Five minutes with...Greg Neill, Russell McVeagh

by Mackenzie McCarty06 Jun 2014
Greg Neill is a senior associate in the tax team at Russell McVeagh. Below, he tells NZ Lawyer about drinking Lao Lao on the banks of the Mekong - and why he loves working in his incredibly complex practice area... 

NZ Lawyer: What made you decide to become a lawyer?

Greg Neill: That decision evolved over time really.  I originally studied law as I considered it was complementary to finance and accounting.  However, the law grew on me and, by the time I looked at graduate positions after university, the opportunity to work at Russell McVeagh seemed the most interesting and the best fit for me personally.

How long have you worked with Russell McVeagh and what brought you to the firm?

Just over 8 years in total, split evenly by a period of around 4 years in London.  The high calibre of people and client work is what brought me to the firm and is why I had no hesitation coming back to the firm when I returned from London.

What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?

Working in tax doesn't throw up many strange cases - strange people maybe, but not strange cases!  I did work in London during the height of the GFC which brought about some odd circumstances - one week we were negotiating financing transactions for the big British banks and the next week we were sitting around a table with HM Treasury negotiating the terms of their financial bail-out.

Where’s the most exciting place you’ve been overseas? Alternatively, where’s your absolute favourite spot in New Zealand?

Probably Laos in terms of places outside of Europe - drinking Lao Lao on the banks of the MeKong River is definitely an experience.  In New Zealand, I love spending time at Waihi Beach.

You’re based in Auckland – where’s the best place to go for brunch on a Sunday morning?

Sunday brunch these days generally involves bringing along our 3 year old and 1 year old so anywhere that can cope with their demands is best.  We generally head to Orvieto in Mt Eden which is great for young children or Cafe on Kohi at Kohimarama Beach.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

My Dad would often say to me: "Don’t worry about what they’re doing, worry about what you’re doing."  It was often said in the context of playing sport when I was growing up and I think he borrowed that from an NFL coach.  In any event, I think it has broader application and has always stuck with me.

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?

My young family keeps me pretty busy outside of work and I look to spend as much time with them as possible.  That doesn't leave much time for other interests - watching the Chiefs or the Warriors on the weekend with a couple of beers is a common pastime though.

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…

The manager of a premier league football team.  If you achieve rubbish results and get sacked, you get a sizable cash payout and then just wait for the manager at the next club to get sacked so you can have his job.  And so on, and so on...

What do you think will be single biggest issue facing tax law in New Zealand over the next 12 months?

Probably how tax laws evolve to contemplate increasing co-operation between revenue authorities around the world in relation to disclosure and sharing of information and ensuring multi-nationals are paying what is perceived to be a fair amount of tax.

If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?

Improving Auckland's public transport system wouldn't be a bad start and maybe signing off on a new sports stadium on the waterfront.  Bit ambitious to have that all sorted out in one day though (and perhaps a bit selfish). 

What do you love about your job?

The constant challenge to stay on top of a complex area of law that many prefer to stay away from and [being able] to provide timely, accessible and commercial advice.  Long client lunches aren't bad either.

What would you change about your job right now if you could?

The recording of time in units of six minutes, always six minutes.