Hot List interview: Sarah Simmers, Anderson Lloyd

by Mackenzie McCarty28 May 2014
Dunedin-based Anderson Lloyd partner, Sarah Simmers, says the benefits of being a commercial lawyer based outside of Auckland far outweigh the cons.

Simmers, who heads of the firm’s commercial team and recently acted for Combined Rural Traders Society on its merger with Farmlands Trading Society (which involved entities with combined historic revenues of $2 billion per annum), says today’s modern technology makes working from a regional centre a viable option for legal professionals.

“I have been at Anderson Lloyd my whole career, other than time spent summer clerking at one of the big firms and two years on secondment to Yellow Pages as its acting general counsel and company secretary,” says Simmers.

“I have never regretted my decision to stay in Dunedin, or to join Anderson Lloyd.  At a larger firm I would have been more specialised from dayone and had less partner-time as a graduate.  Here, I got a good grounding in a wider range of commercial law work.”

She says so much work is done by phone and email these days, that she doesn’t see any real disadvantage to basing herself outside of Auckland.

“I have great clients based in and out of Dunedin and they get the same level of service,” says Simmers. “And from a business point of view, there are significant cost advantages in having our firm’s back-office functions based in Dunedin.

“Originally I decided to stay in Dunedin because my family is here.  Now that I have a family of my own, it is fantastic having extended family in the same city who help out with the kids.”  

Aside from being one of Anderson Lloyd’s top performers, Simmers is also a guest lecturer for the University of Otago’s advanced company law and banking law classes. In a way, she says, lecturing makes her job easier.

“Having to explain concepts to students in an easy-to-understand way helps improve my understanding,” she says. 

Simmers joined Anderson Lloyd in 2002 after graduating from the University of Otago, with honours in Law and Economics and believes the key to her success as a lawyer stems from a commercially-minded outlook. 

“My secondment helped with this,” she says. “It gave me insight into what clients do with the legal advice that I give and made me deliver advice in a more client-focused way. It also helps that I like being busy, I have great clients and I love my work!”