ConnectingME | June 2019

Keeping you up to date on recent events, deals and awards – read the latest issue of ConnectingME, the MinterEllisonRuddWatts alumni newsletter.

I’m now almost 10 months into what’s still really my new role and really enjoying being part of our firm. It’s clear we are standing out in the market for our culture, our focus on innovation and the great work we are doing with our clients. And I can still feel that momentum and energy I first felt when I walked in the door.

There has been a lot of activity during the past six months – whether we’re delivering excellent advice for our clients or working to advance key projects that underpin our firm’s strategic plan.

Across the firm, teams have thoroughly enjoyed delivering a number of high profile and first of their kind projects and transactions, including:

We were pleased to be recognised for leading change within the legal profession in the first Innovative Firms Report, which showcases New Zealand law firms at the forefront of change and innovation. And we are working hard on settling new values which will genuinely become the bedrock of our firm and our culture.

We are always delighted to welcome members of our firm’s alumni back after developing their skills in various jurisdictions, bringing that expertise home for the benefit of our clients. Read on to hear from two alumni, Olivia Wylie and Scott Thompson, on what they’re enjoying most about being back in New Zealand.

If you’re considering returning home we have a number of opportunities, and remember that as a member of our alumni you are eligible for a finder’s fee for successful referrals – read below for more details.

Warm regards,

Andrew Poole

Chief Executive

New appointments

Sarah Sinclair – Chair

Leading Construction and Infrastructure Partner Sarah Sinclair was elected as our new board chair at the beginning of the year.

Internationally recognised, Sarah joined the firm in 2010 and brought her extensive experience to help build New Zealand’s foremost legal construction and energy practices. She also brings strong governance skills to the role, having been a board member for the firm as well as other industry board and trustee roles.

Sarah takes over the role of Chair from Lloyd Kavanagh, who chose not to seek re-election to focus on his top tier investment funds practice.

Greg Starr – Chief Financial Officer

Chief Financial Officer Greg Starr was Finance Manager and CFO of two major New Zealand law firms before joining MinterEllisonRuddWatts in January. Greg brings an excellent understanding of what makes law firms tick with the ability to work alongside partners and lawyers to help them run their practices and has a strong focus on pricing and efficiency.

Scott Jacobs – Director, Business Development and Marketing

Scott Jacobs joined our firm as Director, Business Development and Marketing in April. After beginning his career as a lawyer, Scott made the move into business development, working for an SME-focused start up initially before shifting into large global consulting firms to work on his passions of business strategy and developing client relationships.


Sonya Forbes (Special Counsel, Corporate)

Sonya joined the firm in 2017 as a Senior Associate in the firm’s corporate technology team. She is a highly valued member of the team with an excellent technical ability, pragmatic and solution orientated approach to matters. Sonya is a highly experienced practitioner, having worked in both private practice and in-house roles in New Zealand and London.

Olivia de Pont (Senior Associate, Dispute Resolution)

Olivia joined the firm as a Senior Solicitor in 2017 from another top tier law firm. Olivia is a talented lawyer who has an excellent instinct for strategy which is respected by clients. Since joining the firm’s Auckland dispute resolution team, Olivia has impressed with her capability and commitment to the team’s ongoing development.

Alastair Gatt (Senior Associate, Real Estate and Property)

Alastair joined the firm’s Real Estate and Property team in Auckland as a Senior Solicitor in late 2015 having worked in private practice and in-house legal roles for a number of years in Scotland before moving to New Zealand. As an essential and highly valued member of the team, Alastair’s manner and work ethic are excellent and recognised by quality feedback, both internally and externally.

Suzy McMillan (Senior Associate, Corporate)

On Suzy’s return to New Zealand in 2016 she joined the Corporate IP/IT team. Suzy has a mixture of in-house and public sector experience in both New Zealand and the UK, which has rendered her a hardworking, versatile and talented lawyer, with a broad skill set. Along with Suzy’s general commercial skills, she has made an important contribution to the firm in the specialty area of privacy.

Sarah Moore (Senior Associate, Dispute Resolution)

Hailing from Australia, Sarah has made a smooth transition into New Zealand’s legal market since arriving in late 2017. With a background in private practice in Melbourne, Sarah is a highly capable and resourceful practitioner, and is an integral part of the firm’s relationship property practice. Sarah has a proactive approach in helping clients resolve complex disputes at what can be a very trying time.

Spotlight on returned alumni

We spoke to two recently returned alumni members, Olivia Wylie and Scott Thompson, to hear what they’re enjoying most about being back in New Zealand and MinterEllisonRuddWatts.

Olivia Wylie (Senior Solicitor, Construction, Auckland)

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m working on a number of shopping mall redevelopment projects in Wellington for key clients of the firm who own a lot of commercial properties around New Zealand. I’ve also been keeping busy assisting with the development of fit-for-purpose delivery models to aid in the Earthquake Commission’s response to natural disasters in the future, which is interesting work.

What are you enjoying most about being back in New Zealand?

I’ve just bought a new home so I’m enjoying having a backyard and not being in a classic London terraced house. Also just being able to escape to the beach and big wide open spaces – it’s nice compared to big city living.

What have the highlights of your return to MinterEllisonRuddWatts been?

I loved the team and the partners that I worked for, so coming back to see and work with them again has been a highlight, and also seeing lots of other people around the firm that I hadn’t seen in four years or so. I think MinterEllisonRuddWatts is in a really good place at the moment and I’ve noticed positive developments over the last few years.

I’m obviously also looking forward to moving into Commercial Bay which should be exciting.

Is there any advice you’d give people considering a return?

Definitely start the conversation early. There’s lots to think about in a move. It was quite clear to me that I would come back to MinterEllisonRuddWatts, but things still take time and it’s definitely worth considering all the options. I certainly found that the partners were really great to talk to and really supportive.

Scott Thompson (Senior Associate, Construction, Auckland)

What are you currently working on?

We have a busy pipeline of work. I’m working on a rent review arbitration where we are acting for the tenant. I’m also representing an engineering consultant in an arbitration related to alleged design defects. There are a number of other construction disputes we’re advising on including a delay and disruption claim and a dispute regarding whether a party has effectively terminated a contract.

What are your plans for the coming year?

I’m pretty focused on getting a better feel for the construction industry in New Zealand as it’s an interesting time for the sector, so there are a number of events and conferences I’ll be attending, including going to the Property Council New Zealand Conference which is in Sydney this year.  Outside of work, I’m taking a short break to head to the US Golf Open, although I plan to meet with one of our key clients in their LA headquarters.

How was the move back to New Zealand?

The first six months were pretty challenging given that my wife had never lived in New Zealand and I’d been in the States the seven years prior. There were some bumps along the way but we’ve settled into Auckland now and really enjoying exploring the city.  The work transition was easier for me and I was pleased the culture of MinterEllisonRuddWatts is really similar to what it was when I was first with the firm – it was one of the drawcards for returning. It’s been nice reconnecting with old friends, work colleagues and family.

What have the highlights of your return to MinterEllisonRuddWatts been?

Working in a team where everybody has input and there’s a general sense of people working together and enjoying each other’s company, as opposed to some mixed experiences in the States. So collaboration, openness and a friendly setting have been the key highlights.

Current vacancies

There are some fantastic opportunities for talented lawyers to join our team. If you are planning on returning to New Zealand, get in touch with Kiri Sullivan or Kate Bishop – we are always keen to hear from our alumni looking to make the move home.

Think you know of someone else that might be perfect for the job? MinterEllisonRuddWatts alumni are eligible for the $6000 finder’s fee available for successful legal referrals. For more information, contact Kiri Sullivan or Kate Bishop.

Recent deals & wins

Tip Top deal signed with advice from MinterEllisonRuddWatts

International dairy giant Fonterra’s Tip Top ice-cream business has been acquired by global ice cream business Froneri through its Australian ice-cream subsidiary, Peter’s Ice Cream.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts advised Froneri, a joint venture between Nestle and PAI Partners, throughout due diligence, bidding and negotiations to finalise the agreement.

The deal completed in record time, and Tip Top is now part of the Froneri business which is the third largest ice-cream company in the world, with presence in Australia, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and South Africa.

Read more

Lessons for directors from Mainzeal decision

MinterEllisonRuddWatts acted for the liquidators of Mainzeal Property and Construction Ltd in the precedent-setting High Court case which found the directors of Mainzeal, including Dame Jenny Shipley and Richard Yan, liable for reckless trading. The Court ordered the directors to pay $36m to Mainzeal in this landmark case.

Read more

$3.4 billion sale of Vodafone aided by MinterEllisonRuddWatts

MinterEllisonRuddWatts has advised on aspects of the NZ$3.4 billion acquistion of Vodafone New Zealand by a consortium comprising Infratil and Brookfield Asset Management.

Partner John Conlan led MinterEllisonRuddWatts’ deal team advising Brookfield Asset Management on its shareholding arrangements while partners Chris O’Brien and Steve Gallaugher led the team advising the lead finance arranger banks involved in this complex deal.

Read more

Top companies join forces to reduce carbon footprint

Four of New Zealand’s top performing companies, Air New Zealand, Contact Energy, Genesis Energy and Z Energy, have teamed-up to grow carbon credits by investing in forestry, forming Dryland Carbon LP.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts acted for all four companies in establishing this ground-breaking limited liability partnership.

Read more

Macquarie buys the rights to operate SKYCITY’s carparks

Macquarie Principal Finance Group has been named as the successful purchaser of the rights to operate SKYCITY’s carparks in Auckland.The concession agreement is set to include more than 3000 carparks at SKYCITY’s Auckland casino and at the New Zealand International Conference Centre.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts advised global investment bank, Goldman Sachs, on underwriting the acquisition.

Read more

What’s been happening?

At the forefront of change and innovation

MinterEllisonRuddWatts has been recognised for leading change within the legal profession. The Innovative Firms Report is the first of its kind in New Zealand and showcases New Zealand law firms at the forefront of change and innovation.

The report commends firms which practise innovation by embracing new technologies, novel team structures, or fresh ways of working with clients. MinterEllisonRuddWatts’ pioneering use of technology includes a fully customisable and configurable client portal, establishing the country’s first legal AI joint venture to create McCarthyFinch, and Safetrac – the award-winning online compliance training platform.

Stacey named New Zealander of the Year semi-finalist

Dispute Resolution Partner Stacey Shortall was named as a top 10 semi-finalist for this year’s Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Award. The prestigious awards celebrate people who use their passion for New Zealand to make the country a better place by contributing to its wellbeing.

An internationally recognised litigation lawyer, Stacey was nominated for her work in developing a number of social change projects through the Who Did You Help Today charitable trust.

Mental health advocate and friend of our firm, Mike King took out the top honour.

Strategic partnership with Iron Duke

Our firm recently formed a strategic partnership with Iron Duke Partners, the country’s leader in helping clients navigate public policy to deliver excellent commercial outcomes.

In an ever-changing landscape of public policy and global trade, New Zealand businesses are seeking to improve their ongoing performance, and need excellent advice to benefit from the opportunity this environment is creating.

To help businesses respond and thrive, Iron Duke and MinterEllisonRuddWatts are collaborating to provide the country’s leading organisations with a deeper understanding of public policy and the skills to engage in debates and consultation processes in New Zealand and around the world.

Read more

Celebrating International Women’s Day

International Women's Day is a time to reflect on how far women have come in the push for gender equality, chart what still needs to be done and celebrate women’s achievements across the world and throughout history.

Partner Stacey Shortall spoke at the official New Zealand Global Women event alongside Golriz Ghahraman, Rachel Leota, Gaylene Preston and Tui Te Hau.

CEO and Managing Director of BNZ, Angela Mentis also joined us to share her inspiring career story with staff over lunch.

CDO joins top ranks within her field

Chief Digital Officer Sarah Thirwall has been ranked at number 22 in this year’s CIO50 – the annual report on the most transformative and disruptive technology and digital leaders in New Zealand.

This year’s nominees were scored against on questions under two pillars – innovation and leadership. 12 women feature in this year’s list, five of whom, including Sarah, are in the top 25.

Recent admissions

We celebrated a number of admissions to the bar in March.

Congratulations to our newest solicitors – Charlotte Marsh, James Lee, Lucy Hannon, Nikki Hui, Luke Robertson, Katie Keir, Josephine Cunliffe and St John Howard-Brown, as well as Senior Associate Molly Powers who is now admitted in New Zealand and the US.


A fresh campaign was launched as part of our summer clerk recruitment programme this year, seeking to attract some #mintersgamechangers.

The campaign speaks to the amount of change the legal profession is facing and our firm’s culture and momentum while seeking to attract exceptional people, under the tagline “The game has changed. Be part of it!”.

We had some fantastic responses and interviewed some outstanding students. We’re looking forward to welcoming the next intake of summer clerk game changers in November.

Home to New Zealand’s leading lawyers

Our strength has again been recognised by The Legal 500 Asia Pacific.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts was named as top tier leaders across 11 practice areas in the 2019 Asia Pacific Legal 500 guide, and were highly recommended in the firm’s remaining two practice areas.

Read more

Alumni achievements

In another excellent result from The Legal 500, MinterEllisonRuddWatts alumnus Cameron Loughlin was recently named in its Guide to Australia’s Rising Stars. Cameron was a member of our Wellington Employment team from 2011 – 2015, and is now Australia New Zealand Employment Counsel at Uber.

Congratulations Cameron, it’s always fantastic to see the success of alumni!

Auckland Law Clerk Bake Off

An incredible array of talent and creativity was on display at this year's Law Clerk Bake Off in Auckland.

Charlene Cooper took out this year’s hotly-contested title, with a masterpiece constructed from a deliciously rich and fudgey chocolate cake replicating our current building in Auckland – the Lumley Centre.

Highly commended for their bakes were Georgie Crawford (a divine banoffee cake) and Mariam Baho (a cake depicting the philosophical journey of a construction site).

We can’t wait to see what our Wellington Law Clerks cook up later in the year!

Tribute to Christchurch

There is no doubt that the tragic events that took place in Christchurch on 15 March confronted New Zealand in a way that we simply could not have imagined. As the nation moves forward in the aftermath, we are united in the view that we are one, and that such horrific events are not us.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts made a donation to the Give-A-Little page set up to assist the families directly affected by the attack, and the two-minute silence held a week after the attacks was observed by both our Auckland and Wellington office.

We continue to keep the Muslim community and all those affected in our thoughts.

Caring for our community

Environmental volunteering

Each year, every member of staff is entitled to take one day of leave to volunteer.

Recently our Auckland Real Estate team took the opportunity to get amongst nature, spending their volunteer leave collecting rubbish from Okahu Bay, Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St Heliers Bay beaches.

From Gumboots to Pink Shirts

Staff embraced the opportunity to support Gumboot Friday and Pink Shirt Day.

Mike King and his charity ‘I Am Hope’ created Gumboot Friday to raise the funds needed to provide mental health counselling to children and teens.

Pink Shirt Day is a national bullying prevention campaign which celebrates diversity and supports workplaces, communities and schools to be safe, supportive, welcoming and inclusive of all people.

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