New Zealand Law Society - NEW IN THE LAW: Oliver Peacock, Solicitor, Gifford Devine Lawyers, Hawke's Bay

NEW IN THE LAW: Oliver Peacock, Solicitor, Gifford Devine Lawyers, Hawke's Bay

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Oliver Peacock grew up on an orchard farm in the small settlement of Maraekakaho, located just outside Hastings.

As a child, Oliver spent a lot of time either outside on his parent's farm, or reading any book he could get his hands on. "Being on a farm I was brought up in the outdoors doing all kinds of work. The apple-picking season was always an extremely busy time of year." 

As a teenager, Oliver went from a local primary school to attending College in the city: "I lived a rural life before heading into Lindisfarne College in Hastings, quite a change."

After finishing at Lindisfarne, Oliver moved on to University where he studied law, international relations and politics.  While studying, he took up volunteer work and picked up boxing. "During University I took up boxing, even getting in the ring a few times, and also volunteered at the [Wellington] Community Law Centre."

When did you realise that you wanted to be a lawyer?

"I have always been an avid reader and also follow international relations and politics. I did well in the arts, especially history and classics, and law seemed like something my abilities were suited to."

What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?

Oliver's areas of expertise are in dispute resolution, litigation, employment law, insolvency and resource management. 

"Being in civil litigation in a smaller firm means any issue can come up on any given day. I enjoy the challenge of clients bringing in various issues, which then often have to be researched. I also enjoy the challenge of preparing and attending Court hearings."

Litigation is a very interesting and diverse speciality to practise and Gifford Devine has been involved in one of the most interesting and high profile modern cases in New Zealand. Partner Ingrid Squire and barrister Jonathan Krebs have been an on-going part of Teina Pora's legal team. Just last month it was announced by Justice Minster Amy Adams that Mr Pora has been offered a compensation settlement for wrongful conviction, for which he spent two decades in prison for rape and murder.

Is there anything you wish you learnt in law school that wasn't covered, either during your studies?

"I feel that there could be more practical skills taught in law school such as presenting arguments orally and dealing with Rules of the Courts."

This isn't the first time I've heard this. I hear stories from junior lawyers about their first court appearances, some of them funny or awkward, as they were unsure of how formal they were required to be, or a Judge may have made a 'newbie' joke at their expense.  A lot of them put their first appearance mistakes down to a lack of confidence and nervousness when speaking in such a high-pressure situation, with the added possibility of a large audience. 

Unlike some other countries, New Zealand's school curriculum does not pay much attention to public speaking and, while our high schools do have speech and debate portions in the NCEA curriculum, it could benefit across the board to treat public speaking as a major practical skill requirement.

Sixty percent of job applicants, over myriad professions, are turned down due to poor public speaking abilities. The practice of law is a profession where public speaking is an almost mandatory part of the job, and possibly extra training in this area would benefit those who lack confidence.

What are your favourite ways to disengage from the job?

Oliver enjoys living in Hawkes Bay as it allows him to be close to family and friends. 

"Being back in Hawke's Bay has meant reconnecting with friends from high school days and I have found that quite a few friends are moving back to the bay for various reasons."

As a way to de-stress, Oliver practices yoga and continues to box, while also being a member of the New Zealand Army Reserve.  He also enjoys the benefits of having a decent network of friends and family saying, "Having a family back in Mahia means I have a great place to spend a weekend away."

Angharad is a Wellington journalist.

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