ConnectingME | November 2019

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

As we speed towards the end of 2019, we’ve been reflecting on what’s been achieved within our firm this year. Not only have we continued to deliver excellent advice for our clients, we’ve also advanced key aspects of our firm’s strategic plan, including confirming the core values which underpin all that we do, and working on several innovative, future-focused projects that distinguish us in the market.

Since our last update, teams across the firm have delivered a number of exciting and innovative projects and transactions, including:

  • advising Pan Pac Forest Products Limited on receiving the first forestry standing consent under the Overseas Investment Act;
  • advising Synlait on entering into the country’s first Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) linked loan;
  • working with Youi on the acquisition of its insurance portfolio by Tower Insurance Limited.

Named finalists in the Large Law Firm of the Year, Deal Team of the Year and Employer of Choice categories in the New Zealand Law Awards, we’re eagerly anticipating the awards night later this week. Banking and Finance Senior Associate Vanessa Hunter has also been selected as a finalist for Young Private Practice Lawyer of the Year.

We are always delighted to welcome members of our firm’s alumni back after developing their skills in various jurisdictions, bringing that expertise home for the benefit of our clients. In this issue of ConnectingME, we hear from Christine Gordon, who shares what she’s been enjoying most since returning to New Zealand from London.

If you’re considering returning home we have a number of opportunities, and remember that as a member of our alumni you are eligible for a finder’s fee for successful referrals – read below for more details.

Warm regards,

Andrew Poole

Chief Executive

New appointments

Christine Brotherton – HR Director

Christine joined our firm as HR Director in August. She has worked in New Zealand, Japan and the UK, and has spent the majority of her career in global corporate, financial and professional services environments, including at another New Zealand top tier law firm. Christine is passionate about the future of work and innovating with different ways of working, resulting in better outcomes – for people, productivity and clients.

Simon Gray – Special Counsel, Banking and Financial Services

Simon recently joined us from Baker & McKenzie in Singapore. Having spent several years working in Europe and Asia-Pacific region, Simon brings a wealth of experience to our Banking and Financial Services team. Simon specialises in advising financial institutions, sponsors and corporates in a wide range of financing transactions.


Our mid-year promotions saw us gain one new Senior Associate and three new Senior Solicitors. We are delighted to celebrate the level of skill and experience our people have and recognise their potential for future growth.

Senior Associate – Daria Withers (Corporate)

Daria is based in our Auckland Corporate team, and first joined the firm as an intern in 2010. In her time here, Daria has been involved in some of the most significant transactions the team has handled in the last few years and has built excellent relationships with clients.

Senior Solicitors – Silvia Curin Brown (Corporate), Sean Dolan (Banking and Financial Services), Rob Penney (Corporate)

Promotion to Senior Solicitor recognises that Silvia, Sean and Rob are operating at an advanced solicitor level in the areas of legal knowledge, commercial knowledge, their increasing role within the team as a leader and mentor, and in starting to manage relationships and develop opportunities to obtain new work from clients.

Spotlight on returned alumni

We spoke to Christine Gordon (Senior Associate, Construction), who has recently returned to MinterEllisonRuddWatts after spending five years in London, to hear what she’s enjoying most about being back.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a range of matters including a large claim in the High Court in respect of allegations relating to defective materials which were used in the construction of buildings at several sites in New Zealand, and working closely with the Australian in-house legal team of a leading consultant in relation to disputes with contractors in New Zealand. I am also involved in a couple of property disputes which are heading to arbitration hearings in the first half of 2020.

What are you enjoying about being back in New Zealand?

I enjoyed being able to go for a swim at the beach at Labour weekend recently. I’m feeling quite smug at the moment because the Northern Hemisphere is rapidly descending into winter and it will be really nice to have a warm November to April period – although I will miss the Christmas Markets and skiing in Europe! I’m enjoying being back in Auckland with my friends, many of whom have returned from London in the last couple of years to take up senior roles in both the legal profession and other professions.

How have you found your return to the firm? What have been the highlights?

Sometimes I feel like I never even left – in a good way! The team is working very hard at the moment with several pressing deadlines but we are also having fun along the way.

A particular highlight has been working with talented juniors who are coming up through the ranks. I’ve been really impressed with the calibre of work that we’ve got at the moment – the construction team has cemented its position in the top tier as reflected in the leading directories, Chambers and the Legal 500.

What are your plans for the coming year?

I am going to Melbourne in late January for the Australian Tennis Open and to Hawaii at Easter. I’ll also be heading back up to London for a couple of weeks in late July/early August.

Current vacancies

There are some fantastic opportunities for talented lawyers to join our team. If you are planning on returning to New Zealand, get in touch with Kiri Sullivan or Kate Bishop – we are always keen to hear from our alumni looking to make the move home.

Think you know of someone else that might be perfect for the job? MinterEllisonRuddWatts alumni are eligible for the $6000 finder’s fee available for successful legal referrals. For more information, contact Kiri Sullivan or Kate Bishop.

Recent deals & wins

Pan Pac branches out with first forestry standing consent

Hawkes Bay based and Japanese owned forestry and timber products company Pan Pac Forest Products Limited has received the first forestry standing consent under the Overseas Investment Act, with MinterEllisonRuddWatts advising throughout the process.

Read more

NZ Cricket broadcasting rights awarded to Spark

New Zealand Cricket has awarded the broadcasting rights to cricket matches played in New Zealand under its umbrella for the next six years to Spark. MinterEllisonRuddWatts acted for New Zealand Cricket during negotiations of the agreement.

Read more

MMC to acquire Aegis from ASB

Investment administration specialist MMC is set to acquire ASB’s private wealth administration and custody business after signing a sale and purchase agreement with ASB last month. MinterEllisonRuddWatts advised MMC on the transaction, with partners Neil Millar and Steve Gallaugher leading the firm’s deal team and advising on the financing (respectively).

Read more

New Zealand’s first ESG loan secured with MinterEllisonRuddWatts advising

Pioneering New Zealand-based nutritional milk producer Synlait has entered into the country’s first Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) linked loan, with MinterEllisonRuddWatts advising Synlait on the finance arrangements.

The four year $50 million Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) linked loan with ANZ, encourages Synlait (as the borrower) to further improve its reporting performance against a set of independent ESG criteria.

Read more

Tower to acquire Youi NZ Insurance portfolio

Insurance market disruptor, Youi NZ Pty Ltd’s has announced its insurance portfolio is to be acquired by Tower Insurance Limited, after signing a Portfolio Transfer Agreement. MinterEllisonRuddWatts advised Youi on the transaction, with Partner and Corporate Division Leader Silvana Schenone leading the firm’s deal team.

Read more

MediaWorks merges with QMS Media

MinterEllisonRuddWatts advised MediaWorks on its successful merger with the ASX listed company, QMS Media. Corporate Partner Mark Forman led the merger advice, and Banking Partner Kate Lane led the team advising on financing.

Read more

Next Capital acquires NZ Bus, from Infratil

Leading independent private equity firm, Next Capital has acquired Infratil Limited’s NZ Bus business. MinterEllisonRuddWatts advised the private equity firm on the acquisition, as well as the financing arrangements, which were partly completed by way of vendor finance, and partly by senior debt from a syndicate of major New Zealand banks.

Read more

Recent happenings

New Zealand Law Awards finalists announced

MinterEllisonRuddWatts is proud to be named as a finalist for the Large Law Firm of the Year, Deal Team of the Year and Employer of Choice categories in this year’s New Zealand Law Awards. Senior Associate Vanessa Hunter has also been selected as a finalist for Young Private Practice Lawyer of the Year.

The winners will be announced at the New Zealand Law Awards gala dinner on Thursday, 21 November in Auckland.

Corporate Governance Symposium

Our annual Corporate Governance Symposium, held in August this year, has become the flagship event for the New Zealand governance community. This year’s symposium topic was ‘The challenge of climate change and the role of governors’.

Professor Will Steffen, Emeritus Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Science at the Australian National University College of Science presented the latest research ahead of a panel debate featuring highly regarded directors Dame Therese Walsh, Justine Smyth, Rob Campbell and Cathy Quinn ONZM. The discussion that followed confirmed that governance in the face of climate change is not for the timid. There was unanimous acknowledgement that we must all take greater action now.

Read more

Sarah Sinclair appointed to New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga board

MinterEllisonRuddWatts Chair and Partner, Sarah Sinclair has been appointed to the inaugural board for the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga.

The Commission is tasked with developing a long-term infrastructure plan and pipeline and helping New Zealand Government make decisions to improve the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

Read more

Newly admitted solicitors

We recently celebrated a number of admissions in our Auckland office.

Mariam Baho, Brad Cope, Stacey Michelsen, Anna Percy, Katie Shorter, Mari Theron and Aram Valesyan all reached this career milestone. There will be another admission ceremony 29 November where Charlene Cooper, Georgie Crawford, Joy Guo and Miranda Hing will be admitted.

Some of our Wellington law clerks – Zac Barber, Ethan McAuliffe, Hannah McCay, Holly Smaill, Khoti Walker-Clements and Kate Wilson – will be admitted in a ceremony on 13 December.

Marvellous mid-years

Staff dressed up in their slickest gears for our annual mid-year celebrations in Auckland and Wellington. Special thanks must go to our wonderful social clubs for organising these excellent events!

Wellington Law Clerk Bake Off

An incredible array of talent and creativity was on display at this year's Wellington Law Clerk Bake Off.

Holly Smaill won first prize for her beautiful lemon cake with cream cheese icing, while Kate Allan was runner up for her tasty Snickers brownie. Held during Mental Health Awareness week, the Bake Off doubled as a fundraiser for the Mental Health Foundation.

Caring for our community

Each year our firm gets behind Daffodil Day to support the fantastic work the Cancer Society does in New Zealand helping those with cancer. This year our team raised money by selling fresh daffodils and homemade lemon curd.

We also hosted another successful (and delicious!) Cupcake Day in support of the SPCA, raising a total of $939.60.

The time to act is now

Last month we hosted Jenny Cooper QC, the President of the Lawyers for Climate Action (LCANZ), to speak to staff over lunch. LCANZ’s purpose is to ensure more effective action in New Zealand against climate change through several actions and initiatives, including advocating for legislation and policy to ensure New Zealand achieves net zero carbon emissions no later than 2050. Jenny spoke about her role as President, the purpose of the Lawyers for Climate Action group, and how we as individuals can help combat climate change.

Focused firmly on the future

Keeping ahead of the curve and informed about changes happening in the world around us is a key focus of MinterEllisonRuddWatts. It is sometimes easy for firms to get stuck in the past through a desire to maintain conventional practices and processes that are ‘tried and tested’. MinterEllisonRuddWatts is working hard to make changes that will deliver a sustainable and happy future and taking strides towards the future of law – as a team, we’re curious, flexible and not afraid to challenge the status quo.

Investing in AI

In August, McCarthyFinch and MinterEllisonRuddWatts announced authorDOCS™ Business Edition – an artificial intelligence (AI) powered legaltech tool delivering faster contract drafting and review. Born from a desire to deliver innovative solutions and advance the legal profession, authorDOCS™ is the first product to be delivered through McCarthyFinch – founded by our firm’s joint venture with Goat Venture. The platform is highly advanced – reading, writing and augmenting how lawyers work.

We are proud to be the country’s exclusive reseller of the legaltech tool – click here to learn more.

Firm on the move

In 2020 our Auckland team will shift into new premises in Auckland’s new Commercial Bay development.

The Commercial Bay project is transforming Auckland’s CBD and waterfront – bringing together world class commercial space, public transport, international quality retail, public spaces and hospitality environments.

For our firm, the move will be a major step in many ways as we shift to a modern, open plan environment with collaboration at its core. We are excited to make the move to an architecturally designed building, surrounded by great neighbours and located in Auckland’s premier location.

The future of work

MinterEllisonRuddWatts is a leader in thinking about the future of work – taking a people first approach and using different tools to increase efficiency.

We are currently undertaking a “Future of Work” project, with flexibility at the core of this initiative. The project requires us to consider what the leading, modern law firm will look like in five years and what we need to do to get there. We look forward to keeping you updated on how this initiative progresses.

As a firm we are committed to supporting and empowering diversity and we believe that an essential part of this is flexible and part-time working. A number of our staff currently work either part-time or with some form of flexibility to their working arrangement.

Earlier this year we implemented a ‘Dress for Your Day’ (DFYD) dress policy. DFYD is the concept of assessing ahead of time what your day is likely to involve and dressing accordingly. On days with no client engagement activities, the dress code for staff who feel more comfortable in slightly less formal clothing is business casual. This allows staff to feel comfortable and ‘like themselves’ within our environment.

Our firm continually looks for ways to do things better, cementing our position as innovators within the market who are prepared to embrace change.

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