New Zealand Law Society - David Robinson, Law Society Otago Branch President

David Robinson, Law Society Otago Branch President

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Law Society Otago branch President and Gallaway Cook Allan partner David Robinson describes the legal profession in Dunedin as “collegial” and “really active”.

Mr Robinson – who is an Otago University graduate – says there are well-supported employment, family and new practitioners committees as well as a close criminal bar.

He says there is also a “reasonable contingent” in the commercial sector that joins with property and business law committee activities.

Dunedin court locale issues

After the Christchurch earthquakes four years ago, the majority of the lower Stuart Street courthouse was assessed and deemed to be unsafe and the profession was forced to work out of three different buildings.

The Ministry of Justice says it is continuing to develop a business case for the strengthening of the Stuart Street courthouse and that it will complete its move into the High Street Court facility in mid-May, centralising all hearings.

Mr Robinson notes that there have been instances where substantial criminal trials have been moved to Christchurch where there are more resources.

“As a profession we’re anxious to make sure that, whatever facilities we have, we do get to see local cases being dealt with here. A six-week multi-party jury trial was completed in the High Street facility in October last year. The court was not suitable for that trial,” he says.

The work of lawyers at the university

Mr Robinson says that Gallaway Cook Allan maintains very close links with the university. A number of the firm’s solicitors help out with law faculty activities such as mooting and act as judges for witness examination contests. Gallaway Cook Allan also sponsors the Otago University Debating Society, helping the debating teams to travel to international competitions. It’s also common for local lawyers – many of whom attended Otago University – to lecture at the university, according to Mr Robinson, who tutors in the criminal procedure programme.

“There are an awful lot of people that have been to the university and suddenly realise what a fantastic place Dunedin is and they just stay.

“I think the Law Faculty quite likes to be involved in the things that we’re doing [as a profession]. We have a faculty representative on the branch Council. There’s also an open invitation for us to attend faculty staff seminars. It is great for the profession to be able to attend and hear high calibre speakers on a regular basis.”

Benefits of life in a small city

Despite living 16km out of town, Mr Robinson has an easy commute and is home in good time to make the most of the evening.

“I can’t be pointed to any other place in New Zealand where you can drive 10 minutes in any direction and be in a completely different environment.”

Oldest law firm in Dunedin

Gallaway Cook Allan, founded in 1859, is the eighth oldest firm in New Zealand and the oldest in Dunedin. From offices in Dunedin and Wanaka the firm is active throughout the South Island.

Mr Robinson says it has particular emphasis on agri-business and commercial matters, resource management and litigation, and private client work. The firm is also very active in the institutional sector, acting for Otago University and other educational establishments, as well as a number of local authorities.

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