New Zealand Law Society - Law was the logical choice for the 'argumentative child'

Law was the logical choice for the 'argumentative child'

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

Paul East
Paul East

Lawyer, politician, diplomat and lawyer again, Paul East QC says he had the ideal childhood of being brought up by a country solicitor – his Dad.

Paul followed his father Edwin into the Rotorua-based firm of East Brewster, from 1973 to 1978, before winning the Rotorua seat for National in 1978.

“Law was in the family. I was argumentative as a child so law was a natural progression for me,” he says.

“But I got a bit bored with law and went into politics.”

Paul Clayton (Paul) East QC, CNZM
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Auckland University in 1970 and LLM from Virginia University in 1972. Admitted in 1971.
Consultant at Bell Gully.
Specialist area
Public law

A long political career followed, including various ministerial roles and seven years as Attorney-General, followed by a three-year posting from 1999 to 2002 as New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

At the same time, his colleague and former Prime Minister Jim Bolger was appointed High Commissioner to the United States.

A former Leader of the House, Paul’s political career spanned nearly 22 years, 18 as an elected MP and three as a list MP. His cabinet posts included Minister for State Services, Defence, Corrections and Crown Health Enterprises.

A company director who was made Queen’s Counsel while serving as Attorney-General, he has been a long-time chairman of the Charity Gaming Association and chairman of the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

The gaming association was established to self-regulate and have good harm-minimalisation plans for operators and users.

Paul remains a trustee of the Te Araroa Trust, the Auckland Law School Foundation, the Rotorua Public Arts Trust and the Te Arawa River Iwi Trust.

“Sir Ron Trotter was a mentor to me through my political career, as was former Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum. I was fortunate to work with two exceptionally fine public servants – solicitor general John McGrath (later a judge of the Supreme Court) and secretary of defence Gerald Hensley.

“Former High Court judge Sir Ian Barker is someone who had a great influence on me.”

In 2005 Paul was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to Parliament and the law.

“Being High Commissioner was a brilliant way to finish my political career,” he says.

“When Ms (Jenny) Shipley took over the National Party I went to London and Jim Bolger went to Washington, which turned out well for all concerned.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time in London. Being an ex-politician I had a few tricks up my sleeve, such as attending question time in the House when I needed to meet with various cabinet ministers over certain issues.”

Returning to New Zealand and law, Paul remains a consultant to Bell Gully, where he draws on experience from a distinguished career of legal, parliamentary and diplomatic service, and where his daughter Sophie is a partner.

The youngest of four, with a sister Elizabeth and two brothers, David and Philip (both now dead), Paul’s father and a brother were both lawyers.

With wife Lyn, a retired teacher, he has daughters Sophie, Nina and Lucy.

“Nina was for some time a creative director in a television company in London and is now creative directors of an advertising agency in Auckland.

“Our youngest Lucy runs a public relations company in Auckland. It is the first time in 14 years all three girls have all lived in the same city at the one time.

Champion for democracy 

“I am very keen on democracy and being involved in the democratic process.

“I have been involved in a number of organisations to promote democracy around the world, including the World Bank, the International Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth.”

“This has taken the form of several missions, including election observer missions and attending seminars for parliamentarians. There is a good deal of corruption in the world and democracy and the parliamentary oversight of expenditure and a free press go a long way to stamping it out.

“I read anything but prefer the classics, good novels and biographies. No particularly favourite authors, but I like William Boyd’s Any Human Heart.”

A former tuba, Bflat bass and trumpet player in his high school band, Paul is a fan of Dusty Springfield, Adele, the Righteous Brothers, 1960s singing sensations The Ronettes and anything by music producer Phil Spector and his ground-breaking “wall of sound” recording technique.

Formerly a keen duck shooter for more than 40 years, at a spot midway between Kawarau and the coast, with family members spanning three generations, Paul no longer shoots, due to Parkinson’s disease.

“I still go out trout fishing, from our holiday place at Lake Rotoiti. Rotoiti is my favourite spot and I’ve been going there since 1974.

“I have a 12-year-old cat called Joe, don’t watch much television, and have a Suzuki Grand Vitara and BMW 3 series.

“My dinner guests would be Winston Churchill and FDR – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. With roast duck served.”

Outside New Zealand, Paul likes visiting California, the Maldives and Asian cities.

And Antarctica is a special place for Paul, who has had a long interest in the continent and its explorers. He chaired the Antarctic Heritage Trust for more than 11 years when it raised more than $20 million to restore buildings.

“I have been there twice as chairman and twice as a politician.

“If I considered an alternative career it would probably be having an art gallery.

“I’ve been collecting art for more than 40 years. I started with two Dick Frizzells and a Gretchen Albrecht and now have about 20 New Zealand artists in my collection, including Brent Wong, John Walsh and Paul Knight.”

Over a long career in journalism Jock Anderson has spent many hours in courtrooms and talking to members of the legal profession. He can be contacted at

Lawyer Listing for Bots