New Zealand Law Society - Rangitoto swim challenge for tennis-ranked farmer's daughter

Rangitoto swim challenge for tennis-ranked farmer's daughter

Rangitoto swim challenge for tennis-ranked farmer's daughter
Kirsty McDonald

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Shunning OE in London for somewhere hotter, Marton-born Kirsty McDonald opted for Dubai – where she worked for international lawyers with major clients and also found her future husband Andrew.

“I went all the way to Dubai in 2006 to meet my Kiwi husband and we have been married for five years,” says Kirsty, an employment law specialist who was recently made partner based in Duncan Cotterill’s Auckland office.

Andrew is a project manager with Xigo and the couple have two sons – Jack, who is 5 this month and George, who was three in October.

Kirsty Marguerite (Kirsty) McDonald
Entry to law
Graduated from Canterbury University with LLB, BComm in 2002. Admitted in 2004. 
Partner at Duncan Cotterill, Auckland. 
Speciality area
Employment and health and safety law.

“I didn’t have a job when I went to Dubai, so I did some door knocking and got a job with large local firm Al Tamimi before moving to Hogan Lovells… Getting to grips with local law was fascinating and both firms had major international clients involved in huge developments…”

"I enjoy the diversity of work that comes from employment law." 

With Duncan Cotterill for about seven years, Kirsty has been looking forward to the firm’s shift to new offices in a $40 million refurbishment of the Australis Nathan buildings in Auckland’s Britomart precinct.

Duncan Cotterill has 62 people in its Auckland office, including 14 partners, and got substantially bigger this year when the firm was joined by three partners and an 11-strong team from insurance specialists Fortune Manning.

“I have been lucky to work at Duncan Cotterill with a young family…” Kirsty says. “The firm is very supportive… I work four days a week as does Andrew, so the boys – who have three days at day care - get equal time with us… We both work but no one feels they are missing out with kid time…”

The first lawyer from a fourth generation farming family, Kirsty has two sisters – one a recruitment consultant who is now a Mum and her younger sister is a probation officer in Waipukurau.

“At school in Marton I enjoyed reading, arguing and negotiating… I picked law as a degree because I thought that’s where my interests lay…

“Since working through law and starting in employment law I enjoy the diversity of work that comes from practising employment law… Issues in society spill over into the workplace and all the problems and issues you deal with in employment are largely people-related and dealing with their personalities and egos… I find that interesting…

“I don’t think I realised that at the start… I started on the basis it would be a good degree to do, being someone who enjoyed reading and arguing the point… That’s what it lead to…”

Having a father keen to get his three daughters into sports, Kirsty excelled at tennis, gaining an under-16 national ranking, and continues to play weekly “with a group of girls…”

While husband Andrew also plays tennis he is a big surfer: “We have done a few surf trips over the years… I learned to surf in Dubai but not particularly well…”

“We spend a lot of time surfing at Pauanui and Andrew goes to Piha and the Auckland west coast… He and about ten guys go off to Indonesia on a boys’ surf trip every three or four years living on a boat and surfing…

“I’m getting back into ocean swimming… And decided for my sins to do the 4.5 km Rangitoto swim from St Heliers next March… I reckon I could be around 1hour 40 or 1hour 50 minutes but I have just started training and it’s a shock to the system… Fortunately we don’t have to swim back…”

From the Middle East the couple did a lot of travelling, including to Egypt, Beirut, Oman and various other Emirates, and a couple of trips to Africa.

“One trip was very much on a bus and camping when we went up to see mountain gorillas in Riwanda in 2006… It was an amazing trip… We camped at police headquarters and had armed militia accompanying us to the animal gorillas to protect us from the human guerrillas that were living in the forest…”

Kirsty and Andrew came back through central America, working their way from Panama, through Costa Rica, Guatemala and ended up in Belize, where they did some scuba diving at the iconic Great Blue Hole dive site.

“I’m a big reader of Jeffrey Archer and John Grisham… A friend of mine Hana Schofield is a Bosnian refugee who with her sister Atka Reid, who both live in New Zealand, wrote the highly acclaimed Goodbye Sarajevo… Hana was a good university friend of mine… Having known her all those years it was interesting getting an insight into what her life was really like for her and her family in Bosnia…

“I have terrible taste in music… as my husband and friends tell me… We went to English rock band The Cure and am going to Cold Play and Guns n Roses, so they are probably respectable interests… Beyonce, Rihanna and Lady Gaga probably up there for me… That would indicate how bad my musical taste really is…

“I enjoyed Homeland and Narco on TV and Broadchurch was fabulous…

“To be brutally honest I drive a 2010 Mazda 3, it’s very small, good for Auckland and very reliable… It’s child-friendly, fits car seats and the buggy and is not getting an upgrade anytime soon…

“Tennis legends Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf would be my first choice of dinner guests, then Beyonce… And Coco Chanel…

“I love cooking and the down to earth approach of Annabelle Langbein… I did some cooking courses in Dubai so we would have wasabi tuna loin bruschetta with a Central Otago Amisfield Rose… It would not be dinner - it would be a long lunch…

“I was recently thinking about what a gap in the market there is for workplace investigations and investigators and I thought a while back that would be a great business to run…

“In Australia there is a big market of investigators who run workplace investigations whether its bullying, theft, anything in the workplace…

“Organisations need to be independent so they would outsource those investigations to an independent third party investigator… There are barristers in New Zealand who do it… I see it as a bit of a niche market…

“But if I had any sporting talent I would have loved to have been a professional tennis player…”

Timaru-based Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for most of his career in journalism. Read more of his law-related news with a touch of humour on Jock’s website and on his Facebook page. Contact Jock at

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