New Gaze Burt partner is eager to embrace a 'paper light' approach to law practice

Vaughn Summerton also encourages lawyers to have empathy for each other to foster collegiality

New Gaze Burt partner is eager to embrace a 'paper light' approach to law practice
Vaughn Summerton

If the COVID-19 pandemic taught Vaughn Summerton anything, it’s to embrace change and innovation. He’s eager to embrace the role of technology in legal operations to make his job easier.

Summerton, who was recently announced as a member of Gaze Burt’s leadership following its merger with Wardill Pasley, looks forward to a paperless approach to legal practice. He also has his eye on critical issues such as the retention of skilled legal talent, the status of borders, high interest rates and inflation pressure.

In this interview, he discusses following his calling into law, post-COVID freedom and what he considers his greatest achievement in the past 12 months.

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

I was drawn to the idea of becoming a lawyer from a young age.  It always felt like it would be the right fit for me, and I followed my “calling” in that regard.   

My favourite part of the job is the satisfaction I get from helping clients achieve their goals and get to where they want to be. Clients often need to engage the services of a lawyer to help them through stressful and difficult situations, and it is rewarding when you are able to assist a client during a time of vulnerability and navigate them through the issues they may be facing.

You’ve just joined Gaze Burt – are there any programs and initiatives at the firm that you’re particularly interested in?

I really enjoy the supportive culture at Gaze Burt and the firm’s core values of honesty, empathy and goodness being at the heart of everything we do.

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

I am most excited about moving to a more “paper light” way of practicing law, with the eventual goal of going “paperless” by best using technology to allow me to work more efficiently.

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

I completed a Masters in Applied Law through the College of Law about a year ago, which was a great achievement to complete during the COVID-19 pandemic and with all the challenges of still having to run a practice in that environment. 

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

The biggest lesson I have learned in the past year is to be adaptable and to embrace change.  It is surprising how innovative we can be when we are forced to make changes.

What should the profession focus more on?

I think all practitioners are under a lot of pressure, and a focus on looking after each other and ourselves is important. We are all in the same boat, and having empathy for each other will facilitate collegiality and respect within the profession. 

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? 

I think retaining experienced and skilled people in the work force, closed borders, high interest rates and inflationary pressures are the biggest challenges going forward.

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

I am looking forward to NZ and the rest of the world shaking off the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as best as we can and getting back to the freedoms we all enjoyed.

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

Kenn Follett – as an avid reader, he is one of my favourite authors.

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