Horowhenua and Kapiti practitioner Jim Simpson, who died on 24 February 2018, was a highly competent lawyer, a respected man of the community, and a fine sportsman, who also had a sense of fun. His funeral was held at Rangiatea Church in Otaki and it speaks volumes for his mana in the community that it took place there. His close friend and former partner John West spoke at Jim’s funeral and the following is an edited version of his remarks.
Jim Simpson was born on 10 July 1947, spent his early years in Korokoro and was a ‘true son of Petone’. He went to Hutt Valley High School and then travelled overseas, working for a while as a lumberjack in Canada and playing rugby in Europe. On his return he decided to go to university, but having little money spent a year of long, cold, and hard days as a tunnel miner on the Deep Cove power project in Manapouri. Having saved hard he headed for Dunedin to study law at Otago University from where he graduated in the early 1970s. He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in Dunedin on 7 December 1973 and went to work for the local firm of Brodrick Parcell Milne & Howley.
Back in Wellington in the mid-1970s, he worked for a time at Sladden Stewart Joseph before leaving the city for the Horowhenua where he joined Parke Cullinane & Turnbull in Levin. After a short period he struck out to establish his own practice in Otaki.
I first came upon Jim as a schoolboy playing basketball in the Hutt Valley. When I returned to New Zealand after an extended OE in the 1970s, he encouraged me to commence legal practice in Paraparaumu. The pair of us went into partnership in Levin, taking over the former practice of Bertram Grover Barbour & Butler. We called this firm Simpson West & Co while retaining our separate practices in Paraparaumu and Otaki under the same name. Later we acquired the long-established practice of Bergin and Cleary in Foxton.
Jim later formed his own practice, Simco Lawyers Limited, which he grew to four locations: Mana; Paraparaumu; Otaki; and Foxton. Over the years, we maintained a collegial working relationship and a strong friendship.
Jim was a fine sportsman and a rangy, natural athlete with a competitive edge. He earned sporting success in a number of fields.
Started out as a Hutt Valley primary schools representative.
Was in the Hutt Valley High School 1st XV.
Made the Wellington Under-19 and Under-20 reps.
Played for Petone with the likes of Richard Cleland and All Black captain Andy Leslie in the team which won the Jubilee cup a number of times.
In Dunedin he played for the Southern Club, a team that won the premier champion-ships a couple of times; he was selected to play for Otago, playing prop for a season, a significant achievement given the other men in the front row were Keith Murdock, Lindsay Clarke, and Jeff Matheson, all of whom were All Blacks.
When he moved to the Kapiti Coast he played loose forward and No 8 for Rahui, a team that he later captained; he was also chairman of the club and served on the committee for a number of years; he was selected to represent Horowhenua and was also made captain of that team.
He served on the Horowhenua rugby union board and was later president for a couple of years.
Other sporting achievements
He was a member of a Petone novice eights that won the national rowing championships.
He was selected as a Hutt Valley basketball representative; he continued playing basketball in Wellington with his age group, including competing at the world masters games, until shortly before his death.
He was a competitor for over a decade as a multisport competitor in the Southern Traverse, Coast to Coast and Iron Man Triathlons, including a first place finish on the cycle leg of the Coast to Coast’s ‘Longest Day’.
He was a top level squash player and a weekly tennis challenger right up until the last weeks of his life.
He was an enthusiastic and sometimes frustrated social golfer.
Later in life he became a passionate student of mountain adventure, ski touring and climbing, including the achievement of his level two ski instructor’s certificate; each year he travelled to different parts of the world, exploring mountains in Japan, Alaska, South America, Canada and Kashmir.
Jim was a general practitioner covering all aspects of law required in the community in which he lived. In his practice he competently ran a nominee company for many years, providing funding for those needing money and assisting many individuals and businesses through difficult times.
He was a founding member of the Regional Solicitor Group formed in the 1980s to promote collegiality among practitioners in provincial centres. This group continues today and will pay tribute to Jim at its next meeting.
He recognised the potential of information technology in its infancy and was an early adopter of software programs written for legal practices. The ‘Convey’ program developed by Jim for property transactions was a remarkable achievement and continues to be used by practices throughout New Zealand.
Jim encouraged and nurtured many lawyers in their early years of practice as evidenced by the presence of many at his funeral. Jim assisted a number of fellow practitioners encount-ering difficulties.
When the Levin Court was unable to find legal aid counsel and duty solicitors in the 1980s, Jim arranged for a panel of Wellington and Palmerston North practitioners to spend one day a week in Levin doing the work. Messrs: Davidson, Lithgow, Cleary, and Surridge, and Mesdames Harvey, and Gould among others provided a high standard of service during this period. With the travelling involved, they would not have been well remunerated for the work. That they did this solely as a public service deserves noteworthy recognition.
Jim made a substantial contribution to the wider community often pro bono. His special interests, young people and sport, particularly benefited. The Kapiti Skills Trust, which he chaired, ran for 26 years and organised courses that benefited many troubled young people referred by social agencies, police and the courts.
Sense of humour
Fun is not often a term used to describe lawyers, but over the years Jim had made a habit of shaking the norm. He had a quirky sense of humour that was often the opposite of politically correct.
The case of Karl Sim, ‘The Foxton Forger’, so capably defended by Ken Bailey on our instructions, provided two years of amusement for us all in the mid-1980s. After Sim was convicted on a few minor charges of forging works of C. F. Goldie, he changed his name to Carl Feodor Goldie and painted the mural on the Foxton public toilets to serve his sentence of community service.
Jim’s tongue-in-cheek, late-night decision to promote in New Zealand the sport of dwarf throwing met howls of protest. Some pointed to the directive of the European Union that member states ban the activity. Jim took great delight in making known the subsequent decision of the European Court of Justice that consenting dwarfs could be thrown.
When an earthquake caused masonry to fall on the desk of a staff member in the firm’s old Foxton building, she reported ‘seeing the sky’ through the roof, so Jim couriered a hard hat to her with fulsome instructions. Another staff member there, Miss Brewer, aged 93, handed in her resignation because her twin sister was fading and her bicycle unreliable. The upside for Jim was that he no longer had to covertly tip the coffee she made out of the window. I confess that I did the same. The coffee toxicity was illustrated by the lack of vegetation on the ground beneath the window.
Jim had all the qualities a lawyer should have and then some. He was very good at the law and his day-to-day work. The matters undertaken by Jim or under his supervision number in the thousands. Each and every one was important to a client, and each and every one involved effort and judgment by Jim and his able team, and I make a special mention of Kim Cook his personal assistant for 35 years.
When his illness was diagnosed, one of his main concerns was to secure the future employment of his staff and the welfare of his clients. Through his efforts, Wakefields Lawyers will take over Simco Lawyers Limited effective from 1 April 2018.
Of course, Jim’s true legacy is his family. To his wife, Carma, and his children Madeline, James Bruce and Skye, we extend our sympathy and share their loss. Thank you for sharing Jim with us.
Jim loved reading, writing and discussing poetry. His original verse graced many a special occasion and he proudly asserted his Scottish and Viking ancestry with the following toast:
‘Old friends are true friends,
Blood is thicker than water,
Death to the enemy’
Rest in peace Jim.
John West, LLB, professional colleague and friend.
This was first published in the April issue of Council Brief, the monthly newsletter of the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Law Society.