Five minutes with Russell McVeagh
senior associate Ben Paterson.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
Two of my aunts, and two of my uncles, are lawyers, so that had a fairly big influence on me when I was growing up and trying to figure out what to do at Uni.
How long have you worked at Russell McVeagh and what brought you to this position?
Eight years (not counting summer clerkship). I joined Russell McVeagh straight out of University and haven't left since – it's clearly a great place to work!
What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
I practice in corporate M&A and we don't really tend to get any strange transactions (certainly nothing worth sharing!). I have had plenty of 'interesting' experiences though – one I particularly remember was when I was a junior lawyer, and toward the end of the transaction our team came into the office on a Sunday morning hoping to wrap things up that day, and so were all dressed casually (shorts and t-shirts). We then had an unexpected all-nighter to get the documents finalised for signing the next day. The rest of the team managed to get home to shower and change clothes, but I had to turn up to the signing ceremony in the same clothes from Sunday and feeling severely underdressed for the situation...
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Leonardo da Vinci (would be amazing to hear his thought process surrounding some of his inventions), Winston Churchill (just to hear about World War 2 from his perspective) and Lydia Ko (she could fix my golf game).
You’re based in Auckland – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
So many options! Pilkingtons on Shortland Street is really close, and does great food and drinks, with a good outdoor area. Otherwise The Jefferson in Fort Lane, which has an epic collection of whisky.
What’s the best piece of advice (work or personal) you’ve ever been given?
A friend of mine very recently quoted something that Theodore Roosevelt (apparently) once said, which goes something like this: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well".
I quite like the message behind it – basically you have to work hard to achieve the things that are worth achieving, and applies across everything in life – your career, relationships etc.
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
I love snowboarding and travelling, so try to combine those as much as possible. I also really enjoy playing golf, more so in summer than the wet Auckland winters.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
Who knows! I also wanted to be a doctor, but when I tried to do pre-med at Uni, my grades were terrible. Probably a 'ski bum', chasing winters and living on sofas!
What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in New Zealand in 2016?
Something that is particularly relevant for what I do is the current reforms being made to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) consenting process/regime. It is important for NZ to attract more investors (particularly for those businesses that need to access greater capital or overseas markets/expertise). But to attract those investors, it is important to ensure the OIO process is straightforward, efficient and workable, while also maintaining the appropriate degree of control over foreign investment. The reforms to the consenting process should hopefully help achieve this.
If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
Try and deal with the red-hot housing market. A lot of my generation are rapidly getting priced out of the market. Something needs to be done about it!
What do you love about your job?
The people I work with - we have a great "work family". They are absolutely amazing – incredibly smart people, but also really fun to be around. The work is also incredibly varied – with M&A work, you get involved in a huge variety of different industries which is both challenging and very interesting.
What would you change about your job right now if you could?
Probably a bit less time spent at a desk in-front of a computer screen and some more time out and about, just to break things up a bit.