History of the Law Firm Rennie Cox

The law firm of Rennie Cox dates back to 1920, and is approaching its centennary. The firm is one of the few firms in Auckland, or indeed in New Zealand, where there have been three generations of the same family as partners from inception through to the present day.

It all started in 1920 when Frederick James Cox ("Fred"), father and grandfather respectively of the current partners, Graeme Cox and John Cox, returned from World War 1. After his discharge from the forces, Fred returned as a clerk to the law firm to which he was articled in 1910, being Reed, Bailey and Towle. In 1920 Fred joined Nugent Percy Wyatt, forming the firm called Wyatt and Cox. Fred continued in partnership with N.P. Wyatt until 1926, when the partnership was dissolved.

At the conclusion of World War 1, Fred's brother, John Watson Cox, eleven years Fred's junior, was still a student at Auckland Grammar School. After finishing at Auckland Grammar, John W. Cox also studied the law, and he became a clerk in the firm of Stanton Johnstone & Spence for some years. After qualifying as a solicitor, John joined Wyatt & Cox as a senior qualified clerk.

When Fred dissolved partnership with N.P. Wyatt, Fred and his brother John, decided to establish the firm of Cox & Cox (usually known as Cox & Box, after the well-known Gilbert & Sullivan play), and this practice continued until it was amalgamated with Goulding & Rennie in 1933.

In 1933, the law firm of Goulding, Rennie, Cox & Cox was formed by an amalgamation of the two then existing firms of Goulding & Rennie, and Cox & Cox. That year, the new firm employed Russell Tonson Garlick, as an articled clerk. Russell was most likely the last clerk to be articled in Auckland, and he started on the princely salary of 7 shillings 6 pence per week. Russell had graduated from Auckland University College, and upon John W Cox's retirement in 1939, Russell Garlick was admitted into the partnership, and the firm assumed the name of Rennie Cox & Garlick.

It transpired that each of the senior partners' sons also joined the firm as partners;  Peter Rennie in 1945, Graeme Cox in 1956, and Hugh Garlick in 1968. John Sparling joined the practice in 1978, at which time the firm changed its name to Rennie Cox, Garlick & Sparling. John Cox (junior) joined the firm as a partner in 1993.  John Cox and Graeme Cox went "back to the future" in 2000, when the firm Rennie Cox Garlick & Sparling was dissolved, and the firm Rennie Cox (not Cox & Cox), was formed. Wayne Richards joined as a partner in 2008.

To put first things first and because it is far more interesting to consider the older history, it would not seem amiss to give a "thumbnail" sketch of the four senior and founding partners of Rennie Cox, J.C. Rennie, F.J. Cox & J.W. Cox, and Russell Tonson Garlick. These notes were penned by Fred Cox before he died in 1981.

Firm Founders

JAMES CAMPBELL RENNIE, known as "Cam", was a descendant of a well known Mangere farming family and was educated at the Mangere Central Primary School and Auckland Grammar School. He graduated L.L.B. from the Auckland University College and was admitted as a Solicitor in 1914, and later as a Barrister in 1949. He was a Senior Clerk in the office of M.G. McGregor, a well known Barrister of his time. He enlisted for the First World War where he served in the Machine Gunners and was wounded at Passchendaele.  Rennie represented the Auckland Grammar School at shooting, and was a member of the team that won the Campbell Vase in or about the year 1908. He was an Auckland University and North Island Hockey Representative. He often told me that living as he did at Mangere, and with transport from there irregular and sparse, he was obliged when attending A.G.S. to walk from Mangere to Onehunga where he caught in the early days, a horse bus and later a tram car. Later when he attended University owing to late lectures he was obliged to board in Auckland. He was possessed of a good tenor voice, and was a member of the Auckland Male Choir for many years. He was the riding member for Takapuna on the Waitemata County Council for many years, and Deputy Chairman of the Council. He was a prominent member of the Auckland Institute and Museum, and was its President, and later a life member and during his term of office as President the Roll of Honour of the Museum was established and completed. He was a member of the Council of the Auckland District Law Society for several years and was Chairman of the conveyancing committee. He did not seek office as President of the Society which was a pity because his long experience on Local Bodies would have fitted him for that office which he would, in my opinion, have filled with distinction. Cam Rennie retired from the firm in 1968.
FREDERICK JAMES COX was educated at Taupiri Public School of which his father was Headmaster and at Auckland Grammar School where he represented the School at Rugby and Tennis. He graduated L.L.B. from Auckland University College in 1919 after his return from the First World War, having passed the Solicitors subjects and all but two subjects of the degree prior to enlistment. He was an officer in the 16th Waikato Regiment of the 2nd Auckland Battalion in France and was wounded at La Signy Farm in the second Somme Battle in March 1918. He lost the sight of an eye, and he always alleged that he was a one eyed Aucklander both metaphorically and physically. After leaving hospital at Brockenhurst, England he was granted a scholarship at Cambridge University where he had hoped to complete his degree, however, at that time, no credit was given for any New Zealand subjects acquired (although after the war, such credit was given), and after entering Trinity Hall for a short period, he decided to return to New Zealand to start in practice. He was the first Secretary of Auckland Law Students Society, and prior to enlistment, was President of the Auckland University College Students Association. He represented A.U.C. in athletics.  During the Second World War, he was Crown representative on the Armed Forces Appeal Board, and after the war its Chairman.  He is a past President of the Officers Club. He was on the Board of Governors of the Grammar Schools for many years, and was Deputy Chairman from 1953 to 1962, and is a past President of the Auckland Grammar School Old Boys Association. He was for many years on the Council of the Auckland District Law Society and was its President in 1954.  In 1955, he was with Mr N.J. Butler, one of the delegates of the New Zealand Law Society at the Empire and Commonwealth Legal Conference held in London. He was also one of the two delegates of the New Zealand Law Society at the International Bar Association conference held in Edinburgh in 1962. Fred loved the fact that his son, Graeme, joined the firm as a partner, and that his daughter, Nan, also worked at the firm for 23 years as a Legal Executive, working with Graeme. Nan retired in 1991. Fred continued to call into the office daily, (gentlemen's hours), until he died, aged 88.
JOHN WATSON COX a brother of F.J. Cox, was educated at Mt. Eden and Maungawhau Primary Schools and the Auckland Grammar School. He graduated L.L.B. from Auckland University College.  He was gifted with a good singing voice and with many attributes as an actor and during his university days he took part in many University extravaganzas and plays, some of which were written by L.P. Leary Q.C. and J.A. Coppard. He undertook the junior Court work of the firm, while Arthur Goulding did the senior Court work. When Arthur Goulding went onto the Bench, all the Court work fell upon J.W. Cox. This was considerable and exacting, especially the appearances before the Mortgagors Relief Commission, and he decided to give up active practice in the firm just prior to the admission of Russell Garlick, as a partner. He purchased a small farm at Glen Innes, and when the Second World War broke out, he was too old to serve overseas, but joined the staff at Army Headquarters in Auckland, and was a member of the Security Branch of the army until the cessation of Hostilities. During that time he studied town planning, and obtained an English degree in Town Planning, and was ultimately appointed the Director of Town Planning for New Zealand upon the retirement of Dr. Mawson. He held this position until his retirement in 1970.  Thereafter, he practised as a Town Planning Consultant in Wellington.
RUSSELL TONSON GARLICK was educated at Mt. Albert Primary School and Mt. Albert Grammar School. He was a past President of the Mt. Albert Grammar School Old Boys Association. He was the first clerk employed by the amalgamated firm of Goulding Rennie, Cox and Cox, coming to the firm as an Articled Clerk in 1933. It may be that he was the last clerk to be articled in Auckland. He enjoyed the initial munificent salary of 7 shillings 6 pence per week! He graduated L.L.B. from Auckland University College, and upon the retirement of J.W. Cox, he was admitted into partnership in 1939, and the firm assumed the name of Rennie, Cox & Garlick. He enlisted for service in the Air Force in the Second World War, receiving his training in Canada, where he obtained his commission as a Flight Lieutenant. During operations in Europe, he was a Navigation Officer, and while flying on a bombing mission over Germany in 1945, his plane was shot down. He was thrown clear of the plane when it exploded, and while falling down to earth, he had sufficient consciousness to be able to pull the rip cord, his parachute opened and he descended into the German countryside, which was buried in snow on a perfect moonlight night.  His parachute became caught up in a tree and he landed safely on his fundamental at the foot of the tree. The "gen" was of course to secrete ones parachute and go into hiding, but he could not release the parachute and then set out to find a hiding place. However, his descent was observed by the enemy, and he found himself confronted by a German sentry and his dog, and as his position was hopeless, he considered discretion the better part of valour and gave himself up. He was imprisoned in Stalag III, the detention camp celebrated for the Wooden Horse Escape. This escape was underway when he arrived at the camp, but although he had no part in it he was, with others, fully aware of the plan. It was about three months before it was known that he had been taken prisoner, and although during those three months no word was heard of him, and he was reported missing. Dorothy, his wife never gave up hope, as she was certain that he had survived. In due course, his capture and survival were reported through the Red Cross, and when the British, in the last phases of the war over ran the camp, Russell escaped, returned to England and was repatriated to New Zealand. The then remaining partners of the firm, J.C. Rennie and F.J. Cox, were as overjoyed as Dorothy to have him back.  On his return, Russell continued to practise in the common law area until his untimely early passing before he reached the age of 60. Unfortunately, Russell was unable to see his son Hugh join the firm and become a partner.  Hugh Garlick retired from the partnership in 1999.