A passion for the environment drove this Cooney Lees Morgan associate to the law

Mark Harding works to generate positive outcomes for the environment and the people he works with

A passion for the environment drove this Cooney Lees Morgan associate to the law
Mark Harding

Mark Harding has always had a passion for the environment. In university, he pursued studies in marine biology, a subject he loved, but said he found himself “depressed” at the reports of habitat loss and species extinction he would hear about in lectures. This spurred his decision to go into law, in the hopes that he could bring about more change.

Today, he is an associate on Cooney Lees Morgan’s resource management and local government team, working to generate positive outcomes for both the environment and the people he works, with as well as keeping his finger on the pulse of environmental obligations.

In this interview, Harding talks about sustainability and its evolving place in New Zealand businesses, the profession’s need to focus on improving human interaction and relationship management and looking forward to participating in the Rotorua Half Ironman race.

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What made you choose a career in law?

I originally studied marine biology, which I loved. However, I would get depressed at all the lectures I sat through which detailed the huge loss of habitat and species extinction we were facing. I felt I could help to effect more change through the law.

What do you love most about your job?

Getting a positive outcome for a client, the diversity of work and issues we deal with, being involved in resource management issues and working to get good outcomes for the environment and people.

What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

Initiatives and tools to assist New Zealand businesses – given my background spending many years working internationally in the sustainability space, I am most interested in sustainability and its evolving place in New Zealand businesses, particularly those that are resource based and have an export focus.

I’m also interested in initiatives to assist landowners and farmers to understand, meet and stay in front of the many new environmental obligations which are underfoot and to come – water, biodiversity, carbon, nitrogen and fertiliser are just some of the new areas. I’m also interested in the opportunities and obligations around the new carbon emission trading scheme.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?

A lesson I am continually reminded of is to spend more time listening and ask better questions.

What should the profession and law firms focus more on?

There should be more emphasis on becoming better at managing human relationships and interactions, and a greater focus on delivering value – the traditional billable hours measurement can create the wrong focus.

What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?

Evolving law and systems to keep up with the pace of change in the environment, urban development and resource management space, and then being able to implement them effectively on the ground.

What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?

Pumping swell at the Mount, surviving the Rotorua Suffer Half Ironman and getting into the ocean and outdoors with family and friends!

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