A love of television legal drama series LA Law – and a taste for glamour – steered Sarah Graydon away from a diplomatic career into law.
“I might not have realised when I was 17 what it was that would be interesting about law. I was half thinking of foreign affairs as a job I might be interested in. I was interested in being a diplomat,” says Sarah, who recently joined Juno Law in Wellington as senior counsel.
After working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade one summer and a law firm the next, Sarah decided law was more likely. “Law seemed like a good mix of things I felt I was good at or interested in.
- Sarah Louise (Sarah) Graydon
- Entry to law
- Graduated BA in Political Science and LLB (Hons) from Canterbury University in 1997. Admitted in 1998.
- Senior legal counsel at Juno Legal, Wellington.
- Speciality area
- Commercial, health and telecommunication.
“What has held my interest is the problem solving and analytical side of law. And I still find the political machinations of domestic and international politics quite fascinating.”
More recently Sarah headed up the New Zealand Post legal team – which included working on the partial sale of a stake in KiwiBank to the New Zealand Superfund and ACC and dealing with the various complexities involved in that transaction.
Finishing up at New Zealand Post after eight years, Sarah went trekking in Nepal on her own, including doing the Annapurna circuit, for three weeks – “a break seemed in order.”
She had been talking career possibilities with Juno Legal’s founder Helen Mackay before joining the firm in August. Juno Legal describes itself as “a hybrid law firm and lean legal start-up.”
“The firm provides temporary or project-based in-house resources, that can be back filled for team members who are elsewhere, or provide cover while someone is being recruited,” Sarah says.
“It also provides advisory services to make sure clients are getting the best out of their legal team and work with in house legal teams to see what they could do differently.”
Married to Dr Tim Jefferies, of the Onslow Medical Centre in Johnsonville, the couple have two children – seven-year old Eleanor and William, who has just turned four.
Roxy the dog – a Labrador/ German pointer cross – is “a perfect family pet, except on a few occasions when she’s raided our pantry.”
Sarah is chair of the board of trustees of Houghton Valley School where Eleanor attends and is active at William’s play centre.
“Tim has a fair way to get to work but the upside is he doesn’t bump into his patients at the supermarket. And I’m quite attached to my south coast abode and not keen on moving to Johnsonville.”
Growing up in Masterton, Sarah has lived in Wellington since 2004. After graduating, her first job was with Chapman Tripp in Wellington, followed by spells in Edinburgh and London.
“I was attracted to Edinburgh because it wasn’t London. Edinburgh was different to the usual trail to London and I was interested in having a look around Scotland and checking out our Scottish ancestry.”
She worked at Tods Murray, then the 14th biggest Scottish law firm, which later went into administration and was bought out in 2014. The firm, whose offices overlooked the Firth of Forth, was old and boasted a heritage-listed toilet.
Sarah did private finance initiative work based on English law projects. “There’s quite a difference between English and Scots law. Scots property law is very complex, with different terms and language. I could work in the English jurisdiction and primarily advised English construction companies.”
With the school and play centre occupying a lot of her time away from work, Sarah likes to run and swim. “I played netball for a long time and Eleanor is now playing netball and basketball but I tend towards the more solitary sports these days.
“I played social netball in the Wellington legal league – made up entirely of people from the legal profession – and that could be a bit of a bloodbath at times. The team I was in averaged a broken bone a season, at least.”
Her favourite pastime is scuba diving, which she learned in the strong cold currents off Wellington’s south coast. “If you can dive there you are pretty much fine anywhere in the world.”
“The Solomon Islands is my number one dive spot. There’s no-one else there and there are amazing World War Two shipwrecks which have become transformed into underwater cathedrals of coral and fish. The water is so warm you don’t need a wet suit. Egypt has some amazing diving.”
When Sarah and Tim left London on their way back to New Zealand they travelled overland from Turkey to China by train - through Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula into Russia.
“There was a lot of changing trains. We spent about a month on that trip hopping off at various places. Then down through Mongolia into China – that was pretty cool. I like train travel overseas, it’s a nice way to see the country and they are well set up with sleepers.”
Margaret Atwood and hip hop
“I love music but more on the receiving end than the creative end. I played the clarinet and saxophone at school but it was never going to be a career choice.
“I’m happy to listen to most music but currently the only music I get a chance to listen to is whatever my seven-year old daughter will let me listen to - Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, One Direction. Not what I would choose, I’m more into indie pop and hip hop.
“One of my favourite things is curling up uninterrupted with a book for a few hours. It’s pretty much what I do for relaxation. Margaret Atwood is my favourite and I recently finished an old one of hers. I like My Brilliant Friend from the Neopolitan novels by Italian author Elena Ferrante.
“I’m in a book club so we read around an author. Currently, its English author Kate Atkinson and I have her A God in Ruins on my bedside table.
“One of my best friends Kirsten McDougall has just completed her second novel Tess. When I’m reading my children get a bit grumpy because I don’t talk to them for a few hours.
“There is some truth that book clubs are an excuse for people to sit around and drink a lot of wine. But we are quite an earnest book club and include a couple of writers who are more focused, so we have a good discussion about the books.
“There’s nothing much on television but I am keen on the Wellington International Film Festival and saw quite a range this year. One was a usual dreary Russian film called Gentle Creature [inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s short story of the same name] with a surreal and unpleasant ending. And a documentary about New Zealand band Head Like A Hole – a favourite of mine at university.”
Diving in the Indian Ocean
The only lawyer in her family – “my sister did law, got admitted, then promptly decided she didn’t want to do it anymore” – Sarah fancies an alternative career as a diving instructor in Maldives or a professional art collector.
“I’m starting to collect art, everything I have is New Zealand art. I have a lovely Irene Ferguson painting, a couple of Robin White prints and some Fiona Pardington and Ans Westra photos.
“I don’t paint but like taking photos and having a quiet wander through a gallery.”
The owner of a rusting VW, she is about to get an electric car, a Nissan Leaf.
“I’m finding it hard to get the exact model. It has to be a fully electric smaller car. I can get one for under $30,000, from Japan, about a year old with only a few kilometres and a range of 200km.
“I’m hanging out for a model that takes you the furthest. It feels like the right time. The structure is just falling into place from an environmental perspective. Costs are coming down and you can charge at home or at work.
“Margaret Atwood is my first choice of dinner guest. I love cooking and I think she would appreciate a good curry, or my excellent smoked fish pie. I’m also fond of wine and don’t think you can go past a Hawke’s Bay chardonnay.
“Not being a litigator there is no one case that stands out for me but I found a number of cases when I worked at the Health and Disability Commissioner’s Office between 2004 and 2008 memorable, particularly in relation to some of the flow on around transparency and how serious harm is reported.”