Five minutes with…Earl Gray, Simpson Grierson

by NZ Lawyer10 Nov 2014
Earl Gray, the co-head of Simpson Grierson’s IP group, tells us about his “brilliantly perceptive” decision to join the firm, and his other desire to be in bird recovery.

What made you decide to become a lawyer?
I enjoyed Chemistry, English and History at school, and studied History at University. With a brother and many extended family members who are or were lawyers, law just seemed to naturally follow. 
My love of intellectual property began with an inspiring American IP lecturer at the University of Otago, Dan Laster.

How long have you worked at Simpson Grierson for and what brought you to that position? 
I was a summer clerk at Simpson Grierson 1987-8, then worked here from November 1988 to July 1991. After a stint studying and working in England, I returned to Simpson Grierson in February 1995. That's very close to 20 years… this time around.
I chose to summer clerk Simpson Grierson after a startlingly unsophisticated assessment of the options (involving my very sick father and my best mate who I essentially told "I'll go to whatever firm you do"). I have re-created that selection process in my mind – it is now a brilliantly perceptive decision.

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Jim Wallace, my history teacher and sports coach at school; Dan Laster (see above); Eve (mainly to make the other two uncomfortable).

You’re based in Auckland – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
Auckland has many, many great options. It has developed in recent years into a vibrant modern city. My local bars, the Gypsy Tearoom and Freda's in West Lynn, are great options for a drink.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
My father: "There's more to life than book learning." My mother: "You can't kill weeds."

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
My three children keep me pretty busy outside of work. I coach and still occasionally play cricket, have always enjoyed long-distance running, am a very amateur bird watcher, and even collect stamps. I am a member of a book club that also has a creative challenge each year, so that gives other parts of my brain a bit of stimulus. I also love to travel, and to do anything outdoors.

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
(Possibly) in bird recovery with the Department of Conservation.

If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
Leave the job, and become a lawyer or go into bird recovery.

What do you love about your job?
Even after all these years, I am still constantly challenged intellectually by IP work.  My clients are fascinating and high profile. I like to be able to assess an issue and find a practical way through for a client.
The people at Simpson Grierson are great to work with – it has been a huge privilege playing a part in the development of young lawyers into experts and very effective advisers/advocates in their own right.