Richard James Strachan Harman arrived in New Zealand on one of the first four ships, the Sir George Seymour, on 17 December 1850. In doing so, he brought to Canterbury a name that was to become synonymous with the law. 11 years later, Richard’s son Thomas DeRenzy Harman was born.
DeRenzy was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in the Supreme Court at Christchurch on 31 October 1884, and four years later set up a practice on his own account. He was subsequently joined in partnership by Heinrich Frederick Von Haast in the 1890’s, however the partnership later dissolved and Mr Von Haast went to Wellington. At one stage DeRenzy Harman was in partnership with Mr Thomas Hanmer, for whom Hanmer Springs is named.
DeRenzy Harman and Thomas Maude (brother of Nurse Maude) then formed a partnership in the 1900’s practising from premises at 194 Hereford Street and also at Ashburton. When this partnership dissolved in 1909, DeRenzy Harman carried on the business until 18 July 1924. It was then that his second son, Annesley DeRenzy Harman, joined him in partnership. The firm became known as T.D. Harman & Son. Annesley Harman retired as a partner on 31 March 1973, continuing as a consultant until his death on 10 June 1977.
Between 1956 and 1962 three of Annesley Harman’s sons joined the practice – Brian Harman in 1956 (retired 2007); Colin Harman in 1961 (retired 2008); and Peter Harman in 1962 (retired 1992).
The firm has enjoyed rapid expansion since the late 1960’s. In 1980 the firm moved to new premises in the Guardian Royal Exchange building at 79-83 Hereford Street. And in 1990 the firm moved again, this time to premises on levels 18 and 19 of the Pricewaterhouse Coopers building in Armagh Street.
In 2003 the firm purchased Papanui Law, and merged that firm with its Papanui branch operating from premises at Blair Avenue, subsequently moving to premises at 485 Papanui Road.
The devastating earthquake of 22 February 2011 rendered our central offices in the PriceWaterhouseCoopers building uninhabitable. Fortunately the firm was able to quickly re-establish in the Papanui building which housed our branch office and continue its services for our clients.
On 30 September 2019, Harmans finally returned to the Central City at 79-81 Cashel Street (Westpac Building) and the firm operated from two locations – City and Papanui.
On 12 June 2021, Harmans made the decision to bring the firm all back together in the Central City office. Having had a Central City office since 1888 when the firm was first established (until the earthquakes occurred) it is great to reconnect with the city centre and re-establish our presence in Christchurch’s developing heart.
If there’s one feature of our business which has contributed to our longevity and continued success more than anything else, it’s been our willingness to adapt. With such a long and proud history, it is little wonder that Harmans have become one of New Zealand’s leading and more successful law firms.