New Zealand Law Society - The benefits of a strong constitution: governance expert Mark von Dadelszen

The benefits of a strong constitution: governance expert Mark von Dadelszen

The benefits of a strong constitution: governance expert Mark von Dadelszen

A long history of service in community organisations has led Hawke’s Bay lawyer Mark von Dadelszen to develop a speciality in the governance of community organisations, societies and charitable trusts.

As a partner at Bannister and von Dadelszen, Mark’s previous clients included the Hawke’s Bay Herald Tribune newspaper, and various local authorities. He successfully represented the Hastings District Council in a case that went all the way to the Privy Council in London. Mark is also the proud owner of an artistically framed kiwifruit packaging tray. It’s a momento of an inordinate amount of time spent on the intricacies of copyright issues relating to the trays.

Currently Mark is the President of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand. He took on the role as a result of being diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer, and a desire to help the Foundation improve their governance.

Initially a gap in the market for guidance initially led him to write a book about meeting procedure. Now a barrister, Mark has is also the author of the only detailed New Zealand legal guide on not-for-profit organisations, Law of Societies (3rd edition). Mark notes that lawyers who advise societies and charities often “learn by doing”.

For lawyers working with sports club boards, community organisations and other not-for-profit bodies, Mark says that having a well-drafted constitution and ensuring that your organisation complies with it are key. “You’ve got to ensure that those in governance are properly trained, and comply with the constitution.”

While a law degree and experience as a lawyer might be useful background, Mark says that neither necessarily prepares a person to be effective and skilled at governance. “Learn the governance ropes in a community organisation. Seek out some appropriate training, such as an Institute of Directors course” he advises.

When dealing with contentious issues, occasionally passions can run high. Mark has previously acted as an independent chair of community, body corporate and company meetings. His advice to anyone who finds themselves in the middle of a contentious meeting, is that “it’s too late to learn when you are faced with the problem!” Good preparation is key, he says. “If a contentious meeting is anticipated it may be wise to obtain the services of a competent independent person to chair the meeting. Or have an independent experienced person to advise the chairperson ahead of time.”

Mark’s experience in governance has touched many areas of his life. A keen woodturner and maker of elegant wooden bowls and platters, he ended up becoming involved in the Hawke’s Bay Woodturners Guild and National Association of Woodworkers. However he recommends lawyers cultivate interests outside of work. “For some it may be sport, for me it is woodturning and choral singing.”

Lawyer Listing for Bots