The pursuit of justice and Richard Branson for dinner

by NZ Lawyer13 Jun 2016
Five minutes with DLA Piper partner Veronica Cress.

What made you decide to become a lawyer?
When I was 9 years old I watched the TV series Hanlon which was based on noteable cases of South Island barrister Alfred Hanlon in the late 1890s.  After watching the episode about Minnie Dean, the only woman executed by hanging in New Zealand, I decided to become a lawyer and save all the people on death row.  

I've since changed my mind about the death row part but happily followed through on the rest and was already well on my way to becoming a lawyer by the time I started law school at the age of 16. 

The Hanlon episode that sealed my fate can be watched online at

How long have you worked at DLA Piper and what brought you to this position?
I am a partner in the Insurance Litigation team in the Auckland office of DLA Piper.  I have been a partner at DLA Piper since 2011 but my path to partnership and travels since 2011 have been unusual.  I first joined the firm more than 10 years ago in 2006.  Since then the firm has supported my many requests to broaden my experience and understanding of the insurance industry here in New Zealand and overseas.   As a result, I have been on some incredibly valuable secondments, in-house with the largest general insurer in New Zealand, and also with other DLA Piper insurance litigation teams in Sydney and Bangkok. 

What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
One of the strangest cases I've ever worked on was a US$ 10 million cargo claim in Bangkok.We were instructed 10 working days before the limitation period expired.All of the evidence was in Japanese and had to be translated to English so that we could draft the claim.Then, once the client had approved the claim, all of the court documents had to be translated from English into Thai before they could be filed in Bangkok.Fortunately we were able to get the job done on time and the claim was filed with 9 minutes to spare before the limitation period expired. However, working on a case with evidence and pleadings in three different languages was strange.
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?

Willie Apiata VC because he is the only living New Zealand recipient of a Victoria Cross for bravery under fire and, as a former NZSAS officer, he is undoubtedly a man with skills.

Queen Elizabeth I because she overcame being declared Henry VIII's bastard to became one of the longest reigning English monarchs of all time and she did this at a time when beheading and jousting sticks were common perils.  Her rousing speech to the troops at Tilbury in 1588 prior to the English defeat of the Spanish Armada is one of my favourites:   "I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too."

Sir Richard Branson because he is a true entrepreneur who has shown that it is possible to be a financial success in old-school terms by passionately pursuing new-school ideas and placing a real value on people and the environment.

You’re based in Auckland – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
Xu Xu in Britomart.  It is small and discreet and the wine list and menu are both long and interesting enough for an after work drink to easily evolve into an epic evening.

What’s the best piece of advice (work or personal) you’ve ever been given?
"Always balance your investments".  Advice given to me by one of my favourite New Zealand insurance industry executives after he made a pragmatic decision to settle a technically flawed legal claim against his company on the basis that the underlying commercial relationship was worth more than the point of legal principle.

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
My main interest outside work is Muay Thai Kickboxing.  I have trained and fought in Thailand in the past and I try to go back to Thailand at least once every year.  I also enjoy scuba diving.  I have recently started taking archery lessons and so far have managed to not hit any of the sheep grazing in Cornwall Park. 

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
… a fighter in the UFC.

What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in New Zealand in 2017?
Technology will continue to be the biggest issue in both the legal and insurance spaces in the coming year as the full potential and implications of it become increasingly apparent over time.

If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
  1. Put insurance law reform back on the government agenda. 
  2. Implement policies to ensure that every NZ child has access to a quality education, three meals a day, and a warm safe place to live.
  3. Encourage greater investment and immigration into the regions of New Zealand outside of Auckland. 
  4. Invite Willie Apiata VC over for dinner.
What do you love about your job?
The pursuit of truth, justice and commercial common-sense through the civil courts.

What would you change about your job right now if you could?
If I could, I would settle every residential earthquake claim today.