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Our History

The Very Beginning


Joshua Porter is considered by some to be the founder of Corcoran French, setting up practice in Kaiapoi in 1865.  However, we trace our true establishment to 1892 when Marshall Nalder and Ernest Papprill formed a new legal partnership in Kaiapoi.


Joshua Porter arrived in Canterbury in 1850 and was appointed clerk of the Magistrate’s Court in 1853 and then Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court. By 1865, he had started a legal practice in Kaiapoi and that year was elected to the Municipal Council and appointed Chairman. Two years later he was re-elected and held the same position, then in September 1868, was elected to the new Kaiapoi Borough Council and became the town’s second Mayor.


He was captain of the Kaiapoi Fire Police in 1871, Chief Inspector of the Fire Brigade and a Councillor again in 1874.


Porter conducted his practice from his home on the site of the current Kaiapoi Working Men’s Club. In 1881, a partnership was established with Marshall Nalder but this was dissolved within a year.


Joshua Porter was appointed resident Magistrate at Kaiapoi in 1882, but two years later he took leave for health reasons, going to Sydney, where he died.


First Partnership established 1892


Marshall Nalder continued as a Barrister and Solicitor on his own at Kaiapoi and Rangiora, acting for the Waimakariri Harbour Board amongst others. In 1892, he was joined by Ernest Papprill and two years later they formed a partnership to enable Nalder to work in Christchurch City and at Rangiora while Papprill continued to work at Kaiapoi.


Papprill lived in Kaiapoi to “devote the whole of his time to the advancement of Kaiapoi”. The partnership was dissolved in 1896. Nalder gave up law and became a librarian to the Supreme Court he died in 1906.


Ernest Papprill continued his practice on his own account in Kaiapoi, as well as keeping up the weekly visits to Rangiora. A lay reader at St. Bartholomew’s, he was also captain of the Kaiapoi Rifle Volunteers on the Active Unattached List and in 1910, received the 20 Years Service Medal.


A new partnership began in 1908 with J L Conlan, who practised at Kaiapoi, with Papprill opening an office in Hereford Street, Christchurch.


In 1914 Papprill, whilst living at Kaiapoi, worked in Christchurch, Rangiora and Kaiapoi.


E J Corcoran joins partnership


Edmund Corcoran’s appointment as a partner in 1923 began the firm’s association with the Corcoran name. Edmund Corcoran worked in the Kaiapoi Office while Papprill continued to visit Rangiora weekly.   The firm name continued as Papprill, Salter and Gresson.


Edmund Corcoran was the 1917 Dux of Timaru Boys’ High School.  He graduated from University in law and in commerce with First Class Honours. Living in Kaiapoi, he was a keen mountaineer, and also enjoyed cricket, tennis and golf and actively participated in sports and municipal administration.


Corcoran name established in partnership


In 1930, T.K. Papprill, son of Ernest Papprill, was appointed as a Partner in the firm.  K.M. Gresson retired and a new partnership commenced under the firm name of Papprill, Salter & Corcoran.


In 1933, a further partnership changed the firm name to Papprill, Son & Corcoran. In 1953, E.J. Corcoran and T.K. Papprill dissolved their partnership. E.J. Corcoran took over the Kaiapoi practice and T.K. Papprill the Christchurch practice.


E.J. Corcoran practised on his own account from 1953 until 1956, when he was joined in partnership with his son, Anthony Robin Corcoran.  This partnership continued until the death of E.J. Corcoran in 1965.  Other partners have included K.H. Thwaites (1963) and R.T. Brown (1965) with the firm name E J Corcoran Son Thwaites & Brown used until 1988 when the firm was renamed Corcoran French.


Kaiapoi office


The firm's legal services in Kaiapoi date back into last century; the first office was a wooden office that stood at the corner Charles-Williams (then Cookson) Streets.


About 1928, a fire destroyed the building, which was rebuilt in solid concrete on the same site.


Another major fire in 1976 led to the demolition of the Hansen shopping block. The legal office stood alone on the corner, and with Borough Council proposals for redevelopment of the whole area under discussion, relocation and new premises were considered.


Corcoran’s principals decided to build the town’s first major office block a short distance along the street. This three storey building was the most significant business building in Kaiapoi at the time.  The new building named "Ngai Tahu Court" opened in 1978.


Ngai Tahu connection


At the opening of the new office, Mr Barney Manawatu, upoko rununga of Ngai Tuahuriri, presented pounamu to Mrs Alice Corcoran, widow of E.J. Corcoran and announced his iwi's consent to the building being named Ngai Tahu Court.


Corcoran French has a long standing connection with Ngai Tahu and for many years was involved with administration of Maori Land rentals. Robin Corcoran and before him, his father, Edmund Corcoran, attended virtually every sitting of the Maori Land Court whenever it sat in Kaiapoi and later in Christchurch.


In response to petitions to the government of the day, a Claims Commerce was set up in the late 1920s and Edmund Corcoran chaired the committee formed by Maori to settle their submissions to the Maori Land Court. Arising out of this, he gradually amassed records of genealogical tables to establish the whakapapa of many families from Tuahiwi to Otago.


Christchurch office


The Christchurch city office was established in 1954 with a small office in New Regent Street. E.J. Corcoran and Robin Corcoran occupied the first floor for five years, and from 1959 they occupied the building in its entirety, until the 1980 when the building proved to be too small.


In 1982, the firm shifted to offices in Gloucester Street and over the ensuing years the firm increased in size from half a floor to two full floors.


After the February 2011 Canterbury earthquake struck, our red zone Gloucester Street office had to relocate temporarily to our Kaiapoi office for 10 months until new premises were found.  In December 2011 our city office moved back into Christchurch, 166 Moorhouse Avenue. 


More Recent Partners


Michael French joined the partnership in 1975, working in the Kaiapoi office before moving into the City office in 1993.  Michael retired in 2015. 


Robin Corcoran retired from the Partnership in 1994, but still kept an active interest in the law dealing with a number of clients and Maori Trusts until his death in 2008.


In 1986 - Lane McPhail joined the partnership in the Kaiapoi office and moved to the City office in 1990 following the acquisition of the practice of JBR Loughnan.  Lane retired in 2016. 


Philip Redmond joined the partnership in the Kaiapoi office in 1988.  Philip retired in March 2017. 


French name established in partnership


On 1 April 1988, the firm changed its name from E J Corcoran Son Thwaites and Brown to Corcoran French.


Other offices


An office was opened in New Brighton in 1985, moved to new premises in 2009, and closed in 2015 primarily as a result of reduced demand following the earthquake.


Since 1993 we have worked with Harcourts Akaroa and regularly meet clients at their offices. 


A Belfast office was opened in 2001 operating from the Harcourts premises but with offices conveniently located at Kaiapoi and Christchurch city, it was only a few years before this was no longer needed. 


Merger with Walker Rodger


Michael Walker graduated from Canterbury University in 1968 having worked for the previous four years as a Law Clerk for Izard & Loughnan, Solicitors in Christchurch and in 1968 he was admitted as a Partner in that firm and continued until 1987 when he established Michael Walker Lawyer initially with four staff members including a staff Solicitor, Andrea Rodger who joined him in partnership in 1995. 


As legal work expanded, the staffing included a staff solicitor and at least three qualified legal executives.  Walker Rodger concentrated on commercial and property work as well as rural law and Trusts.  Andrea Rodger retired from the partnership  in 2005 and Michael Walker continued as sole practitioner until merging with Corcoran French.  The merger was formulated in 2010 but deferred until April 2012 as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes.


Michael Walker continued with Corcoran French as a consultant until his retirement in 2015. 


Current partners joined the team


In 2000,  Martin Bell moved from the West Coast firm of Hannan & Seddon, where he was a partner, to join the firm. He now works from both City and Kaiapoi offices.


Rachael Robertson became a Partner in 2005, having moved from Dunedin to work for us in our city office.  


Mark Henderson become a partner in 2009. He is based in our City office in our litigation team.


Christine Eastgate became a partner in 2012.  Christine is based in our Kaiapoi office.  Her areas of expertise are conveyancing, commercial, trusts and estates.