“He’d been with us for 55 years. That’s an incredible contribution. He was a partner for a long time before becoming a consultant. He was active, with an office here and he was with us every day. He was our Kaumātua, the senior figure in the firm and as he transitioned through his career, that mana he had was carried with him wherever he went.”

Photo of Wayne Chapman
Wayne Chapman, 1944-2020. Photo courtesy of Buddle Findlay.

Mr Chapman was highly supportive of every staff member and always available to them.

“When we found out that Wayne had died, there were obviously a lot of tears in this office, and many of those mourning Wayne were actually quite young people. They really connected with Wayne too.”

The wise counsel and mentor

Paul Beverley says Wayne was more than just a lawyer.

“The number of conversations we’ve had this week about how everyone would talk to Wayne about a conflict or another issue in law just speaks volumes about who Wayne was. This includes me, I’d go to Wayne with a problem and simply say, ‘I just need a wise head’ and he was always there. He was a person with a big heart, a fantastic sense of humour and a real presence in the office. Nationally we will all really miss Wayne as he made an indelible impression on the firm,” he says.

As Paul Beverley remembers, there were not too many situations that Wayne had not dealt with.

“I’ll always remember him telling me in relation to some of the strategic projects we do here. He had a great dry sense of humour and he said to me 'I really support the projects you’re doing. I’ve seen all of them a few times before and it’s great you’re still going with them',” he says.

A colleague from the start until the end remembers Wayne

Wayne Chapman attended Victoria University in the 1960s. He was admitted in 1974, and was made a partner in 1975. Before his admission and during his law studies he worked as a law clerk at what is now Buddle Findlay.

“While he was at university, he was building up legal experience, so he didn’t have to wait three years to become a partner,” says Buddle Findlay consultant Alastair Sherriff.

Mr Sherriff knew Wayne very well. They were great friends and had worked together for decades.

He joined the firm in 1974 as a law clerk when it was known as Buddle Anderson Kent. Mr Sherriff was admitted in 1975.

“We just had a Wellington office back then. Wayne always knew everything about the trust account. He kept us on the straight and narrow throughout his whole life. He had tremendous ethics and rules. He was the go-to guy. He was as honest as the day is long. He was safe, trustworthy, gentle but firm – you knew where you stood with Wayne,” he says.

People person and people lawyer

Mr Sherriff says Wayne was a people person and essentially a people’s lawyer, which is why he was universally loved.

“He went out of his way to take an interest in people. He cared for them and he was like that to everyone in the firm and to his clients,” he says.

Some of Wayne’s many ‘other roles’

Wayne Chapman was appointed to the New Zealand Law Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal in December 2004 and to the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal following the passing of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. He continued that work up until the end of his life.

He was also the Wellington District Law Society President in 1994. He held other roles including at one stage being on the Council of Legal Education for a period of six years. He was President of the Wellington District Society of Notaries and a member of the Sutherland Self Help Trust Board.

A school mate pays tribute ... and those fishing trips

Doctor John Adams grew up with Wayne Chapman. Their friendship extended from attending the same primary school at Karori West and Wellington College from 1957-61.

“Wayne was in the top academic ‘A’ stream through college. He achieved an A grade Scholarship to Victoria University and was doing Medical Intermediate but switched to Law,” he says.

He remembers lectures being supplemented by many games of ‘500’ in the common room.

“Wayne’s father was General Manager of the Dominion newspaper and after Wayne’s paper deliveries on Saturday we would pack the Dominion Anglia van with togs, towels, girlfriends and a dozen flagons of 4X from the Southern Cross and head to Raumati Beach for the weekend,” he says.

John Adams remembers Wayne as a great listener and wise counsel about matters professional and personal to their group of friends.

“The subsequent friends he developed as a result of the famous annual fishing event known as ‘Boys Week’ at Tūrangi which he was instrumental in arranging has lasted decades. The sitting around the table (Wayne sat at North End) and fire, solving the issues of the world and more private issues about which chaps do not usually confide, will be my everlasting memory.  We have lost a very loyal friend,” he says.

Wayne’s friend the Judge also remembers those fishing adventures with Wayne & co

And District Court Judge Craig Thompson also fondly remembers those annual fishing trips.

"Wayne was introduced to trout fishing at Tūrangi by his father-in-law in the late 70s and he decided that he should get a team together to do more.  The first ‘Boy’s Week’ happened in June 1980, and has been repeated every year since – in fact for the last few years there have been two weeks – the one in June and a repeat in the somewhat easier climate of August/September. So, for 40 years Wayne was very much the Skipper of a happy and, it has to admitted, occasionally rowdy crowd.

“In 1992, he was the mind behind the 'boys' getting together and, with him and organising the partnership arrangements and the conveyancing to buy a house in Tūrangi - which has been the much-loved base for great times on the lakes, the rivers and the mountains of the Central Plateau ever since. As those who knew him well would expect, Wayne never allowed the fishing to interfere with the catering arrangements, and always ensured that dehydration never became an issue.” Judge Thompson says.

Farewell to Wayne on Saturday

A service to celebrate Wayne Chapman's life will be held at the Alan Gibbs Centre, Wellington College, 15 Dufferin Street, Mt Victoria, Wellington on Saturday 1 February 2020 at 11.00am.

Wayne Chapman leaves behind his second wife Marie and three adult children, Christopher who is a lawyer in London, Anna, a computer engineer and Richard who is an actor.

Last updated on the 31st January 2020