New Zealand Law Society - Find the best Nanny, says tramping bass-player sailor

Find the best Nanny, says tramping bass-player sailor

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Property lawyer Elise Markwick's recipe for having a successful law practice and bringing up a family, is to work close to home, make time for special events with your children and have an excellent nanny.

"Work you can control with time management – children you can't manage as well," says Elise, who recently took up a partnership at Martelli McKegg in Auckland.

Elise Markwick
Entry to law
Graduated BA, LLB from Auckland University in 1985. Admitted 1985. 
Partner at Martelli McKegg, Auckland. 
Speciality area
Property law, commercial contracts, trusts and asset planning.
Elise Markwick
Elise Markwick

But manage she has, mixing work and family with a passion for sailing, tramping, cub scout leading, cycling, community activities, women's networking, playing the electric bass in a rock band and in July being the incoming president of Howick Rotary.

"You compromise on income to at least see more of your kids." 

A long-time resident of Howick, where she is honorary solicitor to the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club and Howick Volunteer Coastguard, Elise thought about writing a book about nannies. "I have had a few of them and have learned a few lessons on what to do and what not to do…"

"For me working in the city and having children out in Howick was difficult if they had to go to the doctor, or school sports… You must make a special effort to do things with your children and by working closer to home you see more of them…

"Otherwise as a lawyer working long hours you can suddenly find your kids are 15 or 16 and you have not spent any time with them… You compromise on income to at least see more of your kids…"

Elise was working in central Auckland when son Ewan was born.

She found it was too hard working in town and living in Howick so started her own practice in Howick, building up a strong base of commercial clients over 19 years, upskilling in trust law and based only two kilometres from home.

"Until you have had your first child you don't realise that the theory that you can work from home remotely and look after a child is completely unrealistic…

"You have to take five minutes time out, don't take calls, don't look at emails and have time to make a coffee… I don't think you can mix both unless you have a fulltime carer as well, then you have the ability to say I'm having time out to do this with my child…"

Ewan, now 25, has a BA, BCom and works for AA Insurance, while daughter Lizzie, 21, is finishing a BA in Spanish and history.

Elise merged her practice with Wynyard Wood – where her husband Richard Osbourne is a consultant – in 2012 because she needed the support of a bigger firm, then took up a partnership opportunity with Martelli McKegg in April 2016.

A keen single-handed centreboard sailor introduced to dinghy sailing by her father, she recently sold her beloved Laser trailer yacht for an older class Zephyr, which she sails around Auckland harbour and from the family bach in the Bay of Islands.

Well-travelled in Britain and Europe, including Italy and Spain, and with a hankering to visit the Florida Keys and the East, Elise likes the laid-back Bay of Islands.

"I'm a bit of a hopeless sporting person but I enjoy my sailing… I tramped Milford (three times), the Hollyford, Routeburn, around Cape Brett and other day tramps…

"I do Milford the guided way with a backpack, staying in lodges, three course cooked meals at night, hot showers, cooked breakfast and lunches made… A bit more expensive than a DoC hut…"

She recently bought a bike and a book on cycle ways "so I have to get out and on to those…"

After about six years in Rotary, Elise – "I'm a bit of a change agent" - is looking forward as incoming Howick president to working with a new board. She says Rotary's original perception of being for older white men has changed and needs to continue to change, particularly to attract younger people.

Her involvement in various community organisations, charities and as a youth group leader with the Salvation Army, led to the formation, with local estate agent Suzanne McDowell, of business women's networking group And All That Palaver.

For relaxation she says there's nothing better than "a really good trashy novel" – especially the escapism and action of Lee Childs' Jack Reacher character – a popular read among lawyers.

And playing the bass guitar… In a band…

After learning to play the classical guitar at school, Elise picked up a big blue Fender bass guitar – a rock icon - about seven years ago and was hooked.

"I played in a little band with a few locals who got together for a bit of a laugh… We called ourselves DNA because we played everything in D and A chords – not to be confused with the real New Zealand band called DNA…

"We covered some Beatles and Hendrix tunes and a range of contemporary rock and didn't take ourselves too seriously… It was a good way to unwind and I need to get back into it…"

As the first lawyer in her family she did a BA then thought she better do law to get a job.

"I didn't know what career to follow… I was hopeless at science and maths but I had to do something to get a job…

"I had no association with law at all… The closest I got was when I was at primary school and wanted to be a detective, but I would not be tall enough…

"I enjoyed doing the law degree and enjoy the practice of law and the people I meet… I like working on projects with clients, many of whom have become friends…

"After running my own legal business for 19 years you learn and know the reality of maintaining and managing a client base…

"I drive a very nice 2006 Mercedes Benz 230 – not new but nice… I've always wanted a Mercedes…And Elton John would be my favourite dinner guest… Don't ask me why - he is a musician I admire and an incredibly talented guy…

"And if I wasn't a lawyer I think I would be a journalist…"

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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