Michael Cooney retires after nearly half a century at Cooney Lees Morgan

by Sol Dolor08 Jun 2019


Michael Cooney has retired after nearly half a century at Cooney Lees Morgan (CLM).

The Bay of Plenty firm, founded 100 years ago by his grandfather, paid tribute to his career, saying that he not only played an integral part in the firm’s success, but also made immense contributions to the community.

Cooney graduated from Auckland University and was admitted to the bar in 1966. He joined the firm in 1970, making partner in 1972. He became known for his expertise in property and contract law.

“He has been a real devotee of the law. He has always been respected by the legal community both locally and nationally as a lawyer of high standing,” said CLM partner Sally Powdrell. “The biggest compliment really, now that he is retiring, is that the transition of his client base to others in the firm has been quite a major undertaking. He has acted for two or three generations of many families and his client base is almost a law practice in its own right.”


While he has built that client base and played a key leadership role in the firm for decades, CLM said that “his work in the community which has undoubtedly had the greatest impact.”

Cooney presided over thousands of inquests as he served as Tauranga’s coroner for 30 years. He also oversaw the establishment of Aquinas College, and became a member of the board of the college and of Tauranga’s St Mary’s Catholic School.

He also spent 13 years as the chair of the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT) for 13 years, which provided funding for high-profile community assets including Waipuna Hospice, Trustpower Arena, Baywave Aquatic and Leisure Centre, and the TECT All Terrain Park.

In 2013, he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contributions to the community. Rotary International has also awarded him a Paul Harris Fellowship.


Michael Cooney

CLM partner Owen Cooney said that his cousin always gives 100% to whatever he turns his mind to, excelling in whatever that endeavour may be, whether it be work, community, or family. His cousin’s career also reflects the firm’s proud tradition of contributions to the community, he said.

“Michael’s grandfather, HO Cooney, had a hand in establishing the Port of Tauranga, and Lionel Lees was involved in the power generation scheme which was the forerunner of Trustpower. Our firm’s other name partner, Ed Morgan, earned an MBE for championing Maori interests. He helped set up the Tauranga Moana Maori Trust Board, was involved in the return of Mt Taranaki and helped iwi obtain some control of the Whanganui River,” he said. “Michael is right up there in terms of his massive contribution to the community and has really set the bar very high for the younger partners of Cooney Lees Morgan to step up to.”

Peter Washer, former partner and current CLM consultant, thanked Cooney for his leadership and contributions.

“Michael’s departure is an end of an era for our firm, and we would like to sincerely thank him for his leadership and the enormous contribution he has made to our entire community throughout his career,” he said.

CLM said that Cooney looks forward to travelling to Ireland with his wife, Sandra, to re-trace the Cooney family’s roots. The man himself said that he is upbeat about the firm’s future.

“I feel that the business is in good hands, and I am confident that my clients will continue to be well looked after following my retirement,” he said.