The Auckland District Law Society was formed on 28 March 1879. A meeting of twenty three practitioners was held at the Supreme Courthouse at Auckland convened by F.M.P. Brookfield and Frederick Whitaker who were elected Vice President and President respectively.

The Society was initially “The Law Society of the District of Auckland” until 1974 when it became the Auckland District Law Society and more recently with the passing of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 the Auckland District Law Society Incorporated was formed. The New Zealand Law Society continues to handle regulatory and disciplinary matters on behalf of the legal profession.

ADLS is incorporated under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 and the Rules ensure the organisation of around 4,000 voluntary members is positioned as the “Independent Voice of Law” carrying out collegial and representative responsibilities for its members. 

Sir Fred Whitaker, KCMG

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On 28 March 1879 Frederick Whitaker was elected the first President of ADLS in a meeting attended by 23 practitioners at the Supreme Court. He was 67 years old.

Whitaker was an English-born, New Zealand politician who served twice as Prime Minister of New Zealand and six times as Attorney-General.

He had arrived from England aged 28 in 1840 and began to practise law in Kororareka but transferred to Auckland when the seat of Government transferred in 1841. Politics, law and finance characterised his career.

Whitaker was at various times a member of the Legislative Council and Speaker in 1855 and 1856, Superintendent of Auckland, and later a member of the House of Representatives.

In 1861 he entered a legal partnership with Thomas Russell and together they founded the Bank of New Zealand. Whitaker was the epitome of the colonial merchant prince, being a man of many enterprises and considerable fortune. But the Depression of the 1880s almost ruined him and he died in 1891 “in straitened circumstances”.

Upon his death the New Zealand Herald offered that Whitaker had been “a colonist, a lawyer, a mining and land speculator, a member of the Provincial and Colonial legislatures and Premier”. They should have added that he was a colourful and distinguished President of the Law Society from its formation 135 years ago.

William Spring,
Former ADLS councillor