New Zealand Law Society - Shark-diving Tiger never far from ski slopes

Shark-diving Tiger never far from ski slopes

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By Jock Anderson

Shaun Michael (Shaun) McGivern
Entry to law
Graduated BCom (2000) and LLB (2001) from Otago University. Admitted in 2001. 
Partner at Haigh Lyon, Auckland. 
Speciality area
Property transactions, leasing, subdivisions, asset planning and commercial.
Shaun McGivern
Shaun McGivern

An original member of an Auckland Grammar old boys’ touch rugby team – The Tigers - Shaun McGivern credits wife Sarah with encouraging a sporting release that also involves the family.

But it’s quite a different interest that got him diving with sharks.

“Sarah realises the job is pretty intense so that’s how I manage sports and involve the family as well,” says Shaun, who was recently made a partner at Haigh Lyon.

“The Tigers is a social team made up of lawyers, bankers and tradies, mostly friends from school, and we’ve been playing together for 21 years – both in New Zealand and the UK.

“We won our competition four seasons in a row and it’s great fun to have a run around and a few beers…”

With a grandfather a founding member of a ski lodge at Mount Ruapehu and life member of Rangatira ski club, Shaun’s sons Darcy (3) and Jonty (3 months) are fourth generation club members with skiing in their blood.

“We are heavily involved in skiing and I’ve done a couple of stints on the club committee. I’ve done a bit of competitive racing but now its mostly social skiing.

“Sarah – a marketing manager at home with the little one - is a snowboarder and she’s learning skiing. She came into a family of skiers and found it's better to learn so she won’t get as much grief.”

When Shaun went to work in the UK in 2004, where he was admitted as a solicitor, his parents took a couple of years off to visit and his engineer father did a stint guiding skiers around the mountains.

After working for a London council for six months Shaun joined the UK office of US law firm K&L Gates – founded by personal computer magnate Bill Gates’ father – and which is now the 11th biggest law firm in the world.

“The firm was originally Nicholson Graham & Jones, then it merged into Kirkpatrick Lockhart Nicholson Graham, then merged to Preston Gates Ellis, then finally to K&L Gates – they liked the name Gates. The firm went from about 180 lawyers to around 2,000 with offices in about 24 countries.

“It was a massive culture change being involved with such a huge firm. I was in their real estate department, working on AMP’s investment arm."

Based in London for a few years, Shaun and Sarah made a list of all the places they wanted to go to, ticking them off monthly, over weekends and on long and short holidays all over Europe.

“When we decided to come back to New Zealand in 2008 we found that piece of paper and found we had pretty much ticked off all the places we wanted to see.

“We have India and Africa still to go. My Mum has a great love of Africa and I’ve read a bit of Wilbur Smith so we’re hoping to get there one day.”

Of Irish descent from County Armagh, Shaun was keen to do a summer clerkship and play rugby in Northern Ireland, but his father told him to put a job first “so I stayed in Auckland”.

He chose Otago University after his mother, then a Meredith Connell legal executive, canvassed partners on the best place for her rugby-loving son to study law.

It helped that as a schoolboy Shaun got a taste for law while doing his homework in the legal offices.

“With a few proud Otago lawyers at Meredith Connell there was no argument. Otago is a great university and a good law school.”

Rugby was a big part of his university time in Dunedin, playing five premier years for the Harbour Hawks club.

“It was a good time to be away from home and the rugby club became my second home.”

Homes and building sites are what son Darcy – a big fan of reality TV renovation show The Block - is obsessing with at the moment.

The Block is going in across the road from our place and Darcy watches everything religiously, even outside with his breakfast. He’s fascinated with what’s going on – so that’s our main TV watch…

“That and Game of Thrones, because you don’t know what’s going to happen and stars get killed off at any moment, like the guy burning his daughter the other night…

“I’m not musical but Haigh Lyon have a tradition of venturing out to karaoke bars, and that’s a great leveller…”

It was at Haigh Lyon that another door opened for Shaun – as trustee of the Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation, a charitable trust formed in memory of a 16-year old young man killed in a car accident in 2001.

Clients of Haigh Lyon, Bobby’s parents created a “living inheritance” in 2013 to put what would have been Bobby’s inheritance to good use.

“Bobby was energetic and passionate about the sea, marine life, art, technology, inventing and making things.

“As a result we have got involved in some cool sponsorships. One has been supporting a Young Ocean Explorers television programme.

“It shows on What Now and is aimed at capturing kids’ imagination about the sea, cleaning it up and teaching them about marine life.”

The Foundation has provided a boat to take youngsters out to access beaches and pick up rubbish and has backed a project to put a dvd and book about Young Ocean Explorers into every school in New Zealand and Rarotonga.

It has also helped with Project Jonah and Sustainable Coastline.

“Working with the Foundation also got me into diving with sharks at Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium…

“That was a bit unusual because I’m scared of sharks…But my wife told me to harden up and get in there…

“I recommend it…” 

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for several decades. He also writes the weekly Caseload column for the New Zealand Herald. Contact Jock at

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