New Zealand Law Society - Moore and Willis families

Moore and Willis families

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Two new members of the legal profession are continuing proud family traditions. LawTalk congratulates the Moore and Willis families.

When Toby Moore is admitted to the bar in Nelson on 15 October he will join four generations of his forebears and a select group of lawyers for whom the practice of law runs very much in the family. Toby’s father is a lawyer, as was his grandfather, his grandfather’s father and his grandfather’s grandfather: five generations of lawyers in one family.

His predecesssor Edward Moore was an articled clerk to Albert Pitt and later joined him in partnership to form the firm of Pitt and Moore in 1879. The name “Pitt and Moore” is believed to be the oldest unchanged legal brand name in New Zealand, with the firm still operating in Nelson.

Edward was joined in practice at the turn of the century by his two sons Edward Burns Moore and Philip Moore. On the death of Edward in 1944 his son Ian Moorejoined the firm but later left with Mr Vern Fletcher to form the firm of Fletcher & Moore in 1950. Toby’s father, Nick Moorejoined Fletcher & Moore (now Fletcher Vautier Moore) as a partner in 1984. Together, various members of the Moore family have had over 130 years of continuous representation as lawyers in Nelson. Toby is now working at Nolans in Gisborne.

Recently Jonathan (“Jono”) Willis of Russell McVeagh in Auckland also continued a proud family tradition, becoming a fourth generation Willis lawyer when he was admitted in Auckland last month. His father James Willis was admitted in 1976 and was a partner at Bell Gully for 25 years before retiring in 2007.

James says his father Walter Willis was admitted in the mid 1930s and worked at the Public Trust in Oamaru before he “went off to war”. On his return he took over his father Vernon Willis’ practise in Wanganui where Vernon had practised since around 1910. Walter went on to become a District Court Judge in the early 1960s, working in the Invercargill, Gisborne and Wellington District Courts.

Enquiries made to NZLS branches suggest that long lineages of lawyers are not uncommon throughout the country. LawTalk is interested in profiling more families of lawyers in coming issues and would like to hear from people who have a long association with the profession.

This article was published in LawTalk 760, 11 October 2010, page 9.

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