Five minutes with...Polly Pope, Russell McVeagh

by NZ Lawyer28 Mar 2014
Polly Pope is a litigation partner at Russell McVeagh. Below, she talks to NZ Lawyer about the best advice she's ever been given, swimming in the pool at the Beehive - and the best place in Auckland to head for after-work drinks...

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

I started my law degree to give a "sensible" supplement to my art history studies.  After my second year at university, I summer clerked at Russell McVeagh to see if the law was for me, and it was.  I was so keen to start work that I gave up my art history degree so I could finish my law degree more quickly.

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

Litigation brings you into contact with many colourful characters, but I'm much too discreet to name any of them. One of my strangest (but best) jobs was reviewing scripts for a sitcom and a feature film as a junior lawyer.  I think it was an elaborate attempt to get invited to the wrap parties.

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?

I would love to be entertained by the late and great film critic Roger Ebert, the writer Caitlin Moran, and the comedian Tina Fey. 

You’re based in Auckland – where’s the best place to go for a drink after work?

My local, Montage Bar in Pt Chevalier.  It is hidden away in an unassuming strip of shops on Great North Road, but does amazing old fashioned cocktails.  It holds a unique monthly quiz night (the next one is next Wednesday).

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (professional or personal)?

In life you mostly regret the things you don't do, but seldom regret the things you do.  It is an encouragement to pursue the opportunities that are presented to you. 

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside work?

I love getting to the beach and have just taken up stand up paddle boarding.  I spend a lot of time outside of work reading about films and, when life allows, watching them.

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

In an alternative timeline I would be trying to put my Masters of International Relations to use,  ideally for the UN in New York.

What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the litigation space in New Zealand in 2014?

Litigators need to adapt to the challenges of discovery in an environment of ever increasing volumes of data.  We have a great platform in the 'new' High Court Rules to make sure discovery is tailored and costs are proportionate.  This should be a key priority for all commercial litigators.

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

A day is a pretty short period of time.  I'd use the access the position grants to find out about the greatest challenges facing New Zealand and how we can all work to solve them.  I'd also try to fit in a swim at the pool in the Beehive.

What do you love about your job?

I love helping my clients solve difficult problems and working with a great group of people.  I love the focus on and drive to excellence within Russell McVeagh, and the fact that no two cases (or days) are the same.

What would you change about your job right now if you could?
It would be great to have an intelligent filter that reduces and prioritises my incoming email for me.