New Zealand Law Society - Richard Spence Volkmann Simpson CBE, 1914 - 2005

Richard Spence Volkmann Simpson CBE, 1914 - 2005

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Richard (Dick) Simpson CBE spent his entire legal career - a span of 54 years - at Bell Gully & Co. At Bell Gully Mr Simpson did a variety of legal work including conveyancing, trust and commercial law, and, as he says in his memoir: "... I drifted into corporate law".

At Dick Simpson's funeral recently Sir Owen Woodhouse said that Mr Simpson was part of "...a remarkable quartet which rebuilt the firm immediately after the Second World War". Being named in that quartet placed Dick Simpson in illustrious company - the other members were AB (Bill) Buxton, who went on to become New Zealand Law Society President, Sir Dennis Blundell who became Governor-General, and Sir Richard Wild, later to become Chief Justice.

Sir Owen said Dick Simpson was "... the anchor man, destined to become director of more than two dozen of the country's significant companies, president or chairman of notable governmental, charitable and social organisations, and an able lawyer whose clear, unambiguous opinions were given the invaluable confirmation of a rare and balanced intuition.

Dick Simpson studied law at Victoria University and graduated LLM in 1939. He joined Bell Gully in 1936 while studying part-time. He became a partner in 1946 and retired as a consultant in 1990.

He was a member of the Wellington District Law Society Council for 10 years and was elected president in 1967. He was a member of the New Zealand Law Society Council and, amongst many other roles, chaired what he called " awful committee, the Fidelity Fund...". He was also president of the Wellington District Society of Notaries in 1976.

Dick Simpson very much enjoyed his time as a student at Victoria and maintained a lifelong interest in the university. He was the first student representative on the council of a New Zealand university, from 1938 to 1941, and this was also a first in the Commonwealth. In later years he was appointed to a number of university committees and was Pro-Chancellor 1966-68, and Chancellor 1968-75. He was awarded an honorary LLD in 1976.

Throughout his career Dick Simpson's wide interest in the arts and concern for the community were reflected in his involvement in many cultural and community organisations, either as member of chairman. Among the more notable of these were the QEII Arts Council, Wellington Medical Research Foundation, Hannah Playhouse Trust Board, National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, NZ Society for Music Therapy, Wellington Youth Orchestra, the Winn-Manson Menton (now Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship) Foundation, and the World Wildlife Fund.

He was chairman of the Higher Salaries Commission, 1974-85, and the Indecent Publications Tribunal, 1970-74.

Sir Owen Woodhouse said at the funeral: "It is not difficult to think of the defining qualities which literally shone out of Dick Simpson: deep affection and loyalty; uncomplicated support for all that was good; immediate acceptance of duty; the acute perception of a first class mind; unselfish, unerring sensitivity for the hopes of others; natural confidence, without the least hint of vanity; and effervescent, bubbling, enthusiastic energy."

This was published in the August 2005 issue of Council Brief, the monthly newsletter of the Wellington District Law Society.

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