New Zealand Law Society - Why the Paisley Snail matters to law firm’s bottle-collecting chairman

Why the Paisley Snail matters to law firm’s bottle-collecting chairman

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Paul Beverley
Paul Beverley

Blenheim-born bottle-collecting musician Paul Beverley was living in a 17th century cottage and waitering in an oyster bar at Loch Fyne on Scotland’s west coast when Chapman Tripp partner Joan Allen walked in and hired him.

One of the architects of the Resource Management Act, Ms Allen was on a recruiting mission and Paul was keen on environmental law.

“I took her to a work party with all the Scots. We had a great time.” says Paul, a senior partner at Buddle Findlay in Wellington who recently succeeded Peter Chemis as the firm’s national chairman.

Paul Terrence (Paul) Beverley 
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Otago University and LLM from Victoria University in 1991. Admitted in 1993. 
Partner at, and national chairman of, Buddle Findlay, Wellington. 
Speciality area
Resource management, Māori law and Treaty settlement negotiation.

Paul, who began his career in a small practice in Blenheim before going overseas, returned to New Zealand in 2000 to work at Chapman Tripp. He switched to an in-house role with the Department of Conservation before moving to Buddle Findlay 10 years ago.

Working at DoC was “a fantastic experience” and confirmed his decision to specialise in environmental law.

“I wanted to go to Otago University but didn’t have a strong pull to law. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I did law as one of my first year subjects and loved the analytical process for law. It appealed to me.

“In the area I work in with Māori law and environmental law, we are dealing with real world things.

Speaking te reo

“I have a real affinity with the natural environment. It is a strong thing for me. With Māori law we are in such a fascinating period in our history as a nation and the place of Māori in our society and legal system.

“I am attracted by how they fit together and I have been lucky to work at the interface in the Treaty settlement world trying to build new structures that bring Māori more back into the middle of the legal system than being on the side of it.

“I speak a little bit of Māori but not very well. I have spent a lot of time at the table with Māori and the more I spend there the more I realise what you don’t know.

“It’s one of those processes. You pick up a lot about how Māori see the natural resource world - that’s one the greatest bits of learning I’ve done – and you start to get an insight into that.

“It would be hard to pick an alternative career but I would probably like to work at the interface between Māori and the policy legal world somewhere.”

Soul-funk bass player

The son of South African migrants who came to New Zealand in the 1960s, Paul inherited a strong music gene.

His father Sandy was a professional jazz drummer in South Africa before becoming public relations officer for the then council for Marlborough.

“I shouldn’t say I didn’t want to be a lawyer – my sister-in-law is a lawyer and there are more doctors in the family - but I didn’t get to law for a while.”

Instead he played in soul funk bands for years, mainly as a bass player, and trained on the acoustic guitar under Mid Canterbury-based pre-eminent finger style acoustic guitarist Paul Ubana Jones.

In Dunedin seven-piece band Soulminers he played alongside lead singer and now national broadcaster Wallace Chapman.

“I ended up playing the guitar and saxophone in various bands and we did some recording but I don’t play in bands any more. I am passionate about music, equally passionate about law but my first love is my family.”

Married to art photographer Lara Gilks, the couple have two sons, Louie (11) and Solomon (8).

“We do a lot of outdoors stuff – skiing, tramping, fishing, boating. We have my father’s family bach at Northwest Bay in Pelorus Sound and I have been to that same bay every year of my life. It’s a family tradition, all the family gather there. The boys jump off the wharf and catch fish.

“I lived and played basketball in Nelson. And now I do tramping, boating, fishing, mountain biking. Every year we go on a family tramping trip up to the Nelson Lakes National Park – we’ve just been on that – and I’m taking Louie down to the Greenstone Caples track in spring.

Message in a bottle

“Music is my number one hobby. And I also collect antique bottles. I have done it all my life since a kid – as kids we did a lot of looking under houses for old bottles. And I keep an eye on antique shops and TradeMe.

“It’s a source of humour in the team at Buddle Findlay because I have all these bottles in my office. If we have a quake they are always worried about health and safety - and my bottles.

“I collect Blenheim bottles and used to have about 3,000, but now have about 300. A few are valuable – not as valuable as art but I have a couple that are the only ones in existence. I have a stone ginger beer jar from Blenheim, which is the only one of its type. We didn’t know it existed.”

And here the lawyer kicks in.

“One of the cases you learn about at law school is Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] UKHL 100 – the case of the Paisley Snail - a 1932 Scottish case which created the modern concept of negligence.

“Mrs Donoghue bought a ginger beer and found a dead snail in it. She got very sick and sued Mr Stevenson, the manufacturer. She couldn’t see into the bottle because it was clay. Not long after manufacturers moved to clear glass.”

The House of Lords found in Mrs Donoghue’s favour.

“In the early days with bottles the manufacturers used to compete on the design as opposed to the contents. There were some intricate designs and many patents involved. Bottles were blown into machines and hand-finished.”

Van trips and Danish TV

“I’ve trekked through India and Nepal, including the stunning 20-day Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal, which I will never forget. Did Europe in a van for five months, worked in Scotland and now travel with the kids – we went to Vietnam last year.

“I read novels – I have just finished Indian writer Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things – and keep up with current affairs.

“There’s not much time left after finishing work and dealing with the kids but Lara and I have a weakness for Danish/Scandinavian television shows – stuff like Noble, The Legacy, The Killing.”

“I drive a robust Volvo XC60 which deals with kids, dirty soccer boots and dogs that have been in the sea. We have a cat, all sorts of fish, a Jack Russell Schnauzer and Macey – a refugee dog from Christchurch. Macey is a kind of sheepdog and the first day she turned up she chewed our antique couch.”

Paul’s older brother Sandy was a popular presenter on children’s television show Spot On.

“Sandy is a bit of a party animal. I went down to Christchurch once on a school rugby trip when he was at university and I stayed with him. He took me out to a party and I never made it to the school rugby game next day.

“My first pick for a dinner guest would be late American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Cooking is another great passion of mine and I love eating food cooked by an expert.

“I would serve him paua, which I catch myself, with an Al Brown recipe with chilli. And I have a real weakness for Central Otago Felton Road pinot.

“There’s a fantastic thing Miles Davis said which I always carry with me… ‘It’s not about the notes you play, it’s about the notes you choose not to play’.

“It’s a theme I keep in mind.”

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