Chris Foote: Courthouse Liaison committee

This profile is part of a series on ADLS committee convenors

Chris Foote

Chris Foote

Where do you work, what’s your role?
I am a sole practitioner at Kendall Sturm and Foote. Until 2017 I had been in a 30 year partnership, practising law with the late Rod Sturm, and for a period with a junior partner.

Where did you study?
The University of Auckland, where I graduated with LLB(Hons). Six years after graduating I sat an exam in London and qualified to petition for enrolment as a solicitor in England.

What’s been your career to date?
I came out of full-time university without any legal contacts. I walked up and down Queen St, knocking on the doors of all the law firms, looking for a job.

I had almost completed both sides of the street before I figured out what the answers should be to the key question: what sports do you do in the summer/winter?

I ended up with a role at Holmden Horrocks, where for the first few years I was in the traffic courts pretty much five days a week.

After six years there I enjoyed a spot of OE and then returned to work for Kendall Strong & Co doing a wide range of civil litigation, some family law work and the occasional tax case.

How long have you been a member of ADLS?
Since I graduated, in 1973.

How long have you been involved with ADLS committees and which committees have you worked with?
I’ve been involved with ADLS committees on and off since 1982, when I joined the District Court committee.

I was on that committee for six years. In 1993 I joined the High Court committee (for a year) and the Library committee, which I was on initially for five years.

I was on the Library committee two further times between 2000 and 2004, and 2005 and 2012. I was also ADLS’ representative on the LINX committee, which was a joint online legal database publishing venture involving the ADLS law library and those in Wellington and Christchurch, together with LexisNexis.

As a consequence of the effect of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act on district law societies, responsibility for the former district law libraries was taken over by NZLS. The Auckland society’s Library committee then morphed into the Courthouse Liaison committee.

Why is committee work important?
You get the chance to be of service to your fellow practitioners, on a very practical level.

Then there is the ideological drive to improve the administration of justice and the machinery of the law.

That’s easier to do as a committee of voices rather than on your own. And it’s easier for committees to liaise with stakeholders within the justice arena than trying to change things as an individual.

How do ADLS committees make a difference?
The committee work involves dealing with issues big and small that are raised by practitioners.

The committees can provide a voice for practitioners when there are issues involving the courts, the Ministry of Justice generally, and the judiciary.

ADLS committees also make submissions to parliamentary select committees, with a bigger and more effective voice, leveraging the credibility inherent within ADLS.

What’s been the most notable achievement or biggest focus of your committee in the past few years? Why was that important?
The Courthouse Liaison committee has carried on the practice of preparing and making submissions to select committees, most recently on the issue of contempt and also courthouse security.

Contempt is a major issue affecting the administration of justice. It goes to the heart of the effectiveness of court orders and the rule of law.

In the case of courthouse security, our submissions addressed issues raised by a bill amending an existing Act. The amendments were trying to beef up security but with exclusions. In some respects it came down to practical issues which we could give concrete evidence about from a practitioner’s viewpoint.

The Courthouse Liaison committee deals not only with access to courthouse space but also the physical use of courthouses, how practitioners interact with court staff, the impact of Ministry of Justice policies and administrative decisions on practitioners, and liaising with the judiciary on court-related matters.

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming involved in an ADLS committee?
Everybody has their own perspective. The more lawyers who contribute to committees, the more representative that committee is.

I don’t think it matters so much what your viewpoint is, as long as you come along to air it.

What’s the biggest issue facing your practice area at the moment? And how does that affect lawyers and their clients?
I practise in the courts and I think an important issue is the prevalence of lay litigants, or self-represented parties.

Even if these people are well intentioned, they add time and cost to the detriment of the represented party, and that is time and cost that is never fully catered for.

I know the judiciary is concerned about this as well. Access to justice is important, but there needs to be a balancing act. Managing lay litigants needs constant work to provide a fair process for all parties.

What’s the best kept secret about ADLS?
The potential for a nationwide membership on its committees.

On my appointment as convenor I used my former LINX committee connections to arrange for a Christchurch practitioner to be a member of the Courthouse Liaison committee.

Our committee has benefitted from this as we now have a member who can talk of direct experience about the functionality (or otherwise) of the Christchurch justice precinct.

To find out more about ADLS committees, contact Melissa Fini: e: melissa.fini@adls.org.nz

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