Our History

It is perhaps credit to the founding fathers that the practice has grown to be what it is today.


Watson & McNab – which later become Watson & Watson – was established in 1890, producing such notable figures as Sir Robert McNab, who became Minister of Justice, and Neil Watson, Mayor of Invercargill for nine years.

In 1977, Trevor Savage, who went on to serve as Southland Coroner for many years, joined the practice as Partner, and the firm was renamed Watson & Savage.

Hanan, Arthur & Co came to being in 1935. As well as several Judges and political luminaries, Partner Ralph Hanan was Mayor of Invercargill, before becoming Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Partner Colin Fraser was appointed High Court Judge, Patrick Toomey, a District Court Judge, and Mervyn Rodgers became Secretary-General of the New Zealand Law Society.

In 1984, the Watson & Savage and Hanan Arthur & Co merged to form Arthur Watson Savage – the largest legal practice in Southland.

In the early 1990s, we decided to focus more heavily on the southern business sector. Strategic recruitment and professional development saw our firm further hone its specialist knowledge in property development, company law and corporate structuring.

In the mid-90s, again, we accurately predicted the rural-driven economic boom. Positioning ourselves to support this growth sector has not only been professionally rewarding, but has allowed our firm to extend its expertise and reputation nationally and internationally.

A decade on AWS Legal is one of the top business and private client practices in the South Island, providing support to leading lights in the southern business community.

We also have a significant private client base, who entrust us with their personal legal needs, from property transactions and asset protection, to estate planning and family law.

From 1 November 2011 AWS Legal merged with long standing Central Otago practice, Bodkins. This is seen as a mutually benefical realtionship with AWS Legal being able to provide our Alexandra based team with an enhanced level of legal and administraive support to enable that practice to continue providing a full range of legal services to its growing client base.