Art Deco buildings and festivals, tip-top beaches, endless sun, a sporting culture, nearby vineyards, and a varied community are among many of Napier’s attributes.
Which provides plenty of temptation for lawyers to take up jobs in the city or stay where they are.
There’s all sorts for people of all types, and for property lawyer Kevin Callinicos the work he deals with fits his character.
“It suits my personality, the type of work I do. I’ve got a very personal-based practice, I’ve grown up with my clients, I got a kick out of helping young people into their homes or their first business, and then as they grow older the business has developed and I’ve helped them through asset protection and the likes.
“There’s a loyalty that you develop from your clients as a result of that and now I’m heading towards retirement my clients have got big decisions to make about downsizing, preserving their wealth, and personal care and welfare matters, as well as dealing with elderly parents, so it’s a very private-based relationship with my clients.”
Mr Callinicos is a partner at Willis Legal one of a handful of law firms on Vautier Street.
“Life is so much easier here, I toyed at one stage with moving to Auckland but my kids would have done half of what they would have here, because of the logistics of moving them from A to B. Sailing played a big part in our lives and we travelled a lot, to regattas around the country,” says Kevin who has four children, all now grown up.
Mr Callinicos first worked in Wellington and overseas, and was asked to help in his brother Peter Callinicos’ Hawke’s Bay firm. Peter is now a Family Court judge in Napier.
“The breadth of work when I first came up was very diverse and you had to learn fast, and I daresay it’s still the case today.”
Housing and industry boom
Steve Lunn is the senior partner of Lunn & Associates based on Shakespeare Street, adjacent to the famous Cabana Hotel, where many a legendary artist has performed over the decades. Mr Lunn has been in Hawke’s Bay since 1975 after a spell in Gisborne.
Tourism, culture, horticulture, and the port all bring in considerable work and dollars into the region.
“Napier is a very pleasant town with a lot of Art Deco buildings, and over the last 30 years the promotion of Art Deco – the Art Deco itself has been here since the 1930s, of course, but was ignored for decades – and the fruit and the vines right through the province has changed Napier to a remarkable degree,” he says.
Lunn & Associates specialises in residential and commercial property as well as business law and asset planning and has a large farming base. And it’s an area that is growing.
“There’s a real emphasis on the housing market here in Hawke’s Bay. Because it’s regarded as a desirable place to live and because it has a pretty benign climate compared to other places, there always seems to be a high in-built demand for residential properties,” says Steve, who was a top middle distance runner – and ran the first leg for the Otago team alongside “more illustrious athletes” Dick Tayler, Stuart Melville and Bruce Hunter that set the 4x800m national record in 1971, which still stands today. He was also a representative for Otago in rugby and is on the Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union board.
The firm has a sporty background with Steve’s partner, Chris Morgan, a former national age group rower and practice manager Dan, a PGA golf professional.
“We are regularly involved in high-level residential transactions; we had one the other day where a client of ours purchased a property for $2.8 million, which is the sort of money that even a year ago wouldn’t have been on the horizon. It’s the hot housing market that stands out most in terms of the focus but we’ve got orcharding which is going very well just now, and there’s pastoral farmers. Hawke’s Bay is very much a mixed economy.
“We’ve had a run in recent years – even before the current housing boom started – a number of people from the UK were buying up houses. They can come over here and buy a high-value house because of the exchange rate. And a lot of people are relocating from Auckland. We act for a lot of Indian and Chinese people, though they tend to focus on businesses.”
Looking after each other
Maria Hamilton is a barrister and the President of the New Zealand Law Society’s Hawke’s Bay branch.
She says while changing lifestyles and working methods impact on working life, the local Bar remains collegial.
“In a small place like Napier everybody used to know everybody. That was partly because the Bar used to be smaller but also practitioners dealt with each other directly and face-to-face on so many matters but now it’s all done electronically.”
She notes that the local Bar showed it can come together following the recent death of young lawyer Jessica Greig.
“The profession really rallied round when Jess passed away. Everyone’s initial reaction was to look after each other, personally and professionally; people were very keen to pick up files or do whatever was required to help her law firm (Bay Legal). Her funeral was standing room only, the judiciary and the local Bar were all there.
“Every year we have a Bar Dinner and that is always really well attended and that’s a sign that people still enjoy getting together for social functions and see value in putting names to faces and knowing, at a personal level, the people they are dealing with in transactions. That’s really valuable because when you are picking up the phone or sending an email you know the person on the other end.”
Attracting new lawyers
Ms Hamilton says Napier has the same issues in attracting talent to law firms as most provincial towns, but the city offers a lot for newly and recently admitted practitioners.
“We still attract really good people, and they get really good experience, and quite quickly at a reasonable level – you’re not waiting six months to get into court. And there’s some good big commercial clients based here, the vineyards, the farming industry, and the port.
“A lot of young lawyers are from here so are coming back home, but anecdotally we hear that it is hard to bring in new graduates; however, there will always be someone who takes a good job.”
Kevin Callinicos admits succession is an issue but it is something Willis Legal works hard to tackle.
“It’s like any business you’ve got to be working at it all the time, you’ve gotta have an eye to the future; succession is a big issue for us and getting good gender balance and diversity within the firm is a priority and we’re actively working on strategies there. It’s like any business, it just doesn’t happen, you have to work at it."
Julia Trautvetter, a property solicitor at one of the area’s biggest law firms, Sainsbury Logan & Williams, is originally from Hawke’s Bay and returned from Auckland, where she was studying and working as a law clerk, two years ago.
“It was a no-brainer for me to come back and enjoy what the Bay has to offer. It’s nice being able to go down to the beach for lunch and everything is accessible and you don’t have to worry about the drive to work taking half the morning."
Ms Trautvetter (the middle T is dropped) says there is no thought of moving to a big city as many ambitious lawyers often do.
“No, no, it wouldn’t cross my mind. I really enjoy it here because of the lifestyle factor. You can still work and have a really good job but be able to do things afterwards. I really enjoy my sport, so there’s lots of hills around and I do quite a bit of running and I’m also involved with the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club.”
Ms Trautvetter says Sainsburys, in particular, is managing to attract younger lawyers.
“A lot of younger people want to stay in the cities and not want to branch out into the regions, but from my perspective you can get the same good quality jobs as well as the lifestyle in the regions which is a definite draw factor.
“There’s a few younger lawyers who have recently been employed by Hawke’s Bay firms. Another person in our firm Jonathan (Norman) was working in big firms, in places like London, but he has come to the Bay for the lifestyle and for his family and another young solicitor we have just taken on has done the same.”