Philippa Fee, Craig Langstone, Pauline Barratt, Cecily Brick and the staff of Fee Langstone are delighted to welcome Matt Atkinson as a partner of the firm. Matt was interviewed for this edition of In Brief.
How long have you been with FL/JF and how many years have you been practising law?
My first day at Jones Fee was on 1 Feb 2006 … so ten years ago! I took my first job as a lawyer in 1995. However, after about two years of conveyancing work in a suburban practice I escaped to a role as a professional indemnity claims handler with FAI General Insurance. I spent the next ten years working for various insurers and reinsurers before deciding to give private practice another go. So, all up, I’ve had about twelve years practicing law as a lawyer.
What are you most looking forward to accomplishing in your new role as partner of FL?
Building a group of clients who have confidence in me and who I can support in developing their businesses.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to being a partner?
Time management. This is an issue for many people in many different professions but it is pretty acute as a lawyer and even more so as a partner. The challenge is still to make time for the things that matter most - family and friends, and enjoying being alive.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to the legal profession currently?
Staying in touch with the needs of our clients to ensure that we provide a valuable service at a price which is affordable. This has probably always been the biggest challenge to the profession and I don’t see it changing any time soon.
What do you think sets FL apart from other firms?
In my time working for insurers I’ve instructed many law firms who specialise in insurance law. When I started at JF I soon realised that it was different to many of those that I had worked with previously. I think it comes down to the people. They are personable, smart and genuine.
“The people set FL apart”
What has been a personal highlight during your time at FL?
One definite highlight was the first full trial that I conducted by myself. It felt like a kind of graduation to being a fully-fledged lawyer. Another highlight was a successful defence of a prosecution of a group of foresters. The judge’s decision to dismiss the charges was given unexpectedly on the morning of the final day. We were all in the pub celebrating by 11 o’clock that morning and still going strong that evening. Some time during the evening, one of the clients thought it would be a good idea to throw the file on the gas fire at Swashbucklers restaurant. The room got smokier and smokier until the staff arrived with a bucket of water and some tongs to extract it. Amazingly the good people at Swashbucklers did not throw us out but it did make the subsequent appeal a little tricky.
If you weren’t a lawyer what do you think you’d be doing?
Tough question. There are lots of things I would love to try but if I had to choose a single different path then I’d look for something that was practical, dealt with real things and involved time outdoors. I would probably have followed my dad and older brother into engineering but it wouldn’t be electrical engineering for me. It would be something more tangible, like mechanical or geotechnical engineering.
What does 2016 hold for you and your family?
For me, 2016 is all about the transition from senior associate to partner. My five year old is focused on his first full year at school and my three year old is pretty focused on bending the world to her iron will. I am very lucky to have the support of my wife Anna in handling all of this. As a family, we are looking forward to a couple of weeks in Hawaii in March where we are meeting up with friends from our days in London in the early 2000’s.