Playing what audiences liked earned more tips for pianist Michael Moyes during his legal studies in London.
An accomplished jazz pianist and also an acoustic guitarist, Michael has played the piano all his life.
A leading intellectual property lawyer, he was recently made partner at Duncan Cotterill and works out of the firm’s Auckland and Wellington offices. He is a member of the Intellectual Property Society of Australia and New Zealand, the International Trademark Association and the Project Management Institute of New Zealand.
- Michael Gregory (Michael) Moyes
- Entry to law
- Graduated BCom from Auckland University, LLB from Bond University in Australia and LLM from King’s College, London. Admitted in 2004.
- Partner at Duncan Cotterill, Auckland.
- Speciality area
- Technology law and intellectual property.
“When I was overseas studying or working I always made sure I had a job playing the piano, working in restaurants and hotels. I played anything popular when gigging, background music that everyone knows, playing for the audience and tips. The more songs you play that people recognise the more tips you get.
“These days it’s more piano rock - Elton John, Billy Joel. I listen to a lot of jazz piano. Number One is late US jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans, who played with Miles Davis.
“My son has been learning the piano for some years and he is just moving towards jazz piano, looking at Oscar Peterson. My daughter is getting into the electric guitar and enjoying that. She is listening to a lot of classic rock. She knows them because she hears me playing it. I like someone who is 14 digging back into Rod Stewart, the Stones and the Eagles.
“In 1997, when I was due to start my law degree, there was no mutual recognition treaty and I had it in mind to work in Australia. I thought a good way would be to study there and do New South Wales admission, then work in Sydney.
“Bond University in Australia was very good preparation for real world legal practice.
“I got a bit side-tracked and at the end of my law degree I did my Masters in London, then went back to Sydney to start practising.”
Most men in Michael’s family were engineers or entrepreneurs starting and operating a range of different businesses. “I broke the mould a bit and was doing everything I could not to head down that track. I had a lot of support for studying engineering but I studied commerce first.”
“I thought a broader education that would lead to broader business prospects would be useful. Through the commerce degree I did a commercial law paper and that’s what triggered my interest in law. I guess I had already started down a path that was divergent from the other things my family have done.”
Michael’s father Greg worked in the family business before setting up his own business importing machinery for food and beverage packaging and processing.
His grandfather’s uncle, whom Michael describes as a serial entrepreneur, started the well-known Moyes motor car dealership in Auckland, had a tailoring business, owned Lidgard Sails, had one of the first TABs in Auckland and co-owned what is now Freightways Transport.
His mother Jeanette – “a dedicated Mum” – did interior designing later in life and Michael’s older sister Sally works in the event and conference sector.
His wife Maja, busy at home with daughter Isabella (14) and son James (12), is a management consultant and is beginning a landscape design qualification.
“My hobbies involve everything my kids are into, water sports, swimming, fishing and water skiing.
“The best kind of boat is the one you have access to but don’t own. I taught my daughter to ski three or four years ago, she is intrigued by barefoot skiing and she is now on one ski.
“I do mountain biking but classic cars are my main hobby.”
Michael has a top condition, collectable, 1972 Datsun 240Z, which he bought in Sydney 20 years ago and brought back to New Zealand. “It’s the best investment decision I ever made. There was not quite the following in Australia that there is here and they are fetching a lot more now in both countries.”
He has been round a few shows and gets to a monthly classic cars and coffee drive-in once a month in Auckland where as many as 300 classic cars can be seen. “I drive mine a bit, it goes out on sunny days, but not for the commute – I have an older Audi for that and my wife has a Hyundai SUV for pretty much everything.”
“We haul the kids around to all their organised sports - tennis, soccer, table tennis, climbing. I played a bit of soccer when I was younger but tennis was my game.”
Michael has served on the boards of the Sir Peter Blake Trust – “which is all about youth, leadership, the environment and a sustainable future” - and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO). “I’ve always had a hand in not-for-profit organisations or charitable trusts.”
“The APO was at an interesting point in time when it was moving from being almost purely an arts organisation to getting more involved in education and the wider community.
“While I was on the board we established an incredible education programme called Sistema Aotearoa - a programme developed in Venezuela which looked at the impact education and classical music could have on young kids and improve the attitudes and results at school.
“We delivered that to the school communities in south Auckland and it really triggered a bit of an interest in the young primary school aged kids in taking up a musical interest. The APO is very much about the Auckland community and getting involved in wider education.”
Michael described the plans to reduce Radio New Zealand’s Concert programme as “weird and tough”.
“We were always discussing how to attract sponsorship and financial support for classical music. In this country arguably there’s not as much philanthropy as in some of our bigger neighbours.
“It is always difficult to find and sustain those relationships that supported the pure art forms or performing classical music. It would be a shame for RNZ to take that away.
“The fans of classical music need to speak up a bit louder. There is room to introduce another youth programme but not at the cost of classical music.”
The first lawyer in his family, he was interested in studying his way into the Australian market, which was a big part of his decision to do law.
“I had enough of a glimpse of the topic of law that I thought I could enjoy a career in essentially commercial law. I didn’t really fancy litigation or going to the Bar and that hunch was pretty accurate because throughout my legal career I have had involvement with litigation practice but never been interested in specialising in that.”
Love of outdoors and that first job
Michael moved to London to do his Masters, and while the one-year course was intense, managed to find time to explore England, Scotland and Wales, with trips to Portugal, France and Italy. In London he stayed at the independent London House for post-graduate international students.
“The residence hall was impressive and had a club called Beyond the M25 – the London ring road – which organised trips around England, the east of Scotland and Wales. They also had a country house in Scotland’s Esk Valley [south of Edinburgh] where we could stay cheaply.”
Nearing the end of his Masters studies at King’s College and the London School of Economics, Michael went through the usual interviews for jobs, including with a couple of Australian firms actively recruiting in London.
“Having been born and bred in Auckland with all the outdoors and water sports, in London you make quite a few concessions in terms of lifestyle.
“For someone who grew up as a boatie and into water sports, to me Sydney was the perfect compromise between big city and outdoor lifestyle, so Clayton Utz was my first job in the law, in their Sydney office, and I was with them about four years.
“Later, Maja and I began thinking seriously about settling down and having a family so we decided to come back to New Zealand. I worked with James & Wells for three years, but I missed the big firm environment and went to Chapman Tripp.
“Away from work I am not a reader. Fortunately my wife has encouraged the kids to be active readers. I like to get outside and do something creative rather than sit and read.
“As a reading substitute I can sit and play the piano for a couple of hours. That’s soul food, great relaxation, great for the mind and recharging.
“We rarely go to the movies and instead binge watch a few things on TV. Vikings on Netflix, The Crown, and we were completely entrenched in Game of Thrones.
“There’s a family beach house at Whangaparaoa peninsula where we go every summer. I have spent nearly every Christmas Day of my life there. We are also doing great walks with a couple of friends and started with the Routeburn – the regular version, carrying everything - and the Queen Charlotte Track.”
The family pet is a seven-year-old Schnauser called Scooter.
‘My dinner guests would definitely be musicians. They’ve always got great stories. Elton John, Rod Stewart, and Keith Richards. Can you imagine having dinner with Keith Richards?! That would be fantastic. The Rolling Stones are right up there with me. There would be quite a lot to drink. I’d probably get a takeaway meal and some decent grog.”
Leaving the safety net
“Leaving Chapman Tripp was a real turning point in my career. I was joining Anthony Harper for the opportunity to lead and build a practice for them and at that time they were only a start-up in the Auckland market.
“To leave the safety of a firm like Chapman Tripp, a big brand where the brand really does everything and head into the unknown, that was a turning point.
“I always felt like that resonated with the entrepreneurial side of my family. I enjoyed that. I was with them seven or eight years and did everything I wanted to do.
“Another turning point recently was to leave the practice I had built to join Duncan Cotterill, but less so because the environment is familiar.
“Coming back to New Zealand was memorable but that was for personal reasons to start a family. The other big moment in my life was having children.
“I never saw music as a career. I enjoyed gigging when I was doing that and have had opportunities to get involved in the music industry but I have almost ignored them because I have been pursuing other things.
“The other career that would have interested me was architecture. That was my first love when I was finishing up at high school and thinking about what to study at university. It was a step closer to the engineering background. I am still passionate about architecture and design, it would certainly be of interest.”