find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Legal Counsel
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: North Sydney NSW 2060
· 18 month fixed term contract · 3-5 years PQE with TMT exposure
View details
Tasman drifters bite into NZ’s top-tier firms

Tasman drifters bite into NZ’s top-tier firms

IN AN ACT that seemingly defies gravity, evidence is emerging in New Zealand that the country’s top corporate law firms are among a select few enterprises feeling pressured and scratching around…

IN AN ACT that seemingly defies gravity, evidence is emerging in New Zealand that the country’s top corporate law firms are among a select few enterprises feeling pressured and scratching around for work in an otherwise booming economy.

While Australia can look on with a level of traditional trans-Tasman smugness, the chilling effects of globalisation currently forcing some of New Zealand’s blue chip firms into taking drastic measures serve as something of a warning to all antipodeans.

Many of the largest organisations with a presence in New Zealand, including Cadbury and the ANZ Bank, have shifted the vast majority of their corporate legal work out of New Zealand and into Australia. While few of the country’s top-tier firms were willing to go on the record, spokespeople for the firms confirmed that they feared the situation was only going to get worse.

This downturn in highly complex legal work is at odds with the rest of the nation’s economy, which is by all measures booming. It has just recorded its 16th consecutive quarter of economic growth and is experiencing record low levels of unemployment. The reigning government is stable and recent polls indicate that it is coming around in the popularity stakes. This means it can get down to the serious business of framing legislation and bringing about reform, usually a marker of good times for the practice of corporate law.

However, the global downturn in M&A activity has been keenly felt in New Zealand and now combined with the drift across the Tasman of high-end work, the top-three firms — Belly Gully, Russell McVeagh and Chapman Tripp — have all tightened their belts considerably. Russell McVeagh in particular is reported to have dropped its partner numbers in recent years from 60 to 35, while at the same time adding an additional 50 fee earners to its ranks, thus maximising profit leverage for the partners.

Many of the partners have moved into their own boutique firms, with the most recent and high profile being Laurie Mayne and Dave Wetherell who established a boutique finance law firm, Mayne Wetherell, taking seven former Russell McVeagh lawyers and an administrative staff member with them.

Ironically, the two firms that have embraced the ANZAC spirit, Phillips Fox and Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, are best placed to deal with the movement of business to Australia.

However, while the blue chip firm partners struggle to keep the second Porsche on the road, smaller firms are doing relatively well. Compliance law has been flagged as one of the biggest growth areas while the ageing population and the subsequent construction boom in retirement housing is presenting ongoing opportunities.

Meanwhile the Lawyers and Conveyancers Bill currently before the New Zealand parliament threatens the monopoly New Zealand lawyers currently enjoy over the conveyancing market.

Watch out for a full report on the New Zealand legal market in the next issue of Lawyers Weekly.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Tasman drifters bite into NZ’s top-tier firms
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC
Aug 17 2017
Where social fault lines meet the justice gap in Aus
After just returning from a tour of the Northern Territory, LCA president Fiona McLeod SC speaks wit...
Marriage equality flag
Aug 17 2017
ALHR backs High Court challenge to marriage equality postal vote
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has voiced its support for a constitutional challenge to ...
Give advice
Aug 17 2017
A-G issues advice on judiciary’s public presence
Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis QC has offered his advice on the public presence of jud...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...