New Zealand Law Society - How farm romance swung hometown Gore over London

How farm romance swung hometown Gore over London

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Hilary Copland left a top job in London with one of the world’s biggest multi-national law firms to come home to Gore and marry a childhood chum.

Hilary Copland
Entry to law
Graduated LLB, BA (majoring in Geography) from Otago University in 2003. Admitted in 2003.
Associate at Bannerman Cruickshank Pryde, Gore.
Speciality area
General with focus on litigation, civil, employment, family, resource management and some prosecution.
Hilary Copland
Hilary Copland

“I never thought I’d end up back here but I came back for a man,” says Hilary, an associate with Bannerman Cruickshank Pryde in the Southland town.

“I have known Todd – a 1000 ha sheep and beef farmer - my whole life, I have always known him. I come from a farming family and yet am the worst farmer’s wife there is.”

The couple married in the week of a Wanaka Show after Hilary had flown home for two weddings in the space of five weeks. Her bridesmaid is a former flatmate of Richie McCaw and was a guest at the wedding of the year in Wanaka. “I’m not going to lie, I was keen to see the pictures.”

“I was born and raised in Gore but the transition from London was fairly traumatic,” she says.

Returning to Gore in 2009, Hilary worked for 18 months with AWS Law in Invercargill – a job she left because she didn’t like the commuting – before joining John Bannerman in Gore, who last year became a partner in Bannerman Cruickshank Pryde.

Tobacco work for an anti-smoker

Her civil litigation career began with Duncan Cotterill in Christchurch before she joined Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London, where she stayed for nearly four years working on dispute resolution, compliance and regulatory for Japan Tobacco International (JTI), one of the world’s biggest tobacco groups.

Freshfields has about 427 partners, 1600 associates and 4,800 employees worldwide. It was founded in 1743, and is reported to be the oldest international law firm in the world.

“I ran a team there which monitored more than 180 countries to report back to JTI weekly on any developments or legislative changes likely to affect their business.

“New Zealand was important because it was ahead of the 8-ball with no smoking inside buildings and plain packaging. We had advocates in every country who would be engaged as required to represent JTI’s interests.

“My father couldn’t believe I was working for a tobacco company - I was so anti-smoking.”

Now with daughters Sienna (four) and Indie (just turned two), Hilary works three days a week and is able to juggle her work/life time with good family support.

“I try not to take work home but when I need to I can do it once the kids are in bed. The beauty of a small provincial practice is flexibility.”

The first lawyer in her family – her brother-in-law Adam Copland is a partner with Mitchell Mackersy in Queenstown – she’s not sure what attracted her to law.

“At Otago University I did the first year and got into the second year then did a couple of summers working for Dad’s best man and good friend Kevin Phillips, who is now a district court judge in Dunedin.

“I liked the attraction of going to university and studying law and it being a fairly defined opportunity in a defined career path.

Building a house in Africa

“When I lived in London I did a lot of travelling in Europe, saw a little bit of America, Egypt, Jordan and Syria.”

Those visits took place before the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria. She also did something a little different in South Africa.

“Freshfields ran a programme where you were subsidised to do a Habitat for Humanity project so we went to Pietermaritzburg and built a house in one of their settlements.”

Despite being from the country music capital of New Zealand, Hilary hates the genre, “with a passion, I’ll listen to anything but country music.”

She’s not a big TV watcher, unlike husband Todd who she says watches anything.

Hilary prefers easy and light reading away from work - “real books, not online stuff” - and is a fan of Masterchef New Zealand 2012 winner Chelsea Winter’s cook books.

Holidays are spent at the in-laws house in Wanaka and with former ski instructor Todd now having his dream Jeep Grand Cherokee V8, trips to Coronet and Cardrona skifields are a breeze.

“My family and close friends would be top of my dinner guest list, and Princess Diana because she was my childhood princess. I would do the cooking.  Traditional southern farm meal, roast lamb, all the dressings, new potatoes, green beans and Chelsea Winter’s cheesy courgettes.

“The sensible answer to an alternative career would probably be a schoolteacher, because having children it’s good for holidays.

“My dream would be some kind of entrepreneurial thing which made me really rich so I could retire to Wanaka and live the dream. But if I knew what it was I would have done it by now.”

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