The present-day firm, Woodward Chrisp, pays homage in its name to the history of providing legal services in the Gisborne district since 1884. Today’s partners are Adam Simperingham and Ellie FitzGerald. The senior leadership also comprises former partners Joe Martin, Ross Revington and Jeff Allen, and associates Michael Lynch, Holly Tunstall, Bernadette Hill and Belinda Andrew. Together, we are a firm of twenty two solicitors, one legal clerk, five legal executives and a fantastic team of support staff. We relocated to fresh modern premises on Reads Quay in September 2018. In September 2019, another long established Gisborne law firm, Burnard Bull & Co, joined with us and in October 2020 we established a Wairoa office, taking over the practice of Ian McDonald, who had been operating as a sole practitioner in Wairoa for over forty years.
Chrisp and Chrisp was a family business which was started in 1884 by EJ Chrisp who later formed a partnership with the Coleman brothers, creating Coleman and Chrisp. When that partnership dissolved, EJ Chrisp and his brother Ernest built an office in Childers Road and named the firm Chrisp & Chrisp. EJ’s son Harry joined the firm in 1919, and his nephew Dawson joined in 1923.
Tony, Harry’s son, continued the family legal tradition and joined the firm in 1958. Well-known local sporting identity Wayne Callaghan came on board in 1971 and Tony Adeane in 1974. These three partners forming the latter day Chrisp & Chrisp until Tony Adeane’s appointment as a District Court judge in 1984.
Tony Chrisp retired to Taupo in 1999 and the last remaining partner, Wayne Callaghan, moved to the amalgamated firm of Woodward Chrisp in 2002. Wayne, who was a hugely popular local identity, passed away in 2005.
In early 1925 Keith Alexander Woodward commenced practice in Gisborne in partnership with Geoffrey John Jeune. Their offices were at 1 Gladstone Road. In about 1936 that partnership was dissolved with Geoff Jeune in sole practice until he was appointed a Judge of the Maori Land Court in 1954.
Keith Woodward established an office at 50 Childers Road and continued as a sole practitioner until 1942 when he went into partnership with D’Arcy Walter Iles. Keith was an ebullient person with a readiness to take on a great variety of legal work. He firmly established the spirit and tone of the firm. He was a social and prominent person in the Gisborne community, known in business, sporting (especially rugby) and other circles. He remained with the firm until 1984.
D’Arcy Iles, a returned soldier, was admitted as a solicitor in 1925 and as a barrister in 1930. He had also been a sole practitioner in Gisborne since (about) 1933. Mr Iles applied his considerable skills to litigation and, in particular, to the preparation of matters to be heard in the Supreme Court (now the High Court). He retired in the early 1970s. His son Walter Iles, who worked for the firm for a short time, became New Zealand’s chief law draftsman. He was appointed a QC in 1989.
In 1951 Edgar Furness (commonly known as Bill Furness) joined the firm, which then became Woodward Iles & Furness. A most capable conveyance and commercial lawyer, he died suddenly in 1960 at the age of 46. The firm then became Woodward Iles & Co.
Later partners: Tony Kay, who left to work in London. Charles Chauvel, from French Polynesia, joined in 1960 and worked until his retirement in 1998.
Four past partners have been appointed as Judges. Phil Cooper and Denys Barry are current sitting Judges, John Gatley has retired and the late Dick Kearney was a District Court Judge and member of the Waitangi Tribunal.
The firm’s only other four partners were Debra Smallholme, now a Disputes Tribunal referee in Auckland, retired partners Bruce Carey and Geoff Bibby and Yvonne de Vries-Smith who relocated to Palmerston North in 2014.