Chris Moore has been President of the New Zealand Law Society since April 2013. A partner with the Auckland branch of Greenwood Roche Chisnall, he was admitted in February 1978. Chris specialises in commercial property law. In our new series, he answers ten questions about his life in and out of the law.
Why did you choose law as a career?
I came from a medical family where my grandparents on both sides were doctors, my father was a surgeon, my mother a physiotherapist, two older brothers were doctors and one brother was looking to get into medical school but none of that had any appeal to me.
As I was completely uninterested in sciences (and generally not very good at them), medicine was not an option and certainly something that did not appeal. I knew I wanted to go to university but really had little idea as to a career beyond that, so law, at least initially, was probably a default option. It did however develop more appeal when in my last year at school my father took me to the Auckland Magistrates’ Court, as it then was, to see the processing of weekend arrests.
It was fabulous entertainment and from that point law started to look as if it had more appeal. But you really need more of a driver than that and I was fortunate to go to Otago. For the first time I found something in the educational area which had real appeal and I am still very grateful to the Otago Law School for developing that interest.
Do you still feel that way?
I have absolutely no regrets in choosing a career in law; from the early interest developed at Otago, law has really become far more than a career and is something I am now most passionate about. A career in law opens so many opportunities, not just in the broad range of practices which are available but also in the commercial area where your skills can be transferred to other disciplines.
What is the one thing that has given you most satisfaction in your career?
It is probably very difficult to point to any one highlight as I have been extremely fortunate to experience life in many practices, all of which I enjoyed. The years I spent in Whakatane experiencing a broad practice and close relationships with clients through to my times as a partner in Russell McVeagh undertaking challenging and interesting work for corporate clients, through to developing the commercial practice at Meredith Connell and now to Greenwood Roche Chisnall, a national specialist law firm; they have all been enormously satisfying.
But perhaps the most satisfaction are my current roles as a partner in Greenwood Roche Chisnall and as President of the New Zealand Law Society. I love the focus on being part of a national specialist firm which combines a pursuit of excellence with a culture centred around a great sense of fun, camaraderie and loyalty. The President’s role brings a different set of challenges and the need to develop a complimenting range of skills. It is a fascinating and demanding role but also highly satisfying. I am extremely fortunate to be able to combine two highly enjoyable roles.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a lawyer?
There are probably two of equal challenge. First, moving from a partnership in Whakatane to Russell McVeagh as a staff solicitor was a huge risk to me and my young family. It was also an enormous challenge to move from being a generalist to a specialist.
But I was surrounded by a great bunch of enthusiastic partners at Russell McVeagh who showed enormous tolerance and patience in converting me to a specialist role. This eventually led to a very satisfying 10 years as a commercial property partner at that firm. Secondly, taking on the Presidency required a fresh set of skills to cope with new challenges. Again, it is a role which tests the limit of my abilities but it is also enjoyable.
What advice would you give to someone considering studying law?
Law is one of the most versatile degrees available.
Law itself is a fantastic career but it is not the only one which the degree allows; graduates have enormous scope and a huge range of jobs available. If you think it is a career in law that you want there are many practice areas and if one doesn’t suit it is possible to move to another. The degree gives you scope to practise anywhere in New Zealand and take advantage of the wonderful lifestyles that are available outside the main centres. Roles as in-house counsel can be hugely satisfying and of course there is scope to use the degree outside the law in commercial roles. Life is to be enjoyed and law can be great fun when you find the right opportunity.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing New Zealand lawyers?
Access to justice is both a challenge and a risk. We have a judicial system that has become prohibitive for many (not just legal costs), resulting in an upsurge in unrepresented litigants in our superior courts.
Those on very low incomes may qualify for civil legal aid but above that level there is a large gap to those who can actually afford legal representation. A civilised and progressive society relies heavily on adherence to the rule of law including an assumption that parties will be legally represented. However, it is this large gap where many are forced to waive commencing proceedings and are therefore being denied proper access to civil justice. This is a challenge for the profession and an area of considerable focus of the society this year.
What do you enjoy doing outside lawyering?
I am lucky that my adult children are all living in Auckland so time with my family is pretty important. I also enjoy a number of sporting pursuits, none of which I perform to a decent standard. These include running, swimming, tennis, snowboarding and wind surfing; the last of which is restricted to summer as I spend so much time in the water. I also enjoy reading and listening to a wide range of music but have absolutely no musical ability.
What music do you listen to?
Mark Knoffler, Eric Clapton, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Phil Collins, Kelvin Harris and Jamie McDell.
What are you reading at the moment?
My current work roles usually involve reading of a serious nature so I am far more inclined to read escapist and light fiction such as anything by Jeffrey Archer, Richard Patterson or David Baldacci.
The best movie and TV shows I have seen?
The Castle and Fawlty Towers (Nothing deep and meaningful here!).