New Zealand Law Society - Richard Gray Collins CBE, 1921 - 2007

Richard Gray Collins CBE, 1921 - 2007

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Dick Collins was an outstanding lawyer whose talents went further than the law. Dr David Collins QC (no relation) described him as "a man of prodigious talents [who] made immense contributions, not just to the law but to society as a whole".

Dick Collins was born in 1921 and educated at Wellington College and Victoria University of Wellington. His father, one of the founders of Rainey Collins, died of injuries received in World War I when Dick was an infant.

Dr Collins said Dick Collins was more than a skilful advocate: "He was wise and learned in the law and always looked for practical solutions for his clients.

"In one case, involving an intellectual property/trademark dispute, Dick settled upon a solution for a major brewery who were being sued by a German brewery over a brand name. Dick devised a brilliant solution. The New Zealand company would change its brand name. Dick even had a new name, and it was 'Steinlager'."

In addition to being a fine lawyer, Dick served his profession as President of the Wellington District Law Society in 1970 (he was involved with the WDLS Council in various roles for 10 years), and as a member of the New Zealand Law Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal for six years. He was Vice-President of the New Zealand Law Society for three years.

He was chairman of Television One, the forerunner of Television New Zealand, and a member of the Board of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation and the Crown Forestry Rental Trust. He was chairman of the NZLS ethics committee, and president of the Wellington Medico-Legal Society. He was awarded the CBE in 1987.

Speaking at Dick's funeral, longtime colleague Gaeline Phipps said he had an "astounding ability to pick up languages" - he was fluent in French, German and Italian, read classical Greek and Latin, and could also converse in Russian and modern Greek.

"He was the most cultured man I know. Helped by his fluency in classical languages, he managed to get into the heads of past artists and poets, understanding their work to depths missed by most of us."

Despite his prestigious achievements, Dick Collins is remembered as being a truly great role model. Dr Collins said he was a very special confidant and a mentor. "He was always extraordinarly kind and generous with his time, and always willing to share his enormous wisdom with those of us who haed the good fortune to follow him in his firm."

Gaeline Phipps remembered him as a helpful and sensitive colleague. "Empathy was a quality he had in abundance - the timing of some particular words of encouragement, at a time when I had been humbled by the realisation of all the things I didn't know - hard to accept when you are young - made a huge difference to my future career decisions."

This obituary was published in Council Brief, the monthly newsletter of the Wellington District Law Society, in the October 2007 issue.

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