We farewell Denham Shale – lawyer, director and philanthropist (1940-2016)

ADLS and Law News were saddened to hear of the recent passing of highly respected lawyer and long-time member of ADLS, James Denham Shale (Denham). Mr Shale passed away on October 24 2016, aged 76 years, still in practice.

Denham Shale

A well-known and much loved member of the legal and business communities in New Zealand, Mr Shale will be remembered for his knowledge of the law and his governance experience across a wide range of industries, his willingness to impart and share wisdom, and his desire to serve others and give back to his community.

Denham Shale was a partner and former Chairman of Kensington Swan, before ultimately leaving the firm to set up his own practice. He joined Kensington Swan just after its formation in 1986, coming to it as a sole practitioner from the firm Shale and Burnes.

Mr Shale chaired Kensington Swan at the time of its merger with KPMG Legal in 2000, but due to the directorships he held, he left at the time of the merger to re-enter practice as a sole practitioner.

Kensington Swan Partner Tim MacAvoy describes Mr Shale as “a highly respected lawyer and an experienced company director”.

Mr Shale’s sole practice law firm listed 19 areas of specialty, which, as Mr MacAvoy notes, was “an indication of the enthusiasm with which he approached the law”.

“Denham was a fine man, well respected and will be missed by many,” says Mr MacAvoy.

As well as his active legal practice, Mr Shale was a director of wide experience in numerous public, private and not-for-profit organisations, sitting on or chairing the boards of many wellknown and high profile entities over the years.

Amongst those for whom he served as Chairman were the Farmers Trading Company Ltd, Dunedin City Holdings Ltd, Japan New Zealand Business Council, Eastern Hi Fi Ltd, Jenkin Timber Ltd and Advantage Group Ltd.

He was also a director of various companies in the James Pascoe Group, as well as Oceana Gold Ltd, Whitcoulls 2011 Ltd, Munich Reinsurance Company of Australasia Ltd, Owens Group Ltd, Turners Auctions Ltd, Zespri Group Ltd and Piha Surf Life Saving Club, to name but a few.

His vast experience in corporate governance was reflected in his long involvement with the Institute of Directors of which he was a past President, becoming a Distinguished Fellow in 2014 – the Institute’s highest accolade.

Denham Shale was also a long-time and committed supporter of Mercy Hospice and was one of the foundation Trustees and former Chairman of the Mercy Hospice Auckland Foundation (one of the Hospice’s long-term fundraising entities).

“Denham was a wonderful friend and supporter of Mercy Hospice for the last 20 years,” said Denis Wood, Mercy Hospice’s Chairman.

“In the earlier years, Denham was responsible for attracting major corporate companies as sponsors for our fundraising activities. He was also more than happy to provide legal advice on both small and sometimes complex issues.”

Mr Wood says that Mr Shale was very active in promoting the interests of the Hospice amongst the wider community and was instrumental in helping raise much-needed funding.

“The Foundation now has over $6 million and, during his term as Chairman, Denham ensured it generated good investment returns whilst always having a mind to the protection of its capital base. Denham was also a very visible supporter of Hospice and for the last 10 years has organised three tables at our largest fundraising lunch.

“Denham was always approachable and pleased to provide advice and help whenever requested,” remembers Mr Wood. “A great friend who will be missed.”

Former High Court Judge Dame Judith Potter was a partner with Mr Shale in Kensington Swan until her appointment to the High Court Bench in 1997. Dame Judith describes Mr Shale as “a valued colleague and a great friend”.

“Denham was a proud member of the legal profession. He loved the profession and respected and practised the principles of honesty, independence, impartiality and fairness as he served faithfully the interests of his clients. He enjoyed and valued the collegiality of the profession,” says Dame Judith.

“We shared in the challenges as the recently-merged national firm of Kensington Swan found its feet – both challenges and opportunities were embraced with determination, good will and good humour.”

Dame Judith related an incident which stands out in her memory as an illustration of Mr Shale’s ability to deal calmly with high pressure situations. Shortly after Dame Judith became President of the New Zealand Law Society in 1991, the debacle of Renshaw Edwards broke.

As readers who were in practice at that time will recall, millions of dollars of clients’ funds were lost through the trust account, with Mr Renshaw and Mr Edwards each claiming he was unaware of the criminal activities of the other that resulted in these losses.

“The investigations to reveal the full extent of the loss and its causes were difficult, complicated and necessarily lengthy,” recalls Dame Judith.

“Ultimately, solicitors were levied $10,000 each to cover the deficit in the fidelity fund in order to reimburse the many clients who lost money. This scandal attracted voracious interest from the news media which I fronted, as best I could, on behalf of the profession. But the media continuously demanded explanations and answers which took time to emerge and which I could not initially provide. Each branch of the media clamoured to be first with any news.

“One afternoon, Paul Holmes arrived in the ground floor foyer of the Kensington Swan building in Fanshawe Street with photographer and entourage, demanding the attention and presence of ‘Miss Judith Potter’. He was advised I was not available but this did not deter him – loud, incessant demands for my presence followed and he would not leave. The receptionists were baffled and called for reinforcements.

“Into this chaos stepped Denham – calm, controlled and authoritative. Mr Holmes and his entourage departed, sanity was restored and Denham returned calmly to me on the ninth floor.”

A Requiem Mass for Mr Shale was held at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland on 28 October, with many of friends and former colleagues in attendance to pay tribute to him.

ADLS and Law News wish to pass on our sympathies to Mr Shale’s wife Gillian and their family at this time.

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