Lockdown has highlighted anachronistic practices in the legal profession, says WRMK Lawyers director

Operating a fully digital office has kept the firm flexible and able to meet client demand

Lockdown has highlighted anachronistic practices in the legal profession, says WRMK Lawyers director
Simon Davies-Colley

Simon Davies-Colley is the first lawyer in his extended family, but a love of debate was instilled in him early on through a tradition that saw the family “discussing” daily issues at the dinner table. Since then, he has gone on to specialise in employment and construction law at WRMK Lawyers – sources of human interest stories and field trips, he said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges to the area of employment law, Davies-Colley does appreciate the way the pandemic-driven lockdown has highlighted anachronistic practices in the legal profession. Operating a fully digital office, he said, has kept the firm flexible and able to meet client demand.

In this interview, Davies-Colley talks about getting the nod to director in July, WRMK Lawyers’ expansion across Northland and anticipating the return of the “guilt-free” handshake.

What made you choose a career in law?

I’m the first lawyer in my extended family, but we have always had a strong tradition of “discussing” the issues of the day around the dinner table. My wife tells me those chats can look fairly serious to the uninitiated – but it’s for the love of the discussion rather than any particular belief in the topic. So that informal playing with language/testing various points of view likely contributed to the decision to study law.

Since then, largely by good luck, I’ve found practice areas (employment/construction) which are genuinely interesting so I have never really considered doing anything else. While they seem like odd bedfellows, an employment practice gives you human interest stories and a construction practice gives you field trips. More seriously, the common denominator which keeps me interested is the challenge of helping people solve problems.

What do you love most about your job?

In dispute resolution, there is nothing more satisfying than recommending a resolution tactic or strategy to a client and then watching the pieces tumble into place exactly as planned. The client doesn’t often see all the hard work that goes into your advice, but when it comes together, they think you have a crystal ball.

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

We are growing to keep up with Northland! The firm started in Whangarei but we now have four offices in key centres around the north – Kerikeri, Whangarei, Dargaville and Warkworth. Even through COVID-19 we are constantly on the lookout for more lawyers to keep up with the work. We run a completely digital office, which has been key in enabling our whole team to keep working flexibly (both hours and locations) so we can meet client demand.    

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so?

Coming into the directorship at WRMK in July is definitely my proudest personal accomplishment.

What should the profession and law firms focus more on?

The COVID-19 lockdown brought some of the profession’s anachronistic practices into focus – firms were no longer able to refuse AVL as an option for dispute resolution or continue to print, sign and scan correspondence. We should make sure those gains are not lost. Every firm tossing their fax machine out the window would be a great start.

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?

Employment law as a practice area continues to be undermined by (some – not all) non-lawyer advocacy and advisory businesses. Those who work in the space will know the sinking feeling when letters from certain advocates pop into your inbox –sensible legal analysis is unlikely to feature in resolving that dispute. I support the idea (long discussed) that some form of regulation/code of practice for non-lawyer advocates may solve some of those issues while preserving the important role of advocates like union representatives.

On the pandemic response itself – the legal impact on employment continues to be both challenging and interesting. It’s not often you get to grapple with brand new legal issues thrown up by unique situations.

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

The return of the guilt-free handshake!

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