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Staunch Southlander comes from “a fair whack” of legal lineage

12 October 2017

From Lochiel, in central Southland and bred from a long legal line, Winton-based Chris Menzies is likely to trade his classy Mercedes saloon for a more client-friendly 4x4 ute.

“My 1999 Mercedes S320 is in the shop having the ignition played with, so there will be a slightly fearsome bill,” Chris says.

“I’m using Mum’s Mazda 3 and will probably look at a more useful and practical SUV or ute – a Ford Ranger or Nissan Navara. One of the things I want to do is get out and see clients on their farms, that sort of thing.”

Name

Christopher James (Chris) Menzies

Born

Lochiel in central Southland

Age

29

Entry to lawGraduated LLB from Otago University in 2009.Admitted in 2010.
Workplace

Partner at AWS Legal in Winton.

Specialist area Rural law, business and commercial, residential, and private client affairs.

Chris was recently made a partner at Invercargill-based AWS Legal – something he is very happy about at age 29 - and is currently sole solicitor in the firm’s Winton office, 31km north of Invercargill.

“There’s just me in Winton at the moment. I have been here three months and I have a support person who is based in Centre Bush – about five minutes away - coming out soon.

Chris Menzies

“Early next year we are hoping to employ another law clerk and all going well will have a solicitor, so we will have a two solicitor office and some support staff. We are set up with three offices, reception and a board room. We are definitely out here to grow … and crank it right up.”

Chris and his fiancé Paula, who works at the ANZ Bank in Invercargill, were engaged in May and plan to marry in Wanaka next March, have recently finished building a town house in Invercargill.

“We started the build then the Winton thing came up. It’s only 25 minutes drive away but there’s more and more traffic now with people going up to Queenstown, especially tradies.”

Chris’s retired father Paul had his own law firm in Winton for more than 30 years.

“Menzies and Forrest is now Menzies Marshall Law, run by sole practitioner Andrew Marshall.”

After a career in special education, Chris’s mother, who also has a law degree, is now a part-time social worker.

His auntie Miriam Menzies, who died in 2014, was a lawyer in Wellington, where her daughter Nisha continues the legal tradition. His uncle Michael and cousins Jane and Christopher are lawyers in Australia.

“There’s a fair whack of lawyers in the family,” says Chris.

Challenge 

Growing up on his parents’ 10-acre lifestyle block at Lochiel, surrounded by predominantly sheep and beef – but now converted to dairy – Chris left Central Southland College for Otago University not really knowing what he wanted to do.

“Mum and Dad had a pretty great life in terms of what they have been able to do with a bit of travel and having a holiday home for us in Arrowtown. That sort of attracted me to law.

“I did some BCom accountancy and economics papers. But law is a challenge and that got me going – as well as having a few mates doing it. My father did law so that probably led me down that path - I went there and enjoyed it.”

After graduating in 2009 he returned to Southland in 2010 and started with AWS Legal’s rural team.

Originally from Dunedin, Chris’s family came down to Southland where his grandad and grandma owned the Nightcaps pub for a few years. He has three older sisters, one a doctor in Sydney, another a nurse in Melbourne, and a third who was admitted to the Bar, then had a family and is now doing accounting.

All rounder

“I’m involved in most sports but broke my wrist playing premier A Grade basketball in Invercargill last year. I’ve been playing lock for Invercargill Blues rugby club and next year will play for Midland, the local club in the premier competition.

“I’ve been playing cricket most of my life and was a Southland Country rep. Everyone’s all-rounders here and I have been opening the batting for Invercargill Old Boys, but broke the wrist just before this season started.

“Travel or putting my career on hold was one of the toss-up decisions I had to make, so I haven’t done a huge amount of travel. But I wanted to get stuck in to my career and maybe enjoy some travel down the track with a family.

“I went through Vietnam and Thailand two or three years ago with a good mate and had a helluva time. We went across to Australia every couple of years with Mum and Dad when I was a kid. And Paula and I have done a little bit of travelling.

“Arrowtown is the place for us. Mum and Dad have had a house there since about 1988 and we would go up for the Christmas holidays. Wanaka is a top spot because Paula’s mother and stepfather have lived there for 10–12 years.

“We enjoy spending most of our time in Central Otago – a great place and we like getting into the outdoors.”

Dracula 

“I love music, dabbled a bit at school in a Dracula Spectacular, and was in an Invercargill Christmas variety show about three years ago. I dabble with the guitar and can strum a few bars.

“I was brought up with Billy Joel, The Beatles, John Lennon, Simon & Garfunkel and like that clean style. I don’t like heavy metal stuff.

“I like biographies and books about bands, such as Scar Tissue, the autobiography of Red Hot Chilli Peppers vocalist Anthony Kiedis. I read Harry Potter, so did everyone, but I lean towards biographies.

“Paula has the TV control most of the time and I look the other way. But I enjoy home renovation programmes – not the competitions but the ones where people are restoring really old houses. I enjoyed Suits but it got a bit repetitive. I’m reluctant to get into a series such as Game of Thrones because I’d rather be out and about doing things.

“Most of my friends are in the country working on farms and I like to catch up with them and get away on fishing trips.”

War ventures

“We have a cat called Puss and while I’m keen to get a dog we need a bit more land for it to run about.”

“My grandparents would be good dinner guests. They had all passed away by the time I was four or five so I didn’t know them at all.”

“Granddad, Pat Conlan, went to fight in World War 2, and the other was Nugent Menzies, who was a naval radio officer in the war. I’d like to talk to them about their experiences.”

“I doubt if we would serve up anything of the Asian stir-fry variety. It would be Southland lamb and three veg. I enjoy cooking so there would be mashed kumara, beans, salad and also some pork.

“I like Central Otago pinot noir – Squealing Pig is delicious - and they’d be after a beer. So we’d start off with a few beers followed by some red wine and they’d probably like some whisky as well. Probably not too smart mixing all those drinks together.”

While early in his career, Chris says his most memorable “case” so far was helping his best mate into his first dairy farm. “I was privileged to be able to be involved with that.”

“As an alternative job I might look at doing physical education and law around sports. And in my summer holidays from uni I was involved with building dairy sheds. I enjoy being outside using my hands.”

But as they say in the heart of Central Southland, for the time being “things are truckin’ along.”

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Last updated on the 12th October 2017