It will be an end of an era for one of Tauranga's long-standing law firms when Owen Cooney retires this month.
Owen Cooney is the third generation of his family to work at Cooney Lees Morgan and is the last with the family name following a long line of partners at the firm.
"Next year will be the first time in 103 years that there won't be a Cooney involved in the partnership so that has been a pretty challenging concept for me to come to terms with," he said.
But the 63-year-old said he was comfortable with his decision.
"My time here was going to come to an end at some stage in the near future. I'm looking forward to next year and doing something a bit different."
Cooney Lees Morgan was originally founded by Cooney's grandfather, Hugh Owen Cooney in 1918.
Cooney's father, Des Cooney, plus numerous aunts, uncles and cousins, have all worked at the firm in the decades since.
Cooney has been a partner since 1987 during an almost 40-year legal career.
"When my grandfather first hung up his shingle in 1918 I'm sure he had no inkling whatsoever that he had started something that would endure for over 100 years.
"He was a very strong family-orientated man, as most of the Cooneys are with their Irish heritage. I think he would be a very proud chappie."
Cooney studied law at Otago University and worked for a large firm in Auckland before joining the family business in Tauranga in the early 1980s.
He founded the firm's property and development team and has specialised in property transactions, business structures and rural business advisory throughout a period of enormous regional growth.
While he's been the go-to man for complex deals and high profile clients for decades, it's his work within the firm that he said he's most proud of.
"Being involved in the thought leadership, alongside other young members of our team, to help bring our firm into the 21st century way of doing things, is something I will always personally feel very satisfied about.
"The old style of law was you played your cards pretty close to your chest; you didn't really tell the client what was going on and a lot of it was cloaked in mystery."
But Cooney said the modern way of practising was to be open and transparent and provide the full scope of services to the client before undertaking a job.
"We've developed a client-centric approach and a more modern way of doing business."
He said like a lot of industries, the firm had learned how to cope under pressure post-Covid-19 lockdown and to deal with a different environment through technology and collaboration.
The sheer growth of the firm, and a commitment to fostering new talent, was another personal highlight.
"The property and development team basically started with myself and Peter Rust. Now there are around 20 of us.
"We've recruited and developed some great people and as I step off the ship, I feel pretty satisfied that there's a great team here that's going to carry on looking after my clients, and playing a significant role for the firm."
Despite a few challenges along the way, Cooney said helping a client through what started as an uncertain and difficult time was "extremely rewarding".
"It's about knowing you've made a difference."
One of the biggest differences he feels he made was the firm's shift to its current location at 247 Cameron Rd.
Cooney said his brother, Peter Cooney, and a local real estate agent visited his office one Friday afternoon with a sale and purchase agreement for the Cameron Rd site.
"They basically said, 'Have we got a deal here'," he said.
"That basically was the start of this building. Our firm Cooney Lees was looking for new premises at the time so I became instantly aligned with the transaction."
The secret to longevity in business was looking after its people, he said.
"The business we're actually in is growing people and if you don't grow people, the business dies.
"That's the reason why this firm has been here more than 100 years."
Cooney plans to start a small consultancy business, which will contract back to the firm for the next 12 months to help smooth the transition process for both clients and staff.
He will remain director of Bay of Plenty Rugby where he contributes his legal and business expertise to help the union navigate the professional era and develop sustainable commercial arrangements.
"Rugby is an absolute passion and I love being involved in that grassroots stuff. I'll continue until I'm no longer needed in that space."
Cooney credits his wife, Karen, for her great support throughout his career - and while none of his three children followed him into law, he believes they benefited from the family legacy.
"James, Sean and Georgia are extremely successful in their own right. They've spent a lot of time in and around the firm over the years and I feel like they've picked up some really valuable life and business skills, whether they're conscious of it or not."
He also wanted to pay tribute to all of the previous partners, including his cousins Michael and Paul Cooney, as well as his father Des Cooney.
"We can never forget that they're the folk who laid the platform for what we've got here today."
Cooney said he was proud to have achieved "something of a legacy".
"This firm will endure for a long time to come. I'm definitely proud of having that connection in my heritage."
Partner Cam Russell will now take over leading the firm's property and development team.
Russell said he had always valued Cooney's energy and solutions-based approach to the law.
"My fondest memory of Owen is when he decided to give a recent graduate with no legal experience a crack – that graduate being me some 10-plus years ago.
"For me personally, Owen has always been the leader of our property and development team and I will miss having someone with as much experience and knowledge as him to bounce ideas around."
Fellow partner Matt Tustin said Cooney was highly regarded in the legal industry and was always good fun around the office.
"He is a strategic thinker and often his advice goes beyond 'legal matters' – he is very commercially minded.
"I will miss his constant search for business improvement, and his willingness to try things and invest in the future.
"On behalf of the current partnership and staff, I would just like to thank him for his immense contribution to the firm over many decades.
"We will miss him but we look forward to working closely with him as part of his new endeavours."