Growth spurt: Firm appoints 8 new partners, 3 principals and a special counsel

by Sophie Schroder18 Aug 2014
One of the country’s larger law firms, Meredith Connell, has - until now - flown relatively under the radar. But the huge organic growth it is experiencing is making it impossible to keep a modest profile.

The firm has just appointed eight new partners, three new principals and a new special counsel. This brings the partner total to 31, working among a team of more than 200.

But that’s not all: Meredith Connell, which is Auckland’s Office of the Crown Solicitor, has also just opened another office in Wellington.

Managing partner Steve Haszard told NZ Lawyer that the growth on the “contestable” or commercial side of the business has hit the ball out of the park.

“Traditionally one of our main streams of work has been servicing the Crown Solicitor, but these days it’s only 30% of the practice,” he says. “We’ve transferred from a Crown Solicitor firm to a full service firm, and we’ve had tremendous growth…We’re looking at over 16% growth in the next 12 months in the contestable areas of our practice.”

The growth has occurred particularly in the past 12 to 24 months, and has been organic, he says. It hasn’t occurred through any mergers or acquisitions, and the Wellington office, which was opened at the end of July, is just a further extension of that growth.

Meredith Connell has also formed an infrastructure and projects group, and has been recruiting out of the Middle East and the UK over the past 12 months with the goal of finding the best expertise. A construction expert from Dubai and a finance expert from the Cayman Islands are the latest to be “head hunted”, Haszard says.

The other area the firm is looking to push heavily into is insurance, and it’s just recruited insurance litigation specialist - the new special counsel, Melissa Russell - out of Singapore.

“We’re [currently] on the lookout for five new lawyers. We’re constantly trying to get the right talent,” says Haszard. “We’re very much going through a rejuvenation phase and a generational change along with the growth... For us it’s all about repositioning ourselves in the market so people have a better understanding of what our service offerings are these days.”

Meredith Connell’s latest appointments:

Fionnghuala Cuncannon, partner
A senior prosecutor who has undertaken a wide range of trial work under the Crown Solicitor’s Warrant and has significant experience in commercial litigation.

Kim Francis, partner
The sole new appointment to the Wellington office, Francis has played a key role in major litigation cases and will undertake high level commercial litigation work for existing clients and develop new opportunities.

Mark Harborow, partner
A specialist in criminal enforcement litigation, including senior jury trial work, Harborow runs the large and complex proceeds of crime work Meredith Connell undertakes on behalf of the New Zealand Police.

Kirsten Lummis, partner
A specialist criminal prosecutor who leads Meredith Connell’s Early Resolution Group, which was set up to transform the way in which criminal work is transacted under the Criminal Procedure Act.

Paul Murray, partner
Murray has particular responsibility for the management of Deloitte, one of Meredith Connell’s significant clients, and works extensively in the firm’s private client insolvency practice.

Josh Shaw, partner
A criminal litigation specialist with a reputation as an outstanding jury trial advocate. He now becomes part of the senior leadership team on the Crown warrant side of the practice.

Steve Symon, partner
Symon has particular experience in the enforcement litigation arising from finance company collapses and manages the growing enforcement and compliance practice for the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

Nick Whittington, partner
A commercial litigation specialist that has undertaken significant commercial cases and judicial reviews as well as prosecution work under the Crown Solicitor’s Warrant.

Mark Godfrey, principal
A renowned expert in construction transactions, construction and project development and infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals, roads, light and heavy rail, power, water and oil and gas matters.

Robin McCoubrey, principal
Robin is an outstanding advocate and prosecutes trials on behalf of the Crown at the highest level. His appointment recognises his significant role of criminal practice manager and its importance as a key link between Meredith Connell’s work under the Crown Solicitor’s Warrant and the contestable practice.

Nick Webby, principal
A specialist in the prosecution of jury trials both in the District Court and High Court. Webby has also been a deputy criminal practice manager and served as the Crown's representative on the executive committee of the Criminal Bar Association.

Melissa Russell, special counsel
An experienced insurance litigation lawyer who represents international insurers and reinsurers in respect of coverage issues and liability defence matters. She represents insurers and their insureds in complex multi-party litigation, arbitration, and mediation and advises on energy and construction risks, including CAR/EAR policies.