Speculation on how long what he calls the second stage of his career will last doesn’t faze 84-year old Chapman Tripp partner Arthur Young.
After 60 years as a partner he says the firm “still want me here as far as I can tell and I have some very long-standing clients, and new clients as well as old clients. I still have a more than adequate client demand.
“There’s not many around as long as I have been around in the law at this stage.”
- Arthur William (Arthur) Young
- Stratford, Taranaki.
- Entry to law
- Graduated LLB from Auckland University in 1958. Admitted in 1957.
- Sixty years as partner at Chapman Tripp, Auckland.
- Speciality area
- Head of the firm’s private client team.
The son of a country lawyer, Arthur is a long-standing member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.
“I went to school in Stratford and got an academic scholarship to go to King’s College in Auckland – so my parents sent me there. That was life-changing and I’ve stayed in Auckland ever since.”
At Auckland University, Arthur was a contemporary of Sir Ian Barker and Robert Smellie – both of whom became High Court judges - all three graduating in 1958. Arthur was admitted as a solicitor in 1957 and a barrister in 1958.
A former president of the Auckland University Students’ Association in 1958-59, he received the university’s distinguished alumni award in 2002.
He became junior partner in Sheffield and Young on April 1, 1959, one of the founding firms of Chapman Tripp.
“I had a few years as a law clerk then went to work for Joe Sheffield with the prospect of a partnership.
“We were a two-man firm at that point with a couple of staff. I went on basically developing a property and commercial client base. Joe was a chartered accountant as well as a lawyer, which was unusual in those days.
“By the time of the law firm merger-mania in the 1980s we were Sheffield Young and Ellis with 10 partners and total numbers of 70. Sheffield Young and Ellis and Chapman Tripp then merged.
“We established a new firm called Chapman Tripp Sheffield Young but recognised it as a new firm, not a takeover. That was a point as far as we were concerned.
“I have been here ever since and am still here. We shortened the name 10 years ago on my instigation in the way most other firms have shortened their names, such as Bell Gully, Russell McVeagh, etc.”
“Why have I stayed with Chapman Tripp so long? It’s a strange thing. Joe Sheffield and I had an ambition to build a notable standout commercial law firm. It was a little private ambition we had. I’ve never said this to many people before.
“That ambition has always been at the back of my mind, and while these mega law firms are so different to a two-man or smallish partnership, the ambition for the firm has always been part of me.”
Lawyer and teacher parents
“My father Edgar was a country lawyer in Stratford, with basically farming clientele. Mother Lesley was a secondary school teacher and headmistress of a girls’ school.
“She was very keen on education and had a degree from London University prior to the first World War when very few women took degrees. She had a strong interest in education and academic achievement.”
Arthur’s siblings are all deceased. His brother Venn was a long-serving politician and a Cabinet minister in Robert Muldoon’s government, brother Bertram was a doctor and president of the Royal College of General Practitioners, and brother John was chairman of Kiwi Dairy and played a key role in the establishment of Fonterra. Niece Audrey is political editor of the New Zealand Herald.
He has a daughter, Diana, sons Michael and David, and a stepson, Lachlan.
“My children are all very musical in various ways. Diana qualified as a lawyer but is now an occupational therapist, Michael is a schoolteacher and education manager for the New Zealand Music Commission, David – the youngest is a full-time musician in Australia, and is currently musical director of the show The Book of Mormon, which is touring all round Australia.”
There are no other lawyers in the family.
Arthur’s second wife Helen Melrose, was a partner in the firm before setting up her own firm and later retiring. The couple took on a young Chinese-born girl as “a kind of surrogate child”.
“Fern Chen, now 30, has been part of our household for 18 years and now lives in Melbourne in a fashion position.
“Through a complicated series of events she came to New Zealand about secondary school stage. She was on her own. We took her on and Fern has been part of our family, we regard her like a daughter. We have seen her through school and AUT and now in a fashion position she is setting herself up for in Melbourne. We helped her relocate then visit her birth family in China.”
“I played squash until 50 and tennis until 80, and rugby and cricket earlier. I’ve been a keen golfer more than 50 years and my handicap, which got down to single figures, is now in the mid-20s.”
Arthur has been active in most roles at the Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club, where he has been club captain, president and is a life member.
“I’m reasonable widely travelled. I have been to every one of the top line golf courses in Ireland and quite a few in Scotland, and done that a few times.
“Helen and I go to Provence every year, and over the last seven or eight years have become very attached to the inland south of France. I have been on business to the East, Hong Kong, Singapore, and most of Australia.
“One of my golfing things was to go to Royal Dornoch, which is a historic club in the northern Highlands of Scotland. The club was formed in 1877, and they have been playing golf there since 1616, or earlier.
“I went there on a private mission - a crazy thing to do - and played 54 holes of golf in one day, visited two castles and wiped myself out from total exhaustion.
“My father was a lawyer and we had a doctor in the family. I was at that stage still doing Latin, which you needed back then. I took a liking to law and have enjoyed it ever since. I think my father thought I might go back to Stratford.
“I had a liking for what I call the real law where the law of the day reflects community standards, broadly speaking.
“There have been many changes in law. I still read judgments and do a lot of legal reading to keep in touch. I enjoy solving problems and finding answers that don’t involve litigation.
“I have not had much time in court, a little bit way back in the general practitioner days. But I have done very little advocacy in the court arena.
“If there is a better way to solve things, then I try to find the better way. The theatre part of it all, which does appeal to a lot of lawyers, and the career path which sometimes is there for those who are that way inclined, was never part of my thinking.
“We have a place on the Onetangi beachfront on Waiheke Island and at Wainui Beach, Gisborne, which are our two favourite holiday spots.
“Much to my regret I don’t play any musical instruments. I am keen on classical music and all sorts of music. All my children are very musical, which comes from my first wife Jo than from me.
“I like grand opera and the classical composers. Chopin is very restful and a particular favourite. Son David is a very good pianist and can play that stuff beautifully.
“I like symphonies and concertos. I like live performances and we recently went to a concert in St Matthew in the City by New Zealand pianist Michael Houston, which was marvellous.
“I read politics, history, economics and business from the perspective of their impact on the community. I don’t read novels, they never interested me.
“I’m currently interested in the changes taking place in east and central Asia and the Middle East. Also the European Union and the interface between Europe, the Middle East and central Asia. And what seems to be going on in the United States. Anything that gives me a better understanding of things at a national and international level.
“There’s nothing else to watch on television except sport. I get news elsewhere. We get the New York Times once a week and I tune into BBC News on television and get a bit more from that.
“We’ll go to good films when they come. Last film I saw was on opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, a Ron Howard documentary about the entirety of his career and life.
“I like the understated British actors, there’s a Bill Nighy film on I have to see. Helen Mirren, and Woody Allen I enjoy, he’s pretty wacky. I like the British and continental stuff.
“We have one cat, never had a dog. We had our previous cat for 21 years. This one is called Zoe. She has now become very bulky and part of the household, sleeps on the bed, and is specially coloured. We like our cats to have a standout colour scheme.
“I’ve driven Jaguars for a number of years – the current one is a 2.5 litre. Even though they’re owned by India now they have a British background and that’s my starting point. They have been outstanding cars for the whole of their time. Helen is trying to focus on an electric car - that’s yet to happen.”
Genghis Khan and the Chief Justice
When it comes to choice of dinner guests Arthur sets a new benchmark. “It sounds a bit kooky but I would have the current Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann. She’ll think ‘he’s trying to suck up to me’.
“I would also be looking around for younger people as opposed to people from my generation. I would include Genghis Khan, who conquered China and central Asia. Some of those extraordinary early navigators because what they did helped change the world. The sea routes became a major factor and reduced the importance of land routes over Asia.
“The emphasis would be on French cooking, with French wines from the south of France and Burgundy.”
The resolution of a commercial workout after the property crash still resonates as a memorable moment for Arthur.
“It followed the sharemarket crash where my client was the battler surviving. We had a settlement that started at about 5pm and extended through to 2am, that involved 32 different parties with different lawyers with the final okay for the transmission of the money coming by telephone from North America at a time there where the authoriser, in exhaustion, had already gone to sleep and had to be woken up by telephone.
“If I wasn’t a lawyer I would probably be an engineer. Engineering requires a disciplined approach and requires solving problems. It’s also got a majorly creative component.”
Arthur previously acted as trustee or chairman of a range of charitable or community organisations including the St Johns College Board, the Anglican Investment Trust Board, Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, the Bledisloe Estate Trust, and was president of the Auckland YMCA.
In 25 years as chairman of the former Real Estate Agents Fidelity Guarantee Fund - modelled on law practitioners’ one – he says there were very few claims. “Claims only really came along when agents started to mix up their agency activities with property management.”