Frana Divich, a partner at Heaney & Partners, tells NZ Lawyer about why we need to bring back the High Court wigs, and her love of all things food.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
I confess to having been a fan of the American TV show LA Law
that ran from 1986 to 1994 (my favourite characters were Victor Sifuentes and Jonathan Rollins) and that probably influenced my decision more than it should have. At school I was part of a very good debating team. I like words and opinions and arguing. I did Law Intermediate at the University of Otago and it felt like a good fit. I’ve never looked back.
How long have you worked at Heaney & Partners for and what brought you to that position?
I started at Heaney & Co in 2005. When David Heaney QC decided to form Heaney & Partners in 2013 I joined him in partnership. BH (Before Heaney) I worked for two other New Zealand firms and while overseas in the United Kingdom I spent a year working in-house for Eagle Star Insurance (subsequently bought by Zurich) and 3 years working for a local authority in London. That insurance and local authority background was a perfect fit for the position I now hold.
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Oscar Wilde – I love his wit, intelligence, aesthetic and literary talent.
Bill and Hillary Clinton – I am fascinated by both of them. They are an amazing team and both incredibly accomplished. They are well travelled, interesting and ambitious.
How amazing would the dinner conversation be?
You’re based in Auckland – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
I am a creature of habit and I have loved Soul Bar for years.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
The first mentor I had was one of the first partners I worked for. His name is Gordon Whiting (and if he happens to be reading this I would like him to know how grateful I am to him for all the things he taught me). I remember him saying something like this to me when I was 22 years old and it has stuck with me: “If it seems unjust then you will have trouble persuading a judge of the rightness of it – even if there is a good technical argument. Ultimately the law is about justice”. Gordon would have said it more eloquently than I have said it. Experience has taught me that he was absolutely right.
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
I love eating. Eating isn’t really a hobby because everyone has to do it – but if it was an Olympic sport I think I’d win. I like going to the gym – but you can tell by looking at me that I like eating more than I like going to the gym. To combat my great love of eating I work out twice a week with a personal trainer.
I love reading fiction. I like trashy novels, great literary works and reading story books to my daughter before she goes to sleep. I am silly excited that Marian Keyes has a new novel coming out soon.
I love shoes. I am a serious collector.
I am addicted to reading on-line newspapers.
I love travelling.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
…a different sort of lawyer! I have always had an interest in criminal law and criminology. I practised criminal law on and off for about 7 years. I loved the theatre of jury trials and giving my client a robust defence.
If that is a “cheats” answer, then my alternative answer is criminal profiler, journalist or teacher.
If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
I would reverse the changes to the Family Court. I think those changes have disadvantaged the most vulnerable children and women.
What do you love about your job?
I love solving problems for my clients and resolving claims through alternative dispute resolution. I love the cut and thrust of trials. Most of all though, I love working with other people – my clients, my partners, my work mates and my colleagues in the profession.
What would you change about your job right now if you could?
It would be great if the wigs were brought back for High Court work. They were the best thing about the liquidation and bankruptcy list when I was a young practitioner.