“My summer with Buddle Findlay was split across the litigation and commercial teams. Although I enjoyed both rotations, by the end of the summer I was confident that the cut and thrust of litigation better suited my personality…”
For me, law was not a first career. I spent my twenties as an Armoured Corps Officer in the New Zealand Army. During this time I travelled to Malaysia, the Solomon Islands, Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. On my last operational deployment, to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, my wife Lucy had our first child (Livia, who I did not meet until she was seven weeks old).
While overseas travel had always interested me, time away from my new family was the impetus for a change in career. So at 28 years old, I returned to university and completed a law degree. It was while I was studying that Lucy and I had our second (and last) child, Corin.
During my second year at Canterbury University I applied for a number of summer clerk positions. I was fortunate to be offered a position with some of the larger firms. The decision to accept Buddle Findlay's offer was primarily based on the people I met at the pre-interview drinks.
My summer with Buddle Findlay was split across the litigation and commercial teams. Although I enjoyed both rotations, by the end of the summer I was confident that the cut and thrust of litigation better suited my personality (I've always thrived on a good argument). I found it rather deflating to end the summer and leave the real legal work to return to study.
However, my final year of university was interrupted by the 2011 earthquake, which luckily for me, meant my family and I were able to return to England and I could go to Oxford University. Oxford involved a lot of study, as I had to keep up with my Canterbury course load via the internet as well as complete a full Oxford course. Fortunately this workload was broken up with Pimms and lemonade on the lawn, croquet, and the odd black tie dinner.
By the end of 2011 I was eager to get back to work, and be paid for that work! On returning to Buddle Findlay I was quickly immersed back into a wide range of files, as well as junior lawyer training. The quality of the training and supervision I received in my first few years of practice I believe to be second to none. It is this training and supervision as junior lawyers that I think gives us a distinct advantage over our peers.
The work in the litigation team is always varied and (usually) interesting. I have appeared in the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the District Court, the Employment Court and the Employment Relations Authority. The files I have worked on include the tortious (false and defamatory allegations on social media); the criminal (dog attacks causing serious injury); and the downright scandalous (nude photos distributed in the workplace).
As well as interesting work, we also enjoy the fruits of a well-funded social committee. In the summer months we have the office Christmas party, client functions, and the family picnic day. While in winter we have the mid-winter partner's dinner, the ski day, and a 'sports function' (go-carting, pool, and the like). We also have a lot of one-off events, such as our own 'master chef' competition (my cooking skills were found to be sadly lacking), clay bird shooting (I was better at this) and sea fishing from a chartered boat.
Although I work full time for Buddle Findlay, I have not completely transitioned out of military life. Buddle Findlay has encouraged my continued involvement with the New Zealand Defence Force by giving me time off work to train and work as a Territorial Army Legal Officer. This training has included a four week trip to Canada to represent New Zealand at an operations course in Kingston.
I am now in my sixth year of practice with Buddle Findlay. This year I will travel to London to work for six weeks in Barristers' Chambers as part of a Pegasus Scholarship I was awarded. The scholarship will include spending time with the Judges in the Old Bailey, the Courts in Edinburgh, and the Courts in Dublin, as well as working with a range of very experienced barristers in London.
Although the decisions were difficult ones to make at the time, I am confident that a change in career to the law and becoming a litigator at Buddle Findlay were the right decisions for me.
Shaun Brookes is a senior solicitor in our Christchurch litigation team.
For more information on our 2017 summer clerk programme visit venturefurther.co.nz.