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Briefcase Blog: Worrying About The Solicitor Gen

Briefcase Blog –John Bowie – Worrying About The Solicitor General And Paul Newman

Worrying About the Solicitor General

I’ve long worried about the Solicitor General. I was concerned that his mid-career entry into a medico-legal firm that bore the same name, Rainey Collins, would be seen as too calculating. I worried that his Golden Bay bach and Volvo might see him over-extended. I was positively terrified when he was mislaid with frostbite on Alaska’s Mount McKinley on a mountaineering escapade. I was concerned that he was mixing with the wrong people rubbing shoulders with the likes of Margaret Wilson and Helen of Thorndon. And the tobacco litigation he embarked upon and lost before his entry into the even more refined atmosphere of the Crown Law Office had me biting my nails with anxiety. But now he’s got me really worried. Has he overplayed his hand on the whole Fairfax contempt matter? Do his robust admonishments about the Dominion-Post’s reporting of the Terror fiasco, born from poorly-drafted legislation, run counter to what the rest of society expect in these days of transparency and media overload? But there’s more, regrettably. There’s now the onset of a police investigation of Dr Collins in respect of his role in respect of the Doctor’s affidavit in respect of a banned book and its author who both refuse to go away. The book’s title, “Broken Silence”, bares a similarity to both the theme of the Doctor’s Fairfax argument and to his former client, Anne Hunt, who refused to remain anything but silent. I worry about that man.

The Week From Hell

What a week. Is it ever going to end? I’m not talking financial meltdown. We all knew that had to come. I’m talking Paul Newman, who I thought was terrific ever since I saw him in “Hud” and “Cool Hand Luke”. He was always cool and lawyers need to see his masterful performance as a “disgraced lawyer” (how journalists love that term) in David Mamet’s ‘The Verdict’. Remember the alcoholic personal injury lawyer Frank Galvin who infiltrated funeral homes to pass his business card to the spouse of the deceased? Effective marketing that only another lawyer, ‘Verdict’ author and former Boston lawyer Barry Reed, could have envisaged.

Another of the Great’s has gone. I used to think, in the dead of night, if God ever said ‘Son, you can be anyone you want. Who you wanna be?”I’d say, ‘Paul Newman, sir.”

Back to the Future

The deal-driven finance boom in the legal industry has finished, I think we’re all agreed, after years of operating in some parallel universe where the international mega-firms were doubling profits every four to six years while average incomes were levelling or dropping. It was as if they operated under some different economic rules. Last week’s Australian Financial Review published the booming figures for Australian firms, lead by Mallesons, who crashed through the half billion dollar revenue barrier. Over here, what we could call the ‘Golden Triangle’ firms, Chapman Tripp, Russell McVeagh and Bell Gully, all either broke the $100 million figure or (in the case of The Factory) came within a whisker. The future? It’s back to basics according to US legal consultant Paul Lippe who says too many firms have focused on themselves and forgotten their need to provide service and respond to the needs of their clients. “Welcome to the future,” he says. Meanwhile, old lessons die hard. The big firms are fighting hard out there in a feeding frenzy in the City and on Wall Street for the biggest deals occurring presently - the mega-deals that have come from the carcasses of Lehmans, Bear Stearns and other major victims of the meltdown.

Dr Cullen’s Legal Adventures

If he’s not soft-pedalling the now tiresome Winston Peters affair the non-lawyer Attorney General Michael Cullen has been subject to some scrutiny of his own in respect of his handling of the Auckland Airport sale. Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee reported on Cullen’s use of his regulation-making powers under the Overseas Investment Act when he blocked the Canadian Pension Fund’s purchase of a 40 per cent stake in the Airport. The complaint was laid by the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, but was supported by the New Zealand Law Society’s Rule of Law Committee, advised by Professor John Burrows.

The cross-party committee upheld the complaint, criticising the use of the Attorney General’s powers on the Airport deal and recommended a law that covered such important, strategic investments. Something we all knew, but now carrying Parliament’s own imprimatur.


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