Five minutes with our new Queen’s Counsel

Former LawNews editor Lisa Clark has been speaking to this year’s newly appointed Queen’s Counsel and asking them some brief questions about themselves – some personal, some professional – to find out a little more about them. This week, we hear from Stephen Hunter QC of Auckland’s Shortland Chambers, along with Len Andersen QC of Barristers Chambers in Dunedin.

Stephen Hunter QC

Stephen Hunter QC

Stephen Hunter graduated with a BA/LLB (Hons) from the University of Auckland in 1999 and an LLM from Harvard University in 2002, for which he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.

He was admitted to the Bar in 1998, after which he served as a judge’s clerk to the late Sir Ivor Richardson in the Court of Appeal. In 2000, he joined Russell McVeagh, before moving to the United States to study, then on to London to work at Herbert Smith.

Hunter returned to New Zealand in 2006 to Gilbert Walker where he became partner in 2008, also working as a part-time lecturer in public law at the University of Auckland from 2006 to 2008.

He became a barrister sole and a member of Shortland Chambers in 2016, focusing on commercial and regulatory matters in the High Court. He is also a member of the Auckland Crown Prosecution Panel, the SPCA Pro Bono Panel, and the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.

What prompted you to go into law?

I spent my final year of high school overseas as an exchange student and that led me to want a career in the diplomatic service. I saw a conjoint BA/ LLB as a good route to that. I liked studying law and I loved my first job as a judge’s clerk. I never looked back.

What gets you excited about your job?

I love the thrill of a new instruction. As lawyers we are privileged to be regularly exposed to new dramas, new industries, new groups of people, and so on. I also like the fact that most of my cases involve a team of great people: in-house counsel; lawyers at firms; smart junior lawyers; and experts. Although I am a barrister sole I am almost never working alone.

Of what achievement are you most proud?

I think I have done a good job of achieving professional success without sacrificing my family life and my own well-being in the process. As professionals we have a duty to be available to the public but not at the expense of our families or ourselves. I have two school-age children and have been very involved in their school activities and sports. I have often referred matters elsewhere or made myself unavailable for work engagements because of a prior commitment to my family. All that said, I have had to work very hard at times and have benefitted enormously from the support of my wife (Julia) who took a career break when our children were younger.

What is the most important lesson you have learned thus far?

At law school and in graduate recruitment there is a focus on academic ability or at least the ability to do well in exams. Supposed cleverness is not, however, the most important attribute of a great lawyer. Common sense, decency, and the ability to engage constructively with all sorts of people are more important. It’s helpful to interact with lawyers in other areas of practice and to recognise the great work so many are doing and the skills they have. I have enjoyed being on the faculty at Litigation Skills and on the disciplinary tribunal because it has allowed me to work with a wide range of colleagues from around the country.

What’s something on the horizon to which you’re looking forward?

This might sound shallow and privileged, but you asked and it is relevant to my recent QC appointment. I am looking forward to a family trip to Melbourne to buy my new silk gown and to go to the Australian Open. I love tennis and I play interclub but I have never been to a Grand Slam.

What is your favourite legal-or political-themed movie/book/TV series of all time?

My favourite TV show is Billions. It follows the legal battles between the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (Chuck) and a hedge fund manager (Bobby). The dialogue is fantastic. One of my favourite books is The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. It also involves a legal battle in New York, in this case arising from a hit-and-run. I read a lot of legal-themed non-fiction books. A few of my favourites are Simple Justice by Richard Kluger (the story of Brown v Board of Education), A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr (about a pollution case in Boston) and Ann and John Tusa’s book on the Nuremberg Trial.

 

Len Anderson QC

Len Andersen QC

Leonard Andersen graduated with an LLB (Hons) from the University of Otago in 1975 and was admitted that same year. His first legal role was as a teaching fellow in the Law Faculty at Otago University, before moving to Whakatane in 1976 to join Osborne Handley Gray & Richardson.

In 1979, he became a partner and was responsible for all litigation within the firm until his departure in 1990. Since 1991, he has been a barrister sole practising in Dunedin.

His practice is varied, ranging from civil and criminal litigation to Family Court cases, employment cases and Resource Management Act proceedings. He has been a part-time lecturer at Otago University since 1992, teaching courses in advocacy, criminal procedure and forensic law.

Andersen is the creator of both the first advocacy course to be taught in a New Zealand university and the only forensic law course to be taught in the country.

He is the current President of the Criminal Bar Association of New Zealand and the chairman of one of the two NZLS Practice Approval Committees. He also serves on the faculty of NZLS Litigation Skills Program and on the Southern Selection Committee responsible for granting approvals for legal aid.

What prompted you to go into law?

I wanted to be a lawyer from when I was in primary school. I always wanted to be an advocate and my siblings claim I cross-examined them when I was young over such weighty matters as finding out who ate the last biscuit in the tin.

What gets you excited about your job?

I enjoy appearing in court and am equally happy arguing the law or trying to persuade a jury. However, the most exciting thing is to find either a legal or factual matter that tips the balance in my client’s favour.

Of what achievement are you most proud?

The achievement I am most proud of is being appointed a QC. It is so difficult to get appointed and so many excellent advocates are not appointed that I realise how lucky I am to be appointed.

What is the greatest challenge presented by your role?

The greatest challenge is to live up to the expectations of a QC. There is an expectation of excellence which also means advocates on the other side will rise to the challenge.

What is the most important lesson you have learned thus far?

The most important lesson I have learnt in my career is to respect the opposition and to be gracious in victory. I have made great friends from worthy opponents and some of my best work has come from lawyers I first met in court on the other side of a case.

What is your favourite legal- or political-themed movie/book/TV series of all time?

The Rumpole books and TV series by John Mortimer QC are my all-time favourites.

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