ConnectingME | July 2020

Keeping you up to date on recent events, deals and awards – read the latest issue of ConnectingME, the MinterEllisonRuddWatts alumni newsletter.

Kia ora,

It has certainly been an extraordinary and challenging few months. We hope you and your families are safe and well and have found ways to adapt to this ‘new normal’.

As with all businesses, MinterEllisonRuddWatts continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as it unfolds. We remain focused on being consistently available and committed to supporting our clients. You can read more about our response below.

A positive moment from the last few months was hearing that MinterEllisonRuddWatts was named New Zealand Law Firm of the Year at the Chambers Asia Pacific Awards 2020 – the second time we have received this accolade in four years. The award again recognises our position as a market leader, both for the work we do and delivering excellent service to our clients.

In this issue of ConnectingME, we introduce you to our five fantastic new partners, as well as our new special counsel and senior associates.

We also share the impressive achievements of some our alumni, including interviews with Commerce Commission Chair Anna Rawlings and Alistair Robertson, who recently re-joined the firm after serving as Head of Compliance at ANZ Bank.

We will update you on the latest happenings from around the firm, including our first-ever online Corporate Governance Symposium, the latest on our Auckland office’s move to Commercial Bay and our recent community involvement.

Warm regards,

Andrew Poole, Chief Executive

Connecting with you

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Our people

Introducing our newest partners

Earlier this year, we were delighted to welcome five new additions to the MinterEllisonRuddWatts partnership. Comprising four internal promotions and one lateral hire, the new partners strengthen our firm’s position as a leading New Zealand firm.

Amanda Spratt (Property and Real Estate, Auckland)

Amanda advises on a broad range of property matters and specialises in complex real estate acquisitions and disposals, property finance, and development. Amanda’s focus sectors are health and aged care, agri-law and insolvency, and she acts for a number of international real estate funds and global players in the agriculture and dairy industries. With more than 15 years’ experience in property law, Amanda is valued by clients as a trusted adviser who “really listens” and is “knowledgeable, pragmatic, and all about solutions”. Amanda enjoys working closely with clients to achieve their business goals and get deals done.

Nick Frith (Dispute Resolution and Litigation, Auckland)

Nick specialises in commercial litigation with a focus on insurance disputes across all areas of the industry. He regularly acts for insurers, insured corporates and insurance brokers. Nick has significant experience in claims against and involving insurance brokers, large scale property damage and business interruption insurance claims and regulatory investigations. He also acts for lending institutions and other clients in debt recovery and enforcement matters.

Sarah Salmond (Corporate, Auckland – Lateral hire)

Sarah has almost 20 years’ experience advising on a wide variety of public and regulatory law matters. She has worked in both the private and public sectors in the fields of law, public policy and economics, in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and France. Her focus has been on international trade and investment law. Sarah also provides specialist advice on agriculture, food and beverage industry regulation and aspects of competition and consumer law. Her experience spans advising clients on non-contentious matters (e.g. regulatory compliance, law reform and lobbying) through to representing them in high profile regulatory investigations and public inquiries and providing litigation support.

Scott Thompson (Construction, Auckland)

Scott is a specialist construction disputes lawyer. He advises clients involved in project disputes, both during and after the construction phase, including for negligence and non-compliant works, variations and extensions of time. He has acted on major infrastructure projects including road, rail, sport, education, and Government. Scott is also experienced in contentious rent review disputes. He regularly appears in the arbitration forum. Scott comes from a commercial background as a transactional and projects lawyer for a tier one firm in the United States where he regularly advised public and private companies, banks and private equity firms.

Travis Tomlinson (Construction, Auckland)

Travis is a front-end construction and major projects lawyer. He helps public and private-sector clients on all aspects of their procurement planning, tendering, contract drafting and negotiations, project governance and project administration across a wide spectrum of industry sectors. He has detailed knowledge of the Government’s procurement rules and advises the public and private sector in relation to compliance. Travis is an elected Council Member of the New Zealand Society of Construction Law, lectures the Construction Law paper at the University of Auckland Law School and is the lead lecturer for Law for Construction at the Auckland University of Technology.

Senior promotions

Alongside our new partners, the firm has made a number of other new senior appointments. We are thrilled to celebrate the level of skill and experience our people have and recognise their potential for future growth.

Miles Dean (Real Estate – Property, Wellington) has been elevated to the position of Special Counsel.

April Payne (Dispute Resolution, Auckland), Holly Hill (Real Estate – Property, Wellington), Jordan Oldham (Construction, Auckland) and Olivia Higgins (Construction, Auckland) are our newest Senior Associates.

Alumni news

Alumna appointed Chief High Court Judge

Congratulations to alumna Justice Susan Thomas who was recently appointed Chief High Court Judge, succeeding Justice Geoffrey Venning.

Returning to New Zealand in 1995 after almost a decade spent in London, Justice Thomas joined MinterEllisonRuddWatts’ property practice in Wellington as a Senior Associate before being promoted to Partner in 1996. She was with the firm for nine years before being appointed as a District Court Judge in 2005 and was later promoted to the High Court.

A legal innovator, Justice Thomas started a Special Circumstances Court in Wellington focusing on the most challenged and marginalised offenders, and has chaired the Judicial Reference Group, responsible for working with the Ministry of Justice to plan for and oversee technological innovation in New Zealand courts.

Crowdfunding campaign for local book

Alumna Lucy Revill is seeking community support to publish her first book celebrating inspiring Wellington citizens. Lucy's popular blog The Residents has been an online celebration of familiar faces in the creative and small business communities for more than five years.

From Tuesday 28 July, Lucy is aiming to raise $22,000 on PledgeMe within a one month deadline to be able to publish and sell 500 copies of the planned book.  The 250-page coffee table book will contain stories and interviews with over 30 inspiring Wellingtonians.

Read more about Lucy’s journey to becoming a published author here.

Spotlight on returned alumni

We caught up with Alistair Robertson, who has recently returned to MinterEllisonRuddWatts as a Special Counsel after serving as Head of Compliance at ANZ Bank New Zealand.

Tell us about your career with MinterEllisonRuddWatts.

I first started at the firm in February 2012. I came over from the UK and started as a solicitor in the financial services team, working for Lloyd Kavanagh and Jeremy Muir, and then became a senior solicitor. I then left the firm and went in-house to a bank for six years and have just recently re-joined the firm as a special counsel back in the financial services team.

Where did you work after leaving and what was your role?

I initially joined the in-house legal team for the wealth business at ANZ, which covered fund managements, private bank and insurance at that time. I was there for about two years and mostly worked with the product and investment management teams.

After that, I moved into another role at ANZ, in the “second line” regulatory compliance team where I was focused on Financial Markets Conduct Act implementation. I was one of the key people involved in that project, covering all the different parts of the bank which were affected by the legislation, which was very interesting.

After two years, I moved into another role with ANZ as the head of regulatory affairs, which involved identifying and trying to influence regulatory change that impacts the bank and coordinating the response across the bank to that regulatory change.

Finally, I became the head of compliance – again a “second line” compliance role. My team and I were responsible for regulatory compliance, which is everything apart from financial crime and AML right across the business.

What brought you back to MinterEllisonRuddWatts?

I had been in a compliance/regulatory role for around four years and decided that I was keen to get back into a legal role. I thought moving back to private practice would challenge me and allow me to work for a variety of clients doing a variety of interesting things beyond just banking. I already knew the MinterEllisonRuddWatts team well and had enjoyed my time here, so I decided to speak to the team to find out whether I could make the move back. The financial services team has gone from strength to strength and has been involved in a lot of interesting work, so I was keen to join.

What advice would you give to fellow alumni who might have recently left the firm, or who are considering a return themselves?

Throw yourself into what you’re doing now, but don’t foreclose any thoughts of ever returning.

If you are considering a return, explore your options and reach out to the team here. The culture at MinterEllisonRuddWatts is very flexible and open and I haven’t found it to be a huge shock to the system returning to private practice.

Q&A with: Anna Rawlings

Anna Rawlings, MinterEllisonRuddWatts alumna and current Chair of the Commerce Commission, kindly spoke to us about her journey from practising law to being appointed in her current role.

The role you’ve taken would be considered by many as a high-point in a career. Can you tell us about your early working years?

I took a fairly typical path after studying law at the University of Auckland and went to work at a top tier law firm. But I then decided to go to Canada to study for a thesis-based Master’s degree at the University of Toronto. My focus was on law and economics and the interplay between the two in the protection of trade secrets.

After I completed my Master’s I took a year out to travel like many do at that age. My study and travel was incredibly beneficial personally and professionally. I really enjoyed the thinking space provided by an extended break from paid work. I moved to Canada on my own and I travelled for much of the year following, so I learned a lot about independence and resilience. I also gained some great perspective about our own place in a global economy by spending time in a diverse range of communities–from large international cities to small off-the-grid communities.

What did you take from your time at MinterEllisonRuddWatts?

I joined MinterEllisonRuddWatts’ dispute resolution team, specialising in competition, regulation and consumer law and became a Partner in 2007.

Practising law during these years was hugely rewarding with great opportunities for developing a broad understanding of business practices across a range of industry sectors – this experience has put me in a good position for my current role. I was primarily a litigation lawyer with work focused on a range of regulatory contexts. I think having some practical perspective from both sides of the table is immensely valuable as a regulator.

I also maintained a strong advisory practice, working with clients on consumer protection issues arising from advertising and marketing and, with other partners, advising on M&A work, in financial services and intellectual property.

I really enjoyed working with a range of clients including many Boards and those advising Boards. As lawyers I think we sometimes underestimate the governance experience we acquire through that kind of work, and through actively participating in the operation of our own firms. For me, this was all useful experience for a transition to a governance role beyond the law.

What is your advice to those who are planning their own careers within law, or thinking about a move from law to governance?

You don’t necessarily have to have it all planned and laid out.

If it’s your style to plan, then that’s fine, but you also need resilience so you can deal with not achieving your goals, when things don’t go to that plan. You need to have the flexibility to recognise different opportunities, even if you thought you were on a path to something else, otherwise you may miss something worthwhile.

My primary focus has always been on building and maintaining relationships of integrity, applying myself as best as I can to whatever is in front of me at the time, and letting my performance speak for itself. I have tried to remain open to all and any opportunities but I’ve also taken the time to make informed choices – it’s proved to be a ‘no regrets’ approach.

COVID-19: our firm’s position

As with all businesses, we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as it unfolds. Our firm’s approach has been to manage the response cautiously, calmly and in a measured way, acting swiftly and communicating clearly when required.

Although we are now back in the office under Alert Level 1, the time spent under Alert Level 4 lockdown was a new experience for us all. Our people adapted quickly and showed plenty of resilience.

During this time, we focused on being consistently available and committed to supporting our clients. We also produced some of the most highly regarded webinars and thought leadership in the market – read about our first-ever online Corporate Governance Symposium under Recent happenings.

Our Chair and Chief Executive, Sarah Sinclair and Andrew Poole, kept staff up to date on the latest developments through a series of weekly firmwide webinars.

We were also able to have a little fun – hosting a number of firmwide competitions such as a Zoom Quiz Night, photo competitions and a Step Challenge to get us moving!

Presently, we are taking a variety of measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff, clients and suppliers at our offices, including completion of an electronic health and safety questionnaire upon arrival at our offices, a contact tracing system and additional cleaning and hygiene measures. We continue to carefully monitor and adhere to the Ministry of Health’s advice – and will continue to do so at all alert levels.

Wherever you are in the world, we hope that you continue to remain healthy and well as we work together to overcome this extraordinary global event.

Recent deals, wins & work

Our teams have been involved in some significant pieces of work over the last six months – here are a few of the stand outs:

Iwi-owned Go Bus to be acquired by leading Australian transport operator

Ngāi Tahu Holdings Corporation and Tainui Group Holdings have agreed to the sale of public transport company, Go Bus, to Melbourne-based industry operator, Kinetic.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts advised Ngāi Tahu Holdings and Tainui Group Holdings on the share sale agreement.

Our team, led by Corporate Partner Mark Forman, called upon its expertise in the public transport sector, to provide commercial legal advice and negotiate the sale agreement with Kinetic.

Read more

Helping shape New Zealand’s future

MinterEllisonRuddWatts played a key role in the Government’s announcement of a number of measures to support businesses during the uncertainty created by COVID-19. The reforms provide flexibility in the application of certain directors' duties in the Companies Act 1993 and implement an accelerated mechanism for companies to request a moratorium on the payment of debts.

We participated in the process to develop these changes through different channels, including working with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in a targeted consultation on the development of the relief package, as the legal partner of the Institute of Directors in NZ assisting with its submissions on the relief package, and through our involvement with the Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association New Zealand Incorporated.

The changes come as a result of concerns that the current COVID-19 pandemic creates a level of uncertainty that could lead to numerous companies being placed into liquidation prematurely, mainly due to the inability to predict outcomes resulting from the unprecedented event. The relief provides a fixed term easing of the rules that would otherwise apply to directors and companies with respect to their dealings with creditors.

Read more

Global forestry investment advisor announces sale of New Zealand forestry assets

One of the world’s largest providers of timberland investment services, Resource Management Service, LLC (RMS), has sold its Wellington based forestry business to CFPC (Singapore) Pte Limited, part of China Forestry Group Corporation.

We advised RMS on the sale, alongside Resolute Advisory, an independent M&A advisory firm headquartered in Melbourne. The MinterEllisonRuddWatts team was led by partner Mark Forman, from the firm’s market leading forestry transactions practice.

Read more

Recent happenings

What else has been going on around the firm?

Named New Zealand’s Law Firm of the Year

MinterEllisonRuddWatts has been named New Zealand Law Firm of the Year at the Chambers Asia Pacific Awards 2020 for the second time in four years. We are delighted to be once again recognised as New Zealand’s market leader, both for the work we do and our commitment to our clients.

The Chambers Asia-Pacific Awards honour the work of national and international law firms across the region based on the research for the recent edition of Chambers Asia-Pacific 2020. The awards recognise a law firm’s pre-eminence in key jurisdictions in the region, including notable achievements, outstanding work, impressive strategic growth and excellence in client service.

Corporate Governance Symposium

Our annual Corporate Governance Symposium has become the flagship event for the New Zealand governance community. This year’s Symposium was quite different to previous years – held amid the final days of New Zealand’s Alert Level 3 COVID-19 lockdown, our guest speakers joined us via webinar to discuss “Governing through COVID-19: the immediate response and beyond”.

Exploring the role of governors through the challenges all organisations are facing due to the pandemic, Sir Bill English as the symposium’s keynote speaker discussed the macroeconomic position that boards are needing to make decisions within.

This was followed by a panel debate featuring highly regarded governors Bruce Hassall, Barbara Chapman, Scott St John and Matt Whineray. The discussion confirmed that Boards have a huge challenge ahead and it is more important than ever for them to keep their eyes on the ball and take a dynamic and nimble approach. There was unanimous acknowledgement that doing nothing is the riskiest strategy.

Our Auckland office is moving

Auckland staff are eagerly anticipating the move to our new office in the Commercial Bay development. Commercial Bay has transformed Auckland’s CBD and waterfront – bringing together world class commercial space, public transport, international quality retail, public spaces and hospitality environments. Staff will be shifting to the new office on Monday 3 August.

The office’s move to the PwC Tower signals a new approach to workplace design, with the firm adopting a hybrid model of open and enclosed work settings, in an environment that encourages flexibility, agility and collaboration across teams.

The new space has also been designed to encourage movement, with all work stations having sit-to-stand settings and a central internal staircase linking all levels. This brings with it obvious health benefits through incidental movement, while also allowing people to be more agile and mobile in the way they work, and fostering better collaboration.

Newly admitted solicitors

We were delighted to be able to celebrate the admissions of our newest solicitors just prior to the Level 4 COVID-19 lockdown.

Kate Allan, Devesh Awmee and Lana Ou were admitted to the bar in March. We are proud to support our junior lawyers and wish them all the very best for their legal careers!

International Women’s Day

In March, we celebrated International Women’s Day by inviting some of our female leaders – Sarah Salmond, Jane Standage, Amanda Spratt, Sarah Thirlwall and Bianca Tree in Auckland, and Megan Hurley, Megan Richards and Stacey Shortall in Wellington – to share their career stories and lessons learned along the way.

M&A thought leadership

In January, we predicted that M&A activity in New Zealand would slow down in the second half of the year. Little did we know how right we would be.

In our M&A Forecast 2020 update, we comment on the impact that COVID-19 has had on New Zealand’s M&A landscape and make predictions for the remainder of 2020. Click here to read the update.

Leaders in innovation

The firm has again been recognised in the NZ Lawyer Innovative Firms 2020 Report.

The report showcases New Zealand law firms at the forefront of change and innovation, commending firms which practise innovation by embracing new technologies, novel team structures, or fresh ways of working with clients.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts’ pioneering use of technology includes a fully customisable and configurable client portal, an award-winning and the leading online compliance training solution in New Zealand and Australia, Safetrac, and the country’s first legal AI joint venture to create McCarthyFinch, which continues to grow from strength to strength. McCarthyFinch is developing legally-focused AI solutions for the global market and MinterEllisonRuddWatts is a foundation user of these pioneering AI productivity tools.

Give it a go! Head over to, upload a contract/agreement and receive back a triaged analysis in minutes.

authorDOCS™ is the first in a complementary suite of products developed by McCarthyFinch. Easy to install, authorDOCS™ is an AI-backed add-in for Microsoft Word that empowers staff who work with contracts, agreements and proposals with exponential virtualised problem-solving capabilities – delivering time-savings for document review by up to 60 per cent. Features include; smart customisable shareable AI-analysis and alerts, AI-powered definition/clause recognition and linking and the ability to store, classify and share preferred clauses/terms and other commonly-used wording.

Our team is currently Beta testing the next products from McCarthyFinch, providing batch processing and instant guided-triage for non-lawyers.

During New Zealand’s COVID lockdown TMT Partner and lead author for McCarthyFinch, Tom Maasland, hosted a series of popular webinars demonstrating authorDOCS™.

authorDOCS™ is available globally. If you’re interested in seeing a demo please get in touch.

Supporting our community

Through our community investment programme, we are committed to supporting youth, education and improving the quality of life of people in our community.

Partner recognised for community contribution

Partner Stacey Shortall’s contribution to the community has received significant local and international recognition.

Stacey was named Social Mobility Lawyer of the Year at the inaugural Chambers Diversity and Inclusion Awards: Asia-Pacific 2020. The Chambers Diversity and Inclusion Awards celebrate in-house legal teams and law firms who are furthering the advancement of diversity and inclusion, both within the legal profession and the community.

Stacey was also named a semi-finalist for the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year, for a second consecutive year. The prestigious New Zealander of the Year Awards celebrate people who use their passion for New Zealand to make the country a better place.

Stacey’s passion and commitment to bridging gaps in the community has changed the lives of many New Zealanders whether it’s been through education in low decile schools via the Homework Club, her work to retain connections between mothers in prison and their children through the Mothers Project, or establishing a national platform (HelpTank) making it easier for professionals to volunteer their skills for community projects.

Helping our Homework Club family

For over five years, we have supported the Homework Club program coordinated through the Who Did You Help Today charitable trust.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the trust has worked with principals of Homework Club schools throughout New Zealand, to have food boxes delivered to children and families who may be struggling.

Our Wellington office gathered many donations for these food boxes, to be delivered to the Homework Club we support at Holy Family School in Cannons Creek, just in time for the July school holidays, while our Auckland office also did a fantastic job collecting food for Wesley Primary School, in West Auckland.

Jammies in June

As part of our community investment programme, we took part in The Middlemore Foundation’s ‘Jammies in June’ campaign again this year – collecting donations to buy pyjamas for children in hospital, as well as children in teen parent units, refuge centres and other community centres around Auckland. Our generous people donated an incredible 262 pairs of PJs (in value) for the Foundation.

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