Five minutes with… Craig Paddon

by Miklos Bolza14 Sep 2015
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
I’ve never been into science or that sort of thing so when I went to university I enrolled in law because I was a keen reader. There’s plenty of reading to do in law school! It’s not something I consciously made a decision to do. I just fell into it.

How long have you worked at Craig Paddon Lawyers and what brought you to this position?
I began practising in December 1987. I started working at a firm and eventually became a partner. Then there was a big economic downturn in the late 1990’s and we decided to wind the partnership up. At that stage, I went out on my own. That was April 1998. I’ve been on my own ever since. 

What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
My favourite war story is having to retrieve a deceased client. He lived in a small rural town an hour and a half drive from Dunedin. I had to interrupt the family on the day of his funeral to bring him back. The reason was we had to have a belated post-mortem done. He’d been a recipient of a heart valve replacement a few years beforehand. It turned out the make and model of the valve was faulty and there was worldwide legal action. When the individual died, nobody thought to do an autopsy and see whether the valve was faulty or not.

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
One of them is Bruce McLaren, a race car designer, driver, engineer and inventor. I’ve always been a big racing fan and to me, he epitomises the Kiwi can-do attitude. The second one is Chris Kristofferson, the singer/songwriter. He’s always remained true to himself and his songs are really a lesson in living to me. The third is Jack Nicholson. He’d bring some spark to the table. I always remember one of his quotes, “The minute that you’re not learning, I believe you’re dead” and to me that’s like life. 

Where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work in Dunedin?
Fat Harrys Restaurant at the Mornington Tavern. It’s a very popular family-orientated restaurant with big-sized meals and a cosy atmosphere. It’s a good place to chill out on a Friday night or Saturday. I’d recommend the surf and turf there.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
Over the years I’ve tried to treat others as I would like to be treated myself. That's the philosophy of the practice and the people I deal with. With that, you can’t go too far wrong especially in a profession such as law. 

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
My main one is motor sports. I race in the NZ Super Six series which occupies me over the summer months. I’m a bit older than some of the other competitors but I can still hold my own.

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
A truck driver. The family has always been involved in trucks and I’ve always had a real passion for them. I told my mother I wanted to drive trucks. She told me to go get educated. I defied her and went driving trucks for about eight years and then thought I’d better go get educated.

What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in New Zealand in 2015?
Looking back at 1987 and comparing it to now, the practice of law has become less of a profession and more of a commodity. When I started, lawyers weren’t allowed to advertise. All you could do was have your name on your office door. Everyone worked from the Little Red Book scale of professional fees and charged exactly the same. In the 90’s, lawyers lobbied to be able to advertise. The government and Law Society agreed. They abolished the Little Red Book and the marketplace became more competitive. Prices dropped which affected the profitability of the profession.

If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
I would direct that all lending by banks to businesses should have a much lower interest rate than it is for residential borrowing. To me, it’s the wrong way round. It’s better to give businesses access to cheaper credit since we employ people, produce goods and services, and help grow the economy.

What do you love about your job?
Being a relatively small general practice, it’s the variety. We cross over into property, trust, family, and employment law – key areas that most people are involved with in their day-to-day lives. Every day, you don’t know what’s going to come in.

What would you change about your job right now if you could?
I’ve already started the change to be honest. It’s a stressful occupation. You’re always working with clients who have major issues going on so I’ve been feeling a bit burnt out at some stages. For the past couple of months, I’ve actually taken a less lawyer-like role and more of a practice management and business development role. I’ve also taken on a couple of extra lawyers. I’ve always been an entrepreneur and I get a lot of satisfaction about building the business and running my operations.