New Zealand Law Society - It took an earthquake to swing guitar-playing skier from crime to insurance

It took an earthquake to swing guitar-playing skier from crime to insurance

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Sam Hider
Sam Hider

Sam Hider started law school in Christchurch’s earthquake year - 2011 - with his sights set on being a criminal lawyer, but by the time he graduated he realised there was still much to be done in the insurance law space.

Sam started work at Lane Neave in Christchurch, in an insurance team lead by Duncan Webb, now a Labour Member of Parliament, and much of his insurance work relates to the Christchurch rebuild.

“I have done a bit of criminal work, although my background is in insurance,” says Sam, who was recently appointed a senior solicitor at Taylor Shaw, in Christchurch.

Samuel Nicholas Olsen (Sam) Hider
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Canterbury University in 2015 and BA in 2017. Admitted in 2016.
Senior solicitor at Taylor Shaw, Christchurch.
Specialist area
Insurance law.

“Duncan Webb was good at encouraging us to do what we were passionate about. I don’t do so much criminal work now because it is difficult as a civil lawyer to get cases if you are not in the criminal space all the time.

“I always wanted to be a criminal lawyer but the reality is it is hard to get starting jobs. There are other opportunities to get into court and I hadn’t really properly considered civil litigation earlier.

“Both criminal and civil get really interesting complicated cases but some of the complexity of stuff you get through civil is very interesting.”

Sam’s father Phil is a doctor who lectures in clinical epidemiology at the Otago University medical school in Christchurch, and his mother Michele runs a public relations business. His grandfather was well-known Christchurch broadcaster Terry Olsen, who died in 2017.

Law is entrenched in his family, with an uncle – Greg Olsen – and aunt – Brigitte Tracey – working in law firms in London. Sam’s younger sister Becky is in the fourth year of her law degree, and his partner is also studying law.

He did an internship at multi-national firm Clifford Chance, working in their Paris office before moving to their London office to work briefly with his uncle Greg.

No stranger to Paris, Sam was earlier an exchange student there for about nine months, putting his arts degree in French and his ability to speak French to good use. “That was definitely an exciting time.”

“When I was on that exchange I did a lot of travelling – probably more travel than study – including Morocco and Iceland, and a month’s driving from Hungary through Eastern Europe: Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and the Czech Republic.”

Rock and roll

A keen guitarist – sporting an American-made Fender Stratocaster, a Fender jazz bass and a Crafter electric acoustic guitar - he has been in covers bands mostly through his university years playing lead and bass.

“I don’t enjoy singing as much and leave that to singers.

“We started playing a lot of old rock covers: Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant, and any rock stuff, Guns and Roses too. I am not in a band at the moment. One of my friends I was in a band with moved to France so I have had to make do with no band work. And I am busy with work.”

Sam has started playing a bit more sport and is into skiing and mountain biking. “I’m not a competitive skier but really got into skiing since leaving university. Central Otago is my favourite ski place and I spend a lot of time at Mt Hutt because it is so handy.

“I used to love reading at high school, but you lose it when doing a lot of reading for work and I have started trying to read again.

“I like fiction and recently read American author Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. I get a bit frustrated with legal dramas.

“I am definitely a James Bond fan and watch a bit of Netflix – something grittier like Narcos is good.”

Doctor … No

“I really wanted to be a doctor like my dad, until my last year in high school and had this realisation I probably didn’t enjoy the sciences, chemistry and physics quite as much as I enjoyed English, history and French.

“I wondered what I could do with that. I went to a talk by Christchurch barrister Jonathan Eaton and that swung me over to law.

“You don’t get taught at high school what being a lawyer is like. You have a stylised version you see from television. So hearing about what it was like from Jonathan was really interesting, especially from a criminal point of view.

“We had an English teacher who took us to watch a high court trial for a week. It was a huge trial about an organised and complex operation involving fraudsters stealing whiteware from homes and flogging it off. It was fantastic.

“A lot of the insurance cases I have done around the rebuild are memorable. Sometimes people have been waiting for years and years and never felt they have got their entitlements. Often you can work with them to get insurance claims through, and some clients have had spectacular results.”

Sam drives a 2004 Subaru Outback. “I’ve gone through a number of them – good for skiing.”

“I have a high energy golden retriever called Theo, who is just over a year old and needs two walks a day.

“If I wasn’t a lawyer I might look at medicine as an alternative career or teaching English. The money is not good as a professional musician and you have to be pretty good to do well.”

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

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