Oldest law firm in the world: Thomson Snell and Passmore in Kent, England is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the oldest law firm in continuous operation. It was established in 1570 by Reverend Nicholas Hooper, a curate who set up in business as a “Scrivener and Drafter of Documents”.
Oldest law firm in New Zealand: The Wellington firm Treadwells was founded in 1840 by the first lawyer to arrive in New Zealand, Richard Davies Hanson. Just before he left for South Australia in 1846 he was joined in practice by Robert Hart, thus keeping the firm going. Hanson flourished, becoming Attorney-General, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of South Australia and being knighted. Four-partner Treadwells also continues to flourish in Wellington’s Johnston Street.
Biggest law firm in the world: The latest American Lawyer Global 200 was published in October 2018 and covers 2017. It says US-based Kirkland & Ellis had most revenue, with US$3.16 billion. Dentons appears to be the biggest law firm by staff, with over 8,600 lawyers and professionals in 175 offices in 78 countries. It was founded in March 2013 when several firms merged and has no head office.
Longest career as a Judge: According to the Guinness Book of Records, Judge Wesley E Brown served continuously in the United States District Court for 49 years and 295 days – from 4 April 1962 until his death aged 104 on 23 January 2012. New Zealand permanent judicial careers end with retirement at the age of 70. To beat Judge Brown’s record, a New Zealand judge would need to be appointed to the bench when aged 20 years and 69 days.
Largest courthouse in the world: Istanbul’s Anatolian Justice Palace opened in January 2016 to bring together all the separate courthouses on the Anatolian side of Istanbul (a grander-scale Christchurch Justice Precinct perhaps). It covers 80,000 square metres and includes 326 rooms for prosecutors, 298 courtrooms and 51 bailiffs offices, as well as two conference halls.
Largest gavel in the world: New Zealand’s media remains woefully ignorant of the fact that gavels are not and have never been used in New Zealand courts. Gavels reign supreme in the land of Judge Judy, however, and the world’s largest gavel was unveiled in June 2018 outside the Clark County courthouse in Illinois. Made of oak, it is 20 metres high, 5 metres long and 11 metres wide. Abraham Lincoln appeared in the courthouse before he became President.
Longest judgment in the world: Like all records, you can never be totally sure that someone hasn’t topped this – although it would be hard. The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court delivered an 8,000-plus page judgment (filling 21 volumes) in October 2010. The very political and religious Ayodhya title suit had begun 60 years earlier. The three-judge bench each prepared their own judgments for a 2:1 majority decision. In his relatively tiny 285-page judgment, SU Khan J paid tribute to the “great detail” of pleadings, issues, evidence, arguments and related decisions in the mammoth judgment of Sudhir Agarwal J. Commentators quickly started to criticise the reasoning and the Supreme Court of India issued a stay in March 2011, describing the verdict as “strange”. The Supreme Court referred the matter to a panel of mediators in March 2019 and sought a progress report from the panel in mid-July.
Longest legal career: In 2017 the Guinness Book of Records designated Russian David Barulya as the world’s longest serving lawyer, with 70 years and 306 days in practice. Mr Barulya was born in Tsarist Russia on 25 February 1912 and died later in 2017 aged 105. He reportedly won his last case when aged 104. At 1 July 2019 one New Zealand lawyer had been in practice for 70 years and 125 days. No name for privacy reasons.
Oldest law book in the world: Technically, perhaps, not a book. The stele of Hammurabi, King of Babylon, dates back to 1754 BCE (around 3,770 years ago). It is made of diorite stone and 2.29 metres high. There are 3,638 short lines of text arranged in 44 columns and included is a code of laws consisting of about 282 enactments and dealing with a wide range of subjects. Almost half the laws deal with contracts and around a third with what could be described as family law.