New Zealand Law Society - Richard Gibbons Hall, 1939 - 2006

Richard Gibbons Hall, 1939 - 2006

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Richard Hall’s wit, his facility with words both written and spoken, his skill in the law and concern for clients, were among the attributes remembered at a celebration of his life at the Masterton Town Hall in February 2006.

Richard Peterson, who knew Mr Hall when both were law students at Victoria University, described him as “…an unassuming, erudite man who displayed great practical commonsense and kindness. He had a great sense of humour, and was no mean public speaker.”

Richard Hall became interested in fencing at university along with His Honour Justice Ellis, the late Chris Beeby, and other successful Wellington fencers. He represented Victoria in fencing at winter tournaments, and with Richard Peterson formed part of the second New Zealand Universities Fencing Team to tour Australia which competed against Australian Universities and State sides in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in 1963.

He was also involved in university fencing administration and took over running the Wellington Swords Club when he left university. His major fencing achievement was to win the New Zealand épée title at the New Zealand Fencing Championship in 1968.

His first job was with Brandon Ward McAndrew & Watts while still studying law. Subsequently he joined Luckie Hain Kennard & Sclater and worked with Charlie Hain, a former President of the Wellington District Law Society.

Richard Peterson and Richard Hall travelled together on the obligatory “OE” during the early 1960s. Mr Peterson describes an incident in Italy which typified Richard Hall’s demeanour: “On another occasion in a grocer’s shop in north Italy my limited Italian vocabulary failed me and instead of asking for ‘eggs’ I asked for ‘eyes’ to the surprise and consternation of the shopkeeper. Richard, however, had no hesitation in squatting down on his haunches, flapping his elbows and emitting hen or rooster like noises to convey the nature of our requirements to the proprietor, much to the amusement of others in the shop.”

Richard Hall first came to the Wairarapa with the intention of growing tomatoes in Carterton. Apparently he soon tired of that and went back to work as a lawyer, first as a locum with Daniell King, and then to Gawith Hutchison & Hall as it then was. He retired from Gawith Burridge in March 2005 and became ill later in the year.

Speaking on behalf of the community, local businessman Gary Daniell said he considered himself fortunate to have had Richard Hall as his lawyer. “I admired his pragmatism, his thoughtful reasoning and above all his tolerance and courtesy… My family, staff and business partners consulted Richard on various occasions and he helped them all, with his wisdom and patience.

“His qualification as a Notary Public was also an asset to the region.”

Mr Daniell mentioned Richard Hall’s other community activities. These included:

  • Trustee of the Masterton Trust Lands Trust for 24 years. “He was largely responsible for writing the new act which brought up to date the code of operation of the trust… we can thank Richard for the very continuation of this body for at the time of the local body reforms he made representation on behalf of the trust when its existence was threatened.
  • Chairman of the Wairarapa Building Society for 12 of his 16 years on the body.
  • Life membership of the Automobile Association.
  • Gave valuable service to the Masterton District Council, recently becoming the first chairman of the Trimble Foundation and advancing his vision of an arboretum.
  • Supported Wairarapa causes, for instance, was a member of the Hill Road Committee that advanced the Kaitoke deviation, now in its final stages.
  • Was a member of the panel that chose the award-winning Aratoi architect, and “supported the project in his usual tenacious manner”.

Richard Hall served on the Wellington District Law Society in 1994-95 and again in 2002 to 2004. He was Convenor of the Property Law Committee, the Public Relations Committee, and the Restructuring Committee.

Several speakers referred to Richard Hall’s penchant for older cars, including “two old Rovers in a fleet of vintage cars”, and for “large old and drafty maintenance-hungry houses which he then turned into warm, welcoming homes”.

Former partner at Gawith Burridge Jock Kershaw said he spoke for his current and former partners in appreciating Richard Hall’s:

  • sense of humour,
  • his turn of phrase,
  • his vast knowledge of all things English,
  • his love of history,
  • his story telling,
  • his commitment to all matters legal,
  • his rhymes at appropriate moments,
  • his steady hand on our partnership and his loyalty to the firm’s employees,
  • his dedication and interest to his clients affairs,
  • his willingness to do pro bono work for those less fortunate,
  • his wise counsel to many and not least his dedication to Friday night drinks.

“Richard saw the need for the firm to grow and was instrumental and supportive of the various mergers, single-handedly orchestrating the merger with Burridge & Co, the biggest merger and the most trouble free. He was supportive of younger members of the profession looking for work experience. A number of our current staff came to us following Richard’s positive endorsement…

“Every so often our lives are touched by the presence of somebody whose qualities are special; Richard was such a person.”

This obituary was first published in Council Brief in March 2006.

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