Barney Cumberland, partner at Simpson Grierson, speaks with NZ Lawyer about his stress management strategies and how he came to work in the law.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
If truth be told, it was really a default option for me, reflecting my belief at the time that there wasn't much else I could seriously consider doing. I had focused on humanities and mathematics at school, but not the sciences, so as a not-very-worldly seventeen year-old, law looked to be the only viable option. Ultimately it proved a good decision, though, despite lacking any sound basis at the time.
How long have you worked at Simpson Grierson for and what brought you to this position?
I am what is known around the firm as a "lifer". After having a summer clerk position in 1996/97, I came in as a law grad in 1998 and have been here ever since. Why Simpson Grierson? Unlike a lot of my contemporaries, I had no interest in going through the gruelling process of four or five interviews for possible summer clerk positions at a range of firms, so I took the risk of just applying to one (effectively chosen out of a hat) which happened to be Simpson Grierson. Luckily I got an offer.
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Shane Warne. I can imagine nothing more side-splittingly marvellous than whiling away an evening in the company of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Warne is the sportsperson I admire more than any other, for his sheer skill and guile, and I reckon he'd get along with Peter and Dudley. I'd need a lot of booze.
You’re based in Auckland – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
There are lots of great new options in Britomart and elsewhere, but for a drink I still enjoy the trusty old Wine Loft on Shortland Street. They know their wine and the low-key, cosy atmosphere is to my liking, especially in the winter months. On the food front, central Auckland is now blessed with countless, top quality options. I don't really have an overall favourite, but the crayfish meatballs at Baduzzi are the most inspired dish I have tried in a while.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
"Let go". This is a brilliant stress management tool. If you can train yourself to switch off the part of the brain that is focusing on the problem by letting go, and exist only through your senses for a while, you can master your emotional response to the problem (ie stress). It's effectively meditation without the bells and whistles, but it works.
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
I like to fish and have a boat that sadly doesn't get on the water as much as it should. I enjoy gardening and have plenty of it to do at home. I have also done a lot of tramping over the years. Having a young child has put this sort of thing on hold for a while, but we will get back into it. I was also silly enough to buy a house that has a wine cellar in it, so am acting under an irresistible compulsion to fill it.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
Unquestionably a pilot. All my family, friends and workmates will confirm that I am a frustrated aviator. Call me sad, but hours of my spare time are spent playing around on FlightRadar24 (the best smartphone app ever developed) and I even have model aircraft in my office.
If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
I would bring far more of a focus to climate change at all levels of government. I don't think of myself as particularly green, but I have for a long time been convinced that human-induced climate change is happening and is a big problem. My perception is that our government, like many others, is asleep at the wheel on this issue. Worrying about things like traffic congestion in Auckland when you are faced with climate change, is like worrying about a pimple when you've got a brain tumour.
What do you love about your job?
I look at something new every day. Tax finds its way into everything and throws up an amazing array of different issues. This is not only stimulating but also means that I have had the privilege of working with colleagues from every other work group in the firm.