Jackson Russell has a long and proud history. The firm was founded by Frederick Ward Merriman in 1844, and became known as Merriman and Jackson when Samuel Jackson joined Merriman in partnership in 1856.
Frederick Ward Merriman was an important early citizen of Auckland. He was a Member of Parliament in 1854 and later Provincial Law Officer and Crown Solicitor. In 1860 he became vice-president of Auckland's first Law Society. He was also a prominent member of the Masonic Lodge and took part in the local dramatic society activities as well as being secretary of the chess and whist club.
Merriman died in 1865 and the firm became known as Jackson Russell, Jackson having been joined in partnership by James Russell, one of four brothers who made their mark in the New Zealand legal profession. For the next 20 years or so the firm like others in Auckland at that time was much engaged in legal work connected with land speculation and gold mining.
Jackson Russell has always had premises in the Shortland Street and Fort Street areas of Auckland. Back in the 1870's the offices were in Shortland Street just above the High Street corner and a feature of them was a large offsite strongroom. This was accessed across a yard (which became a watercourse in wet weather). Here all the deeds baskets were kept together with the heavy ledgers all bound in calf. These had to be carried daily to the offices and heaved up to the sloping wall desks where Jackson Russell's clerks sat on high leather topped square stools - a scene most reminiscent of Dickens's stories.
Legal offices of the time were very different from those of today in other ways. It is reported by Gorge Sanders an employee of 64 years who started as office boy, became the first typist and eventually rose to be the firm's accountant that at this time office boys had to report for work at 7-15am. In Winter their first job each day was to chop the wood, fetch the coal, and light the fires. Sander's last job of the day was to buy a cigar for Mr Russell at 5-45pm.
During his 58 years in practice Samuel Jackson drew wills for a number of Auckland's first benefactors - Edward Costley, Dr E J Elam and James Dilworth. The money left by Costley was of immense benefit to small struggling charities, making them into well established institutions - the Public Library, the Auckland Hospital, the Parnell Orphanage, the Sailors Home and the Auckland Institute. Dr Elam's bequest paid the salary of the director of the Elam School of Arts which functioned in a room lent by the Town Council. James Dilworth who died in 1894 left the residue of his large estate to found the school which bears his name today to educate boys in need of help.
Over the years many Auckland solicitors have trained in the firm. A number of them went on to establish firms that still carry their name today. They include Ronald (later Sir Ronald) Algie who was a member of the staff in the 1920's and Leslie (later Sir Leslie) Munro. Algie later became the full time Professor of Law at Auckland until entering into politics and becoming speaker of the House of Representatives. Munro later became editor of the New Zealand Herald, Ambassador for New Zealand at Washington, and President of the 12th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. He was also a Member of Parliament for Waipa.
An important feature of our history is the long term relationships developed with clients. Many of today's clients are proud to claim third and fourth generation relationships and commercial connections exist with some of Auckland's earliest enterprises. For example, one of our clients has been a client of Jackson Russell since 1894.
In keeping with the growth of Auckland and rapidly changing times Jackson Russell has expanded considerably in the last 40 years. It has undergone changes in personnel, premises, equipment, procedures and philosophy to provide the services demanded of a modern legal practice today. Despite the changes the firm has never lost its identity.