New Zealand Law Society - Charles Spillane, In-House Lawyer of the Year

Charles Spillane, In-House Lawyer of the Year

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After dabbling with accounting and philosophy, it was the bread and butter of law – commerce, logic and arguing - that seeded Charles Spillane’s career.

“It’s hard to tell you anything I liked about accounting, and I realised that there weren’t many philosophy lecturers dying off for me to replace. Both degrees took second seat to my law degree as soon as I started. I loved it.”

Mr Spillane’s legal career gained traction at Russell McVeagh, where he obtained experience in general litigation, tax and in the corporate team. He then moved on to be general counsel and general manager of corporate affairs at Auckland International Airport Ltd.

Mr Spillane sections his learning and practising law into nine-year blocks: nine years at University; nine years at Russell McVeagh; and after nine years at Auckland International Airport, he has achieved “lawyer of the year” status, courtesy of CLANZ-LexisNexis In-house Lawyer of the Year 2011.

In her nomination, Pip Greenwood, Chair of Partners at Russell McVeagh, described Mr Spillane as being a “straight shooter”.

“He is a very principled person, of high integrity. He has a strong team ethos and approach, which he applies to his team and external lawyers.”

“He is incredibly well organised and very decisive.”

“An exceptionally able lawyer, Charles also always ensures he is up to date with the law. He understands business, and exercises extremely good judgement. He has a real vision for Auckland Airport and a genuine passion for what he is there to achieve,” she says.

Mr Spillane says he feels terrifically honoured to be a recipient of the award and emphasises how important the nomination is to him because it was decided by his peers.

“I don’t think I've changed the way I’m doing my job, but Auckland Airport has gone from success to success and when you are part of an organisation that's winning you start to get noticed. Really it is attributable significantly to the success of the whole team at Auckland Airport,” he says.

At Auckland Airport, Mr Spillane is the company’s senior legal adviser and corporate secretary. He is also responsible for corporate communications, government and community relations, share registry, risk management, and insurance. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries

Mr Spillane says that what he enjoys most about his job is the engagement with the business.

“This is the difference I see between private practice and working in-house. We get to enjoy a much greater degree of direct engagement with the business/client.

“It’s extremely rewarding. You don’t just give your advice and leave - you see the effects of it every day. It is enabled by a much deeper knowledge of how the business works and what its strategic goals are,” he says.

Outside his profession, Mr Spillane has been an avid surfer for as long as he can remember. Although an injury has him out of the water now, he can’t help but keep an eye out for a rising swell at Auckland’s fantastic beaches.

“I love anything to do with the beach. Now I do stand-up paddle boarding ‒ surfing for the aged and physically infirm,” he says with a chuckle.

Mr Spillane says that, alongside his wife Jenny, his two daughters, Eleanor (nine) and Natalie (seven) are his pride and joy – in addition to his dog Zeke of course.

This article was published in LawTalk 779, 26 August 2011, page 8.

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