By Frank Neill
Auckland lawyer Raewyn Lovett's strong connection with netball did not grow out of her being a player.
When she was young, she did play the game "as all mid-Canterbury girls do", she says. Her memory, however, is that she "played netball badly".
Her major contribution to the sport, rather than coming out of being a netballer, came about "because I was having one of those days at the office where I was looking for a new challenge."
She then saw an advertisement seeking an independent director on the Netball New Zealand Board. So Ms Lovett "dusted off" her interview techniques, applied for the position and got it.
That was the beginning of her nine years' service as a board member, seven of them as Chair – a role she stepped down from in April last year.
It was a role, she says, which "took over" a bit.
"You become part of the family. The netball family is a very strong group of mainly women, but not exclusively women, who just have a huge passion for the game.
"You get swept into it. It's a great place to be."
"And I'm very appreciative [of the netball family] for the opportunities that they have given me and for recognising my contribution."
One of those acknowledgements – although Ms Lovett does not know who nominated her for the honour – came in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours. Ms Lovett was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to netball.
Her services to the sport have been "immense", according to Netball New Zealand Chair John Bongard.
She oversaw the introduction of the ANZ Championship and was Chair of the TTNL Board which owns the ANZ Championship from 2009-2013.
She was integral in implementing a major restructuring of the sport's structure and organisation.
"Raewyn led transformational changes, working alongside legendary CEO Raelene Castle, to increase commercial support and professionalism of the ANZ Championship and to restructure the organisation of grass root and regional netball into zones," says Fay Freeman. A former President and life member of Netball New Zealand, Ms Freeman was also the recipient of an ONZM, which she was awarded in 2006.
"Raewyn has innate ability to work with people to encourage and support changes necessary to forge a successful future," Ms Freeman says.
The understandings and skills developed as a lawyer were an important part of what she brought to her leadership position in Netball New Zealand, Ms Lovett says.
"I think being a lawyer is an advantage – particularly the ability to see your way through issues, and to sift out the things that are probably not important and concentrate on the things that are important."
Coming to the task from lawyering also means you are bringing with you "years of working with people who have been focused on finding solutions, rather than problems. It hones your skills at managing your way through issues.
"Plus I think if you are able to express yourself in a reasonably clear way, people will trust what you are doing. And if you exercise sound judgement, then they will follow you down a logical path if you can explain yourself."
That became particularly relevant when it came to the restructure of Netball New Zealand, Ms Lovett says.
Before the restructure "we knew there was a problem and at first we thought we were going to make some minor changes".
But once they began the process, and talked to the Netball constituents around the country, "we found that much more was needed and we were going to have to step up and be more directional".
The Board and the CEO, Raelene Castle, were pivotal to the restructuring, which moulded the organisation of grass root, regional netball and professional franchise teams into zones.
It was an exercise which involved understanding of structures, awareness of constitutions, consultation with netball people around the country and two votes. One vote was on the principle of the change, where the voters were asked to make a positive decision indicating where they wanted to go, rather than abstaining.
That then allowed the Board and CEO to develop what was an extensive and costly restructure to put to a second vote at the Netball New Zealand annual meeting.
"It was quite a logistical exercise," Ms Lovett says.
As a Duncan Cotterill partner, Ms Lovett is mainly involved in commercial and corporate law. She has had a steady client base for a number of years, based on relationships as much as anything.
"Duncan Cotterill organises itself around clients and specialty areas rather than having a transactional focus."
She also works in employment, property, buying and selling businesses, and shareholder matters – all the types of work you receive from reasonably active commercial clients.
Ms Lovett admits she knew little about lawyering when she made the decision to become one.
It happened, she says, when she was accepted for Teachers' College "and decided that was a terrible mistake".
She knew, however, that if she simply went home and told her parents she had turned that opportunity down, it would not get a good reception.
Knowing she had to do something between then and the time she got home, Ms Lovett considered lawyering.
"I had very little idea of what a lawyer did, but it sounded interesting. So that's what I went home and told my parents that I wanted to do, which surprised them a little."
Asked if her parents thought that was a good decision, Ms Lovett says "I think they would say that now."
And what does she think now of her choice to be a lawyer?
"I've loved it. I've never regretted it as a career choice."
And it has brought a bonus with it – the opportunity to be in governance roles.
"I don't go onto these boards to be the lawyer on the board. I enjoy not being a lawyer. The thing I like about it is the opportunity to be more expansive."
Being a lawyer has been a "great door opener in terms of doing some other things which I wouldn't have contemplated otherwise", she says.
This article was also published in LawTalk 869, 17 July 2015, page 11.