New Zealand Law Society - Waipuk’s high-flying Maserati girl “only a lawyer”

Waipuk’s high-flying Maserati girl “only a lawyer”

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Cathy Quinn
Cathy Quinn

She may have graduated with what she dubs a “plain old vanilla LLB”, disappointed her Dad by not being a doctor and been ditched as a prospective wife for a Hawke’s Bay farmer, but Cathy Quinn’s formidable legal career is arguably unequalled.

Born into a medical family in Waipukurau – her father was a doctor and her mother a nurse – Cathy graduated from Victoria University and started work a few days later, on November 18, 1985, at what was then Rudd Watts & Stone – where she has been ever since.

“It’s very unusual to stay with one firm,” she says.

Catherine Agnes (Cathy) Quinn ONZM
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Victoria University in 1985. Admitted in 1986.
Partner at MinterEllisonRuddWatts.
Speciality area
Mergers, acquisitions and private equity.

“I was asked to do Honours but I declined. I planned to go back to Hawke’s Bay and marry a farmer and be a farmer’s wife so I couldn’t see the relevance of getting an Honours degree. But I didn’t marry a farmer – he dropped me and my life is different as a result.”

Made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2016, and highly rated as a leading international corporate lawyer with foreign expertise, Cathy was a member of the Securities Commission for nine years and was Business Woman of the Year in 2010.

A board member of MinterEllisonRuddWatts and former chairman of the firm, she is a member of the Treasury Advisory Board and New Zealand Global Women and a former member of the Capital Market Development Taskforce, the New Zealand Business Roundtable, and the New Zealand Law Society’s legal education subcommittee.

“I never did the traditional OE, I was in such desperate hurry to be a partner in the firm.”

Law route depressed Dad

“As a lawyer I was a great disappointment to my father who wanted me to be a doctor. In a country practice he saw people seven days a week. My mother was a nurse.

“My Dad was Scottish and we spent six months living in Scotland when I was 14/15, in a pretty little town just outside Glasgow. The standard of education in Scotland is very high. Some of the stuff we did in the fourth form there we did in the seventh form here.

“My father thought medicine was the best possible profession in the world and we were all encouraged to do medicine. I helped him at the weekend until he stitched up a bloodied rugby player and I fainted. Medicine was not for me.

“When I told my father I wanted to be a lawyer he said ‘I guess that will do’. It disappointed him because there was a bias in the family towards medicine.

“But in Waipukurau your vision of what the options are are pretty limited … farmer’s wife, hairdresser, teacher. I’m child number six out of eight and we were all encouraged to go to university.

“My first job was delivering the Central Hawke’s Bay Press when I was seven.”

Cathy’s siblings went into medicine, including psychology, midwifery, nursing, ophthalmology or science. Her youngest sister studied law.

“I saw the 1973 law film The Paper Chase and read Rumpole of the Bailey … so law wasn’t quite a last resort.”

Linguistic family

Married to multi-lingual Paul Jamieson, a corporate adviser and former Vodafone in-house counsel, the couple have two sons, aged 17 and 15, at Auckland Grammar School – “both hard-working students,” says their proud Mum.

Both boys are studying maths, chemistry, biology and Spanish – “they have their father’s gift for languages.”

“I walk a bit because my knee is stuffed and I can’t run anymore. I used to run cross-country at school. Now I walk around Remuera and at our beach house at Omaha – my favourite place.

“I used to play tennis at school but not anymore. I’d rather be at the beach than in a corporate box.

“I read a lot of international press. And light novels that make me laugh. I like Irish writer Marian Keyes – light women’s rubbish – it’s not the Booker Prize.

“Paul has some new thing in the house called Tidal and he puts all our music on that. The only time I have control of the music is in my car where I have Spotify.

“I like Coldplay, Fleetwood Mac – I saw them when they were here - Louis Armstrong, James Taylor, Lorde occasionally, John Legend, Katie Melua, John Mayer.

“I played the piano for a long time and was very good … classical stuff … Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven. I don’t have a piano anymore and don’t think I could play a note now.

“We don’t go out to see films but we have a really nice home theatre and watch Netflix. We watch what the kids want to watch which means they will stay with you - if you watch what you want to watch they will disappear.

“They like violence, death, explosions, guns. We watched Suits together – which I resisted for a long time. I also like irreverent, funny movies.

“Meryl Streep is my favourite – along with Helen Mirren. I get to watch what I like when no-one else is home. Last December Paul took the boys to Spain and I was working so I watched the whole Edmund Hillary series and the Victoria series.

Chinese connections

A member of the executive board of the New Zealand China Council, Cathy has developed a strong interest in China over the last five to six years and visits there twice a year – acting principally for New Zealand companies or Chinese investors in New Zealand.

“China is going to become more important to New Zealand so it seemed a sensible thing to do. My Chinese is appalling, I have a few phrases, but the firm has offices in Shanghai and Beijing and we are given a young lawyer there to help translate, which is a huge help. We also have some fantastic young Chinese lawyers in the firm here.

“I first went to China during the global financial crisis, probably 2009. I was struck by the sharp contrast to the mood of depression in New Zealand. There is a ‘can do’ positive attitude. It is very dynamic and positive with people wanting to better and improve themselves. I feel better every time I spend a week there.

“I recently indulged myself with a Maserati Levante 3l diesel - their new 4x4 - in Bianca White. I had a nice BMW X5 but decided I deserved a treat, and this looked quite nice. Our dog likes it too.

Claymore the nervous terrier

“We have a small white West Highland terrier called Claymore. We bought him about eight years ago when he was nine months old. We had moved into a new house and didn’t want a brand new puppy. He was a trainer’s show dog who broke his tail and they didn’t want him anymore.

“The boys were pleading for a dog so when they were away visiting their grandmother we got Claymore. It was a big secret, getting his bed and all the palaver. It was to be a surprise when the boys came home.

“Next morning Paul took him for a walk round Remuera. Now, a show dog doesn’t usually socialise. Paul took him up Victoria Avenue in the pissing rain when a bus went squealing past. The dog got a fright, pulled out of his collar and took off.

“I got a call at work from Paul saying he had lost the dog. I had to abandon what I was doing – meetings, clients, work - and spent the day running round Remuera looking for the dog – which Paul finally found about two in the morning down the back of St Kentigerns school.

“So after a day going round Remuera calling out ‘Claymore’ there was no appetite to change his name.

“My dinner guests would be good friends as opposed to famous people. I’m quite a good cook and Paul is incredibly good at cooking steak.

“We would have something simple, and a wicked chocolate dessert. A good New Zealand chardonnay and merlot. With a glass of champagne to start the evening. If I had my way I would probably be a vegetarian but that is too inconvenient if you are a mother.

“An alternative career??? I’m only a lawyer.”

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