CLM partner went from focusing on economics to getting early acceptance into law school

Chad Wallace is a champion for initiatives that support young lawyers

CLM partner went from focusing on economics to getting early acceptance into law school
Chad Wallace

Law was initially just a class Chad Wallace took in Year 12 to fill out his timetable. He’d had his uni path all planned out – he was going to pursue economics and politics.

He wound up diving into law headfirst, even participating in a mooting competition. Not long after, early acceptance into the University of Waikato’s law programme came calling, and he has never looked back since.

In the first part of this interview, Wallace discusses the similarity between law and business, the importance of programmes that support young lawyers at Cooney Lees Morgan, and why lawyers need to take a break.

What made you choose a career in law?

When I was in Year 12, I had a gap in my timetable and one of the classes that fitted the gap was Legal Studies. At that point, I was focused on economics and history, and I thought I would go on to study economics and politics at university.

As it turns out, I really enjoyed Legal Studies and it piqued my interest in learning more about the law and the legal system. Later that year I entered the University of Waikato National Secondary Schools’ Mooting Competition with some of my fellow Legal Studies students and found the process of researching the law, writing submissions and presenting arguments to ‘judges’ incredibly rewarding (and the mooting a bit exhilarating). 

Off the back of that experience, I was invited to study a first-year law paper at the University of Waikato while in Year 13, called Introduction to New Zealand Law and Society, and achieved an A+ grade. That really sealed the deal on wanting to study law once I graduated high school, and I was offered early acceptance into the University of Waikato’s law programme.

What's your favourite part of the job?

It may sound like a cliché, but my favourite part of being a lawyer is getting to know my clients and using my skills and knowledge to help solve their problem or achieve their objectives. I have also learned a lot from my clients, which in the early years of my career I didn’t really think much about, but looking back now I realise that my clients have thought me a lot too.

Many of my private clients, most of whom I have worked with since the early stages of my career, are excellent business people who are incredibly successful, but are also very humble and they have built their empires by treating others with respect and sticking to their word. Law and business are similar in that your reputation is incredibly important and is often the key to success.

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

We have a lot going on at Cooney Lees Morgan at the moment. We have recently been awarded the Rainbow Tick, which is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication from many people within the firm, which I’m incredibly proud of and we are looking forward to celebrating in the coming months.

As a firm we have also launched a number of exciting new initiatives that aim to help grow and support our newer lawyers, such as the Skill Enhancement and Employee Development Series (SEEDs), which involves monthly seminars and training sessions on a wide range of topics. We are also launching a firm-wide formal mentoring programme following a successful pilot last year. I started my career at a large law firm in the Auckland CBD where I had the benefit of formal training and development programmes, so I can really see the value in investing time and resources into these programmes and I’m looking forward to seeing the results and hearing feedback from staff.

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

Late last year, we invested in a significant hardware roll-out of new laptops, monitors and docking equipment to all staff. We now all use the same high-quality equipment, which makes it so much easier to move around the office and to work remotely. We also shifted our data storage to the cloud to build resilience and improve operational efficiency.

We are currently evaluating new practice management, document management and trust accounting software to place us at the leading edge of law firm technology and to better equip our staff and serve our clients. I’m excited to see what opportunities this investment in new technology will bring, not only in the short term, but in the longer term as AI and other developments are integrated into legal software. 

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

The biggest lesson that I have learned over the past year has been the importance of taking some time out to unwind and be active. There will always be more work that you can do in the office or more jobs that you can do around the house, but even taking a short break to go for a walk at lunchtime or after work can really improve your energy levels, concentration and mood. The busier you get, the more important it becomes to set aside and prioritise time for yourself.

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