New Zealand Law Society - Escaping the ‘Tupperware’ lifestyle of London for the blue skies of Auckland

Escaping the ‘Tupperware’ lifestyle of London for the blue skies of Auckland

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Victoria Palfrey
Victoria Palfrey

After several years immersed in London’s legal Magic Circle, Victoria Palfrey found the return to New Zealand a professional culture shock – but a good one.

Now an associate with Davenports Harbour in Auckland, Victoria secured a job – while still at Russell McVeagh - with London firm Slaughter and May before leaving New Zealand in 2011 with her now husband Jeff.

The couple spent three months enjoying the food and culture of South East Asia before hitting a London winter.

Victoria Palfrey
Just out of Amsterdam.
Entry to law
Graduated BCom, LLB from Otago University in 2008. Admitted in 2009.
Associate at Davenports Harbour, Auckland
Speciality area
Commercial law

At Slaughter and May Victoria continued in competition law but on a much larger scale. “It was fascinating stuff, technical and niche. We worked on some amazing deals. And getting flown business class to New York for an afternoon meeting was pretty cool for a Kiwi girl.”

Victoria was seconded to Slaughter and May’s internal business development team.

She switched to Herbert Smith Freehills for a permanent business development job where she did not have to work the occasionally long Magic Circle hours.

“Magic Circle work is completely deal-dependent, which can mean finishing at 6pm or working until the wee hours to get the job done.

“Lots of really interesting stuff I’ve done is with smaller clients and in a way is more rewarding because you can help them on a more tangible level; you understand their business and help them do something big.

“In London I worked on one particular massive multi-billion-pound acquisition. We did loads of work on it and it got put on ice because of the market, but I think it might come back up again. Sorry, I can’t give you details.”

Coming home

Victoria says she and Jeff had always planned to be away for two or three years, and they returned to New Zealand after three and a half years of work and travel.

“We came back for the obvious lifestyle reason. Living in London was described to me as living in a Tupperware container because you never see blue sky.

“No doubt there are amazing opportunities overseas but eventually you have to weigh that up and decide whether you want to pursue those. But if you have other priorities like lifestyle and family, you come home.”

Three weeks after arriving, they got married. “We wanted to do that and be close to family and friends. Being 24 hours away is quite far.

“When we came home I did not want to keep doing business development and wanted to get back into law in a smaller firm. I wanted to broaden out a bit and be a more general commercial adviser.”

Born just outside Amsterdam, where her father made windsurfers, sales took her parents all over Europe before the family returned to New Zealand when Victoria was two.

Attracted to law at Otago University, Victoria did a range of subjects for her BCom and first year law.

She is the first lawyer in the family – one sister is a paediatric nurse and the other in sales with Mainfreight – while husband Jeff works in corporate finance at Fonterra.

Tabata and ottolenghi

“I’m more of a sport spectator. Jeff is really big on basketball and we follow the Breakers. When we travelled back from London we went through the United States and Mexico and went to a bunch of NBA games, which included seeing Steven Adams in a Christmas Day game in Texas. Awesome.

“I do loads of yoga, and a bit of Japanese tabata – intense interval training. Do about 20 minutes and it kills you.

Invites would go out to Judi Dench, comedian Jimmy Carr, Princess Kate Middleton, Ellen DeGeneres, Barack Obama and Ricky Gervais for dinner.

“I would serve up ottolenghi – I love fresh Middle Eastern food – with a rose from Provence or an Amici pinot noir.”

She is musical but her interest now is mostly as a listener.

“At high school I was music prefect and a total music nerd. I played the trombone, piano, and did all sorts of stuff. But aside from the odd tinkle of piano I don’t do much now.

“I like Los Angeles neo-soul and alternative R&B band The Internet, and English alternative rock band Muse.

“At the moment I’m reading The Kiwi Pair by champion rowers Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. I like a good novel and am a sucker for a good landscape design book. It would be cool to do a massive landscape one day.

“When we moved house last year we didn’t hook up TV but got Netflix so I’m crunching through various series and have just finished Narcos.

“Mt Maunganui and Queenstown are our favourite holiday spots – you can’t beat the clean mountain air of Queenstown.”

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