New Zealand Law Society - Classics passion inspired record-setting rugby lover

Classics passion inspired record-setting rugby lover

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Warren Moffat
Warren Moffat

Dunedin lawyer Warren Moffat’s move from one legal partnership to another came with unexpected sadness.

After being with Webb Farry Lawyers since he was admitted in 2006 - and rising to partner - Warren left the firm for a partnership at Solomons in Dunedin on June 1.

He would have been working alongside Solomons partner Lachlan Ross, a son of former Dunedin Magistrate the late Tom Ross, but after a short illness Lachlan (71) died in March, just before the Covid-19 lockdown.

Warren James (Warren) Moffat (Ngapuhi)
Entry to law
Graduated LLB and BA in Classics from Otago University. Admitted in 2006.
Partner at Solomons, in Dunedin, from June 1.
Specialist area
Commercial law, with a special interest in legal issues affecting sportspeople and organisations.

“I had a good and promising discussion with Lachlan before Christmas and was looking forward to joining him and the other partners,” Warren says. “Now I’m picking up some of his clients, and it feels a bit strange.”

From a rugby family, the sport has been a big focus of Warren’s life, after initially playing football. “Howick was very Scottish and they didn’t have a rugby club so I played football. Football is a great lead in to rugby, I wouldn’t laugh at football.”

“But I’m 120-odd kilos so was never going to do well at football. When we moved to Portobello I got into a community rugby team.”

His playing continued with the Southern club and included stints as captain of the Otago B team, playing in the South Island Māori team, and making a Māori invitational team – which was initially going to be tied in with a Lions rugby tour in 2005 but it didn’t work out.

Warren played premier rugby for Southern until he was “getting too old and slow” at 37, holding an unofficial record of 210 games and quitting after he got in one more game than his mate Luke Herden. “Luke and I have been coaching the premier team for two years, to give back to the club.”

Always Going forward

Mum Grace is a Going, whose first cousins include the legendary players Ken, Sid and Brian Going. “Our family farm is at Towai, next to Maromaku – where the Goings all live, one valley over.”

As there won’t be contact training until Alert Level 1, Warren is confident Level 2 will allow team training as long as players keep two metres apart and there is no ball handling.

Warren, who lives at Seacliff, north of Dunedin, was appointed to the Otago Rugby Football Union board during the Covid-19 lockdown.

His mother lives at Harrington Point on the Otago Peninsula – “I can see her place from my lounge” - and his father Terry lives in Tokoroa.

They lived in Howick, Auckland, until Warren was 10, before moving to Dunedin for lifestyle reasons and because it was “a good place to bring up kids”.

“Mum and Dad had a few small businesses. They had a shop in Portobello, a takeaway bar and an ice cream parlour. A bit of everything.

“My sister Samantha is a manager for a fashion label in Australia.”

Married to Cara, a paediatric psychologist, the couple have daughters Dot (4) and Elsie (20 months).

There are no other lawyers in the family but Warren’s late auntie managed community law centres in and around Auckland – “which gave me the taste for the law”.

His auntie was also involved in the negotiation of the Tainui raupatu settlement with the Crown in the 1990s – “She got out before they bought the Warriors because she did not believe that was the way they should have been spending settlement money.”

Jail in Vietnam, terrorists in Bali

A late traveller, Warren, who likes fishing and has a jet ski, has been frequently to Australia, the Pacific Islands and through Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam – which he describes as eye-opening.

“We were technically in jail in Vietnam for a day - without breaking the law. My wife did minor damage to a scooter and the operator claimed we had done all the damage. It felt like a scam. We went to the police and sat there half a day, but the operator had relations in the police so we paid them $50 to make it go away.

“In Bali we were up in a mountain area where there was supposed to be Al Qaeda. There was a huge police presence. Out of the bush one day came two guys on a motorbike, in full black gear and machine guns in their backs. Our driver took no notice and kept on going.

“My favourite holiday spot is the Catlins – especially Curio Bay – on the south-eastern corner of the South Island. A friend was studying Hector’s dolphins there. At King’s High School and at university we went there for amazing surfing.

“My wife took us down there for my 40th birthday and we were out in knee deep water with dolphins swimming about.

“I don’t play any instruments but enjoy slow, acoustic stuff including Ben Harper, Elton John, Lionel Ritchie, Flight of the Conchords and Sam Cooke.

“I try to read every night. I like American thriller writer David Baldacci, crime novels and young adult ones, like the Harry Potter series. I have recently finished Glasgow-born Peter May’s The Lewis Trilogy, which is very good.

“I don’t see as much TV or films as I would like to. My wife is strict on screen time with the kids. We watch various Netflix series - Ozark, The Haunting of Hill House, Tiger King and documentaries. I find it hard to sit down and concentrate through a television programme after a day’s work.

“We have a 10-year-old Labrador called Gus who we’ve had since he was a wee pup - who’s getting old and dusty now.

“And I drive a Vietnam green convertible Jeep Wrangler – which with kids is a smart option.

Obama and the classics

“Barack Obama would be an outstanding dinner guest. During lockdown we have been going through all these gourmet cooking nights, so we would have pork belly on rice.

“I wouldn’t say I have had one memorable career moment. There have been various transactions that have stood out – which I can’t detail – where, with strategic planning and thinking outside the box, I have been involved in some amazing deals.”

At King’s High School in Dunedin, Warren was inspired by the passion of his classics teacher Bryan Frost – who retired in 2017 as deputy principal and classics teacher after 44 years at the school. “He was so passionate about the classics it ticked the box for me and got me going.”

Warren majored in classics for his BA. “My main interest is around mythology and anything that’s got any Roman or Greek historical stuff I am right into.”

“One of my aims as a young student was to play rugby in Italy, and travel through the places I studied, but it fell through. I will get there at some stage, I am sure.

“So, if I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be a classics teacher.”

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