Wellington-based Duncan Cotterill partner Dan Winfield who died on 17 January will be remembered as a man with a great sense of humour who excelled as a lawyer, but strongly believed family came first when it came to managing the demands of his busy legal career.
It’s never easy to say a final goodbye, particularly when it’s clear a person had so much more living to do. Dan’s passing followed a short illness. Although he was only 46 years old, it should be remembered that he did pack a lot in to his short life. None of us know what the future holds and how Dan lived his life exemplified that philosophy.
Dan was admitted as a lawyer in May 2000 after graduating from Victoria University in Wellington with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts.
He started his legal career as an intellectual property lawyer with Baldwin Shelston Waters. From there his career just kept taking off.
The UK years and AJ Park pays tribute
From 2003 to 2006, Dan spent time in the United Kingdom, working in-house for the consumer product firm Unilever, and then as an associate with commercial law firm Bristows where he undertook a secondment with beverage company Diageo.
Dan was a multi-jurisdiction lawyer as he was also admitted as a solicitor of England and Wales in April 2005.
He returned to Wellington in 2006 to join AJ Park, where he continued to hone his expertise as a specialist intellectual property lawyer.
Clifton Chambers barrister Greg Arthur worked with Dan at AJ Park and remembers him well.
“Dan had a laid-back demeanour, but was enthusiastic about work and his numerous non-work activities. As a consequence, he developed a great rapport with clients. He seemed to intuitively know the commercial realities of clients’ business and so gave commercially and legally sound advice.”
“He was a very popular person at AJ Park. I think that was because he had the ability to meet people for the first time and make them feel relaxed and that he related to them really well. All round he was a great person to have in the firm, fun and generous with a wry sense of humour,” he says.
AJ Park Principal Corinne Cole says Dan was one those people who everyone gravitated to.
“He was easy to like and be around. This was demonstrated by how many clients, friends, colleagues, and family turned up at his funeral to show their respect.
“He was incredibly diligent and hardworking but managed to balance work demands alongside having time for family. Sarah and his children were very important to him and he strove consciously to ensure that his work did not overshadow or take him away (too much) from time with them,” she says.
Corinne Cole says Dan was confident, articulate and competitive.
“He didn’t give up but, in a work environment whilst competitive, he always put client interests first. He was popular with his clients and he always seemed to find a way to connect and develop a rapport with whoever he worked with."
She says that while he was at AJ Park, Dan worked predominately with local New Zealand businesses assisting with trade mark, domain name, and copyright matters. He also worked with UK associates, some of whom he had developed a relationship with when he worked in the UK.
“Dan was a very good IP lawyer, and he was always looking to develop his craft by becoming involved in groups that considered and fedback on proposed changes to IP practice and the law.
“He will be sorely missed by all that had the privilege to know him,” she says.
Dan joins Duncan Cotterill
Dan joined Duncan Cotterill’s Wellington office in April 2012 and became a partner in 2014. He made a significant contribution to the firm, co-leading the firm’s intellectual property practice along with Scott Moran.
“From the day Dan joined us it was evident that he was a highly skilled lawyer who quickly gained the trust and confidence of his colleagues and clients. He was an excellent communicator and was admired by everyone at the firm, especially for his ability to communicate professionally and casually at the same time. Dan was recognised in the IP community as a key contributor to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) technical focus groups. He was also increasingly a thought leader in our partnership. When Dan voiced an opinion, it was always worth listening to,” he says.
Dan was also known for his great sense of humour. Mr Moran says he had what he would describe as a real presence in the Wellington office.
“He did away with the usual suit and tie whenever he could, preferring more relaxed dress in line with his easy-going manner. He championed and implemented the office’s dress for your day policy that has been a runaway success,” he says.
The unexpected death of Dan came as a great shock to the firm’s many staff, who have all been affected.
Struan McOmish, who is the Chair of Duncan Cotterill paid tribute, describing him as caring about people, caring about their partnership and caring most about his family.
“Dan felt strongly that we should all have a life away from the office, but he was also highly engaged in the firm, especially the people. He was a great partner and a very decent man. He added incredible value and enhanced the reputation of the firm,” he says.
And Pete Boyle, the Chief Executive of Duncan Cotterill, recalls Dan’s office mannerisms.
“He would sit quietly, being cool and calm, but when he felt strongly about something he could be very forthright and passionate. He cared about his team and his clients, and had a strong sense of fairness and equality,” he says.
Jonathan Scragg, a litigation partner in Duncan Cotterill’s Wellington office, describes Dan as excelling in both facets of life: as a family man and as a lawyer.
“Dan brought great perspective to modern professional life. He enjoyed his work and excelled at it, but he was not enslaved by it. For Dan, family always came first.”
Recognition for IP excellence
Dan was recognised by Managing IP as an IP Star in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
He was also named by World Trade Mark Review as a leading IP Practitioner in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and described by a client as “Amongst the very best local counsel we work with worldwide”.
Dan’s great mate who happens to be the Health Minister
The Health Minister, Dr David Clark, knew Dan very well. They grew up together and he says he was shocked and saddened by the death of his friend.
When Dr Clark was a child living and growing up at Beachlands beach, Mr Winfield was one village over at Maraetai beach.
“Our mums were both teachers at each of the early childhood centres we both went to, so they knew each other. Dan and I then got to know each other as children through our mums and then through attending Otago University in Dunedin. Dan was a devoted family man. He had a strong sense of right and wrong and lived out his values. He was a great sports person, and even represented New Zealand as a junior in speed skating.”
Competing in sport together
Dr Clark says Dan became a really strong triathlete.
“We did a half iron man together and then a full iron man. He was a fit guy and also a groomsman at my wedding. I was actually the celebrant at his wedding in around 2006. It will take family and friends a long time to come to terms with the loss of Dan. He was a top mate and I’ll really miss him. I’ll always remember how he had an ability to disarmingly challenge people with humour,” he says.
Outside of his legal work, sport and family, Dan found time to join the Board of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award in 2016 and he made a significant contribution to the organisation over his four years as a Board member.
“Dan’s area of expertise in Privacy, IP, and his wider legal expertise guided the Award in its review of these areas and steered the Award through the updating of the governance documents and protocols. Dan always contributed pragmatic and sage advice – not just that of a lawyer, but of someone thoughtful and bringing their whole self to the table,” says National Director, Karen Ross.
Dan Winfield, the lawyer and family man was a dedicated husband and father and he leaves behind his wife Sarah and his children, Tom, Zoe and Lucy.
His funeral was held on Wednesday 29 January at St Andrew’s on the Terrace in Wellington.