What made you decide to become a lawyer?
It was a natural fit out coming out of school. I was always good at English and I normally did well in speech competitions.
How long have you worked at Andy Bell Law and what brought you to this position?
I started Andy Bell Law in 2013. I had previously been a partner at Fitzherbert Rowe Lawyers. I left to come back to Wellington. I worked at Quigg partners on my return and built up some specialist employment law knowledge.
When I started the firm, I thought there was a market for a unique offering. I wanted to use new technologies and ways of working to create a really cost effective price point. I also wanted the business to have personality and to move away from the Lambton Quay corporate feel. I hired my first employee at the end of 2013: Jessica Bergseng, a graduate lawyer.
One year on and I need to hire another person, or possibly two, and support staff. That has catalysed a transformation. We move on 1 February to take larger space on Cuba Street. I am rebranding to Bell & CO. We also have a new website that will be ready shortly. It’s great because the business has a lot of me in it and it has been received really well so far. If anything, we want to strengthen its personality and uniqueness moving forward.
What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
I can say I have seen been involved in some fairly unusual disciplinary investigations in the employment law sphere. Disciplinary cases for internet misuse can get very strange…
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work in Wellington?
- Dr Dre – I’ve always admired his skill as a music producer and, more recently, and perhaps more importantly, he is a great entrepreneur.
- Joe Rogen – Comedian, sports commentator, someone that isn’t opposed to speaking his mind. Also he’s a real advocate for carving out your own place in the world. He would certainly keep the conversation going.
- Carl Sagan – Scientist, an advocate for political and environmental change, but also a skilled communicator and that set him apart. If you do nothing else, YouTube the pale blue dot speech.
My new office from February is situated right amongst some of my favourite spots. There is Ombra downstairs. Ombra does Peroni on tap and amazing Venetian style share plates. Havana Bar is a great spot to take a group of friends, and it is just up the road. I also have El Matador and Logan Brown over the road from the office. I am spoilt for choice.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
Don’t let feelings of doubt stop you from doing things. Doubt is usually irrational. Crunch the numbers and look at the data carefully – if that says go for it, then go for it.
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
I am very interested in music. I am a massive fan of lots of the underground genres: drum and bass, techno and house. I occasionally help out on a friend’s radio shows. I also started dabbling in promoting artists with a few of my close friends.
I love travel and hope to do more through Europe. I haven’t been to Vegas yet and definitely need to do that soon.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
…something that lets me speak my piece but maybe in an entertainment role, i.e. a broadcaster or journalist.
What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in New Zealand in 2016?
I think a lot of our systems are really letting the people of New Zealand down. The wait times in the Court process are terrible, particularly in civil matters. This may be mirrored in other areas I don’t practice in as well.
The reforms in the family jurisdiction have made that jurisdiction a mess. The dumbing down of the care of children process to make it accessible hasn’t worked. It just makes it harder for lawyers to highlight the complexities and nuances present in many cases.
If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
One day is probably not enough. I think it would be a good chance to get the dialogue going in respect of the politically unpopular issues such as:
What do you love about your job?
- Confronting the issue of poverty and looking for long-term solutions
- Addressing New Zealand’s rate of imprisonment and looking at the social causes of crime and addressing them
- Looking at a treatment and education-based approach to drug offending as opposed to criminalisation
I love a good underdog case. I like taking on large organisation’s where they have failed to treat people fairly. This comes up a lot in employment law.
What would you change about your job right now if you could?
I’m in the privileged position where I am shaping the direction of the business. I’d like less admin to do, and I’m working on that.