Originally from South Africa, DLA Phillips Fox solicitor Stephen Behrmann takes five minutes to tell us about the strangest case he’s ever worked on, and the importance of golf.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
I never wanted to go to university - I wanted to be a professional rugby player. My father, despite being my greatest fan, insisted that I first get a degree before pursuing a career in rugby. Knowing that math was not my strength at school, I approached the Dean and asked which degrees excluded math as a module. The first degree he mentioned was law and before he could suggest any others I was already making my way to the Law Faculty to enrol as a student.
How long have you worked at DLA Phillips Fox for and what brought you to that position?
I worked at DLA Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (South Africa), a member of DLA Piper Group, for two and half years before moving to New Zealand. I was fortunate to have that international 'DLA' link to DLA Phillips Fox and started working here in November 2013.
What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
I was involved in interviewing some of the witnesses to the police shootings which took place in South Africa at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in 2012, where after eight days of illegal strike action police were forced to open fire on a hostile gathering of armed strikers killing 34 protestors.
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Jesus would be the only person I'd need around the dinner table. He could tell me everything I wanted to know about my other two guests.
You’re based in Auckland – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
Anywhere with ocean/beach views.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
"You'll never be a successful lawyer if you can't play golf" - John Webber (Partner at DLA Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, South Africa).
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
Anything which involves a rugby ball or fishing rod. I have also recently joined a social 20/20 cricket league.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer…
…I'd be a pilot, but only because I couldn't make it as a rugby player.
If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
My gran has always admired the Queen. I guess if I was John Key for a day, I would ask the Queen to write my gran a letter and explain to her that it's not "common" to drink tea out of a mug.
What do you love about your job?
You can never know enough when it comes to practicing law. I learn something new every day, which keeps things interesting.
What would you change about your job right now if you could?
In South Africa it is possible, with hard work, to track yourself to become a partner within eight years of legal practice. That is less likely in New Zealand, so I'd make progression to partnership more determinable.