I well remember the first time I heard Brian speak publicly. It was in the late 1990’s. Someone from our firm was leaving, presumably for better pastures. Brian happened to be at our second office on Lincoln Road as the firm gathered for the farewell. He lingered. After some initial routine speeches, Brian stepped forward and spoke.
He talked about the firm and about the set of family values that he and Phillip Revell incorporated into its foundations when they set out to establish “Corban Revell Lawyers” in 1977. There was the immediate command of the room, through his demeanour and his speech. “a statesman”, I thought, as we all stood captivated: He kai a te rangatira, he kōrero. But more than that, his words of good family values in a law firm resonated with me.
I knew Brian was from a big family, but his declaration that good family values were key was not only a fundamental part of our firm, they were a natural part of the way in which he practiced the business of law. Family and business could not only mix, it was expected to be so. The communal could happily co-exist with the individual pursuits, and vice versa. It was a moment when I received confirmation from Brian, a founding father, that I had made the right choice in commencing my law career with Corban Revell Lawyers in 1994. Law firms will more regularly today liken themselves to families, and advocate a work place based on good family values, but I know that through Brian, that kind of thinking has been here since 1977. It is thinking that in relation to the profession was well ahead of its time.
Brian leaves a mark in the law that we are proud to continue. It is a mark of utter professionalism and of ethics and of kindness and of service. They guide us daily in the way in which we serve our clients and our communities. His skill in commercial transactions is not doubted, with many of his more significant deals particularly those involving land, still bearing his reputation after all these years.
We are proud, even privileged, to carry on Brian’s name as the name of our firm. His name is still said by many of our clients who are still with us and who will often remind me, “Brian was my first lawyer, so look after me as he did!”.
There are also the law books comprising our substantial library that Brian acquired for the firm over the years and which have his distinctive signature on the inside cover. One on my desk at the moment is the classic text “Learning the Law” eighth edition, Glanville Williams, and with the words “Brian Corban 5/3/73” inscribed inside. I like to think of Brian every time I pick up one of his books.
There is also for me his work as a Waitangi Tribunal member that maintains his legacy, and one inquiry that has a personal element to it. In 1997 he was a member of the Kaipara Tribunal. It was headed by Dame Augusta Wallace, with the other members being Sir Michael Basset, Dame Areta Koopu, and Sir John Turei. A formidable panel indeed! It was the first Tribunal that I appeared before and somewhat imposing. But Brian put me at ease. Just before I stood to give my address, Brian stood. He announced to the proceeding, again in a very statesman like and eloquent fashion, his connection to me through our firm. I like to think that it was his way of affirming our whanaungatanga, and of acknowledging the good family values that he and I stood for. Nō reira, Ka nui te mihi ki a koe e te Rangatira Brian.
Brian inspired me. He still does. He will be missed. His legacy will live on.
No reira e te Rangatira, hoea to waka ki o tupuna, haere, haere, haere atu ra.
Brian’s funeral is Friday 7 May 2021, 1pm, at St Micheals, 425 Great North Road, Henderson.
Ngā mihi nui, John Kahukiwa, Managing Partner, Corban Revell