Paul Collins: ADLS Members’ Special Fund committee

This profile is part of a series on ADLS committee convenors

Paul Collins

Paul Collins

Where do you work, what’s your role?
I am a barrister at Shortland Chambers, where I have practised for the past eight years.

My main area of legal work is regulation of the legal profession and related topics. Among other things, I prosecute before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal and appear in cases before courts at all levels involving legal professional matters, for regulators and for lawyers. I also act in a wide range of other civil litigation.

Where did you study?
I graduated with an LLB (Hons) from the University of Auckland and then completed an LLM degree at the University of Michigan (USA) mainly on American constitutional law subjects.

What’s been your career to date?
I started my career in my late 20s, after having dropped out of high school and having had a second chance with the encouragement of my wife.

I started my legal career at Russell McVeagh before going overseas to study for an LLM degree. I had a Rotary scholarship and attended the University of Michigan in the city of Ann Arbor, which is not only the home of a major university but is a centre for college football and basketball.

This was a wonderfully interesting experience and a highlight of my life. The next part of my career in New Zealand was spent mainly with the firm Glaister Ennor where I was a partner in litigation.

I loved my time there, in an outstanding firm with great colleagues who are still my friends. I moved to the independent bar in 2012. Whether practising in a firm or as a barrister, I have had (and continue to have) a stimulating and interesting career.

I lecture legal ethics at the University of Auckland Law School and I always tell the students what I have been found to be true for myself – that the law is a wonderful career but you need to find your groove where your practice suits your personality, values and skills. If you can do that, you will have a fruitful career.

How long have you been a member of ADLS?
Since I was admitted to the bar in 1987.

How long have you been involved with ADLS committees and which committees have you worked with?
I’ve been involved with the Members’ Special Fund committee for around 15 years, since 2004/5. I was also on the prosecuting panel when ADLS was the regulatory body.

I went into the law for a fulfilling and rewarding career and to help people. Those remain my motives although I admit I also like to earn a living.

Being part of the Members’ Special Fund is voluntary and the fund exists to help lawyers who get into financial difficulty. It can offer financial assistance to lawyers and their dependants in times of need, in confidence, and without being judgmental about their circumstances.

Why is committee work important?
The Members’ Special Fund is important because it provides a compassionate dimension to ADLS and the legal profession itself, for lawyers and dependants of lawyers who fall on hard times. The challenge for our committee is finding genuine cases where people need help.

The fund has had a relatively low profile but we would like it to be known that it is available to lawyers where a genuine need exists.

How do ADLS committees make a difference?
The Members’ Special Fund helps lawyers and their dependants who are in financial hardship arising from:

  • Bereavement
  • Illness
  • Business failure
  • Hard times generally

We approach applications for assistance in a non-judgmental, practical and sensible way. Our help could be in the form of direct financial assistance or by funding medical, accounting, or other professional advice.

The assistance can be by way of a grant or a loan, depending on the circumstances.

To be eligible, applicants must be:

  • a current lawyer member of ADLS (ie, not a student member);
  • a previous member of ADLS who contributed to the Members’ Special Fund;
  • spouses or dependants of the above;
  • or other current/former lawyers or their families at the discretion of the Members’ Special Fund committee.

In responding to applications we need to strike a balance between realistic assistance – assistance that will make a difference to the applicant – and the sustainability of the fund. People usually expect to repay any substantial assistance they are given, which is often intended to get them over a hump at a difficult time.

The committee convenes on an as-needed basis. At present, four or five applications for assistance would constitute a busy year, although we would welcome more. Every application is seriously considered and we strive to find a way to help if possible.

The origins of the fund date back into the era when membership of ADLS was compulsory and a small contribution was paid as part of members’ practising certificate fees. That source of funding is no longer available.

What’s been the most notable achievement or biggest focus of your committee in the past few years? Why was that important?
We have provided a vital backstop for those in need and we deal with requests for assistance in a confidential and sensitive manner.

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming involved in an ADLS committee?
We are open to approaches from interested practitioners and, in particular, would like to encourage younger lawyers to join our committee. We meet as needed, every couple of months. It is not a huge commitment in terms of homework but sometimes personal contact needs to be made with applicants or providers helping the applicant.

What’s the biggest issue facing the Members’ Special Fund at the moment?
We need applications for financial assistance. That is the reason the fund exists and we would like to hear from people who either need help themselves, or who know of someone who might need help.

What’s the best-kept secret about ADLS?
The Members’ Special Fund. We sometimes feel like we’re a secret but we don’t want to be!

To find out more about ADLS committees, contact Melissa Fini: e:

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