Chapman Tripp senior associate once tried to be a computer engineer

Richard Hutchison found that he had more of a knack for law

Chapman Tripp senior associate once tried to be a computer engineer
Richard Hutchison

Richard Hutchison’s initial goal was to go into product design. He had an unsuccessful go at computer engineering before brotherly advice led him to discover that he had a knack for law.

Today, this Chapman Tripp commercial litigator, who rose to the position of senior associate last year, loves the constant process of learning the variety of subject matters covered by his area of specialisation – which includes history, science, engineering, construction and finance.

In this June 2022 interview, Hutchison talks his little girl making him pretend eggs in a play kitchen, how there’s no substitute for hard work, and the challenges of class actions to the New Zealand legal industry.

What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?

I initially wanted to do something completely different – product design. One of my brothers (thankfully!) convinced me to study law instead, and I found I had a knack for it. I also tried computer engineering, and I found I didn’t have a knack for that.

My favourite part of the job is constantly learning. Litigation in particular covers a vast array of subject matters, and I’ve had to learn all sorts of things about history, science, engineering, construction, finance and so on.

What’s going on at the organisation? Are there any programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

We’ve retained some of the flexibility with working arrangements that were forced on us by Covid-19. The ability to spend time working from home has been an enormous benefit for me personally, particularly now that I have a young family. The reality of litigation work is that it sometimes requires extended busy periods, and being able to be around to have my little girl cook me some pretend eggs in her play kitchen for five minutes somehow makes the work more sustainable in the long-term.

What tech-related initiatives adopted by the organisation, if any, are you most excited about?

I’ve worked with good technology and bad technology, and it’s remarkable what a huge difference good technology makes to being able to do your job effectively and efficiently. Even some of the most common tasks, like discovery processes and preparing bundles of authorities, are made so much easier with good technology. Chapman Tripp has invested heavily over many years in a market-leading project services team which manages all these kinds of things (and many others) using excellent technology. Having great tech and experts who know how to use it is very powerful combination.

Another thing that has been a lifesaver for me is speech-to-text technology. It’s smart, it’s trainable, and it can make large writing jobs so much easier.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so? Or what’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?

There’s no substitute for hard work. For most of last year I was involved in a very large and complex High Court proceeding, working with a large team of lawyers. While each had their own strengths, a common characteristic is that we were all willing to put in the hard work when required. Ultimately, all this work this led to a very good outcome for our client.

Conversely, I’ve seen many situations throughout my career where lawyers didn’t do the work required, and either didn’t get the best outcome possible for their client, or in some cases left their client in a worse situation than they had started in.

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?

The basic model under which legal services are provided in New Zealand has been the same for many years. However the world, and the way it does business, is changing fast. Sometimes I wonder when law, like other industries, will be subjected to some sort of disruptive innovation which changes how we do business.

More immediately, there is a rise in class actions in New Zealand, and the Law Commission has recently recommended new legislation to address these. While they are an important tool to provide access to justice, they come with their own pitfalls and challenges. I suspect that class actions will continue to present challenges to the legal industry and to the courts for a while yet.

If you were given an opportunity to spend a day with anyone (living or dead), who would it be and why?

My great, great grandfather, John Moir. He immigrated to Wellington from Scotland, arriving in 1853. I’ve read parts of his diary, and he seems to have been someone of remarkable character and resilience. I’m sure I could learn a thing or two from him.

Recent articles & video

Denham Bramwell marks 10 years in the profession

Māori Land Court names new deputy chief judge

Supreme Court overturns passport cancellation due to inadequate evidence and rights violations

Financing New Zealand’s infrastructure and improved social outcomes

First-ever cohort of the best dealmakers in Australia and New Zealand unveiled

2024 NZ Law Awards open for nominations

Most Read Articles

Tribunal rejects ex-lawyer's bid for re-enrolment despite PM name drop

First-ever cohort of the best dealmakers in Australia and New Zealand unveiled

K3 celebrates successful Hong Kong launch

Lacoste loses High Court trade mark battle