New Zealand Law Society - Family urban adventures take place of Rocky Mountain biking

Family urban adventures take place of Rocky Mountain biking

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Matthew Atkinson
Matthew Atkinson

With two children under six and his extreme outdoor sports life "on hold" insurance litigator Matt Atkinson and his family delight in urban adventures - jumping on public transport and heading to different parts of Auckland.

"I used to do a lot of mountain biking, white water kayaking and skiing … which are on hold for a few years as the kids grow up…" says Matt, who was recently made partner at Fee Langstone.

"Weekend is kids time so I try not to work at weekends … My wife Anna are out and about with the family – Harry, aged five and half and Pippa, who has just turned three…

"Harry likes to ride his bike so we go for little rides … And the kids love public transport … It's good fun … The other day we got on a bus downtown, walked around town, got on the ferry to Devonport, walked around there, went to the naval museum, had a swim at Cheltenham, then back home … The kids loved it…"

Matthew David (Matt) Atkinson
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Otago University in 1994. Admitted in 1994. 
Partner at Fee Langstone, Auckland. 
Speciality area
Insurance litigation focusing on policy disputes and negligence claims against professionals.

Matt's wife Anna, a chartered accountant, works part time as a business analyst  at Ticketec.

"We are working on making the work life balance succeed," says Matt.

"... that was it - I was off to be a lawyer..." 

"You have to recognise both sides of the coin and recognise your responsibilities to your work and to your home … If you get one of them out of balance it's all going to come tumbling down…

"Fortunately, firms are more flexible in accommodating family and work … It's recognised that people need to have a balance in their lives but the issue is when the heat comes on at work you need to do what you need to do to get the job done…

"As a litigation lawyer I have times when I have a trial happening and it tends to take over your life for a while … There's nothing you can do about it, it is a reality, and my wife recognises that is part of the trade off for the benefits that come from the role…"

Coming from a family where his father and brother are engineers, Matt followed his leaning towards English, history and sciences, veered from the engineering path and took up law.

"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do but I didn't want to do engineering because Dad and my brother did it…"

His mother –whose father was a partner at Turner Hopkins – suggested law and a work experience day with the late Paul Temm QC (later Justice Temm) convinced Matt he was on the right track.

"It was great, he showed me around town and I went up to court with him and that was it – I was off to be a lawyer…

"It wasn't something I would describe as a particularly well thought out career start … But I stuck with it and went to Otago law school … I never burnt a couch but we weren't the nicest people to have as neighbours…

"If I wasn't a lawyer I would realistically probably be an engineer in the family tradition … My dream job would depend on mood on the day … Maybe a cycling career…

"Before we had kids Anna and I did a lot of travelling, including a couple of months in the United States in a campervan and with mountain bikes…

"We went up one side of the Rockies and down the other side … Mainly through lots of small towns in heartland America…

"Every second house has a flag on the porch … Every second car is a pickup truck with 'God Bless Our Troops' bumper stickers … We went through the religious side of the US, which you don't normally interact with from a New Zealand point of view…

"These days the kids determine where we have holidays … Fiji and Samoa and Queensland a couple of times … They are at an age when the travelling we do is to the safer options…"

While reading, other than for work, has taken a back seat, Matt is a fan of Danish TV crime series The Killing and Danish/Swedish series The Bridge.

He particularly likes the Australian legal drama Rake, starring Richard Roxburgh as Cleaver Greene, a brilliant but self-destructive barrister defending a usually guilty client. "I love his character…"

"In television legal dramas – especially the American ones - the whole court process is messed up and I can't help poking holes in them…

"I'm not musical and am not one of those people convinced a live music experience is the ultimate…It can be a let down … I have a varied musical taste and enjoy sitting at home with the speakers or headphones on … And no, I wouldn't pay $1000 to see Prince, or anyone else…

"Anglo-American writer Bill Bryson would be great to have round for dinner - he is fascinating and amusing…

"My car??? It's a Mazda 6 family wagon, very nice in a folksy kind of way with two car seats in the back and full of raisin packets, crumbs and stuff the kids leave behind…"

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for most of his career in journalism. Contact Jock at

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