Pearce IP litigation head: Moving on from AJ Park, and the importance of being people-focused

Paul Johns shares what his rule of thumb is when it comes to trying new things

Pearce IP litigation head: Moving on from AJ Park, and the importance of being people-focused
Paul Johns

After nine years of heading up the litigation and commercial practice team at AJ Park, Paul Johns decided to shake things up by joining Pearce IP as head of its litigation team and executive lawyer in New Zealand.

As he gears up to shape the Pearce IP litigation team, Johns talks to NZ Lawyer about his reasons for leaving AJ Park, what he’ll bring to Pearce IP from his time there, and his vision for his team.

What led you to make the move to Pearce IP after your long tenure at AJ Park?

I joined AJ Park when Baldwins merged with it; I was at Baldwins for over five years when it came up. It was an interesting opportunity, and my general rule of thumb when trying something new, whether it's moving to a new country or a new job, is you got to give it at least a couple of years to see how things work out (assuming there's no disasters, of course).

Most Read

I had a good time with AJ Park – the majority of my Baldwins team either had already moved to AJ Park or joined with the merger. So it was sort of the same gang under a different banner, which was great. But I’d spent years in sort of the same role, and I do like to try and keep myself fresh and seek out a new challenge from time to time. And Pearce had been in touch; initially, they had a role in Australia, which was not something I was interested in. But we had an ongoing conversation about their growth into New Zealand, and out of that came this opportunity.

And I couldn't think of a better new challenge, having run a well-established team for a very well-established firm at the top of the pecking order in New Zealand as far as IP is concerned. To then try and emulate that starting from scratch in New Zealand with the backing of some experience in Australia sounds like a great challenge to me. To be part of that sort of growth would be very exciting.

They've already got Julie Ballance and the attorney practice here, which is relatively new. But being in the vanguard of the legal side of things is a pretty big challenge.

How are you settling into your new role with Pearce IP?

I think it still feels like early days, but I've had a chance to get across to Australia and meet some of the crew over there, like the other executives. I met Naomi Pearce in New Zealand previously, but hadn't been face to face with the others, so that was nice. There were also a couple of events after the budget announcement in Canberra so I went over to attend those, which was good.

What was it like to meet the team?

I had a number of conversations [via Teams] with deputy CEO Adele Chadwick, so I felt like I knew her reasonably well. But I hadn't really had much to do with any of the other executives, so it was great to meet them. They all have very impressive resumes and are quality people.

What did you learn in your role at AJ Park and Baldwins that you feel that you will be able to bring to this new position?

Perhaps that the main thing in this business – probably in any business where you're dealing with people – is the people. Whether that's your staff, your colleagues that aren't on your team, people on the other side, opposing counsel – if you can see things from their perspective whether you agree or not, then I think you've won half the battle in relating to them in the way that they need. The way that you deal with your staff, with empathy and with leadership; with the other side, in being able to strongly advocate for your client's position. If you can articulate that in a way that speaks to their worldview, then you may make some ground, either towards convincing them to come to some agreement, or making it clear what your position is if you have to go down the litigation route.

So I think it's being able to understand people as best as you can and see things from their perspective to help you do your job the best way you can.

What's your vision for the Pearce IP litigation team in New Zealand? How are you planning to lead this division in your role?

Pearce IP is very much a life sciences-focused business, so that will be the focus of the New Zealand legal practice. It may well be broadened in the medium to long term, but we're starting out with a life sciences focus. I think Naomi Pearce has been very clear about her ambitions and goals, which is to be the market leader in that space in Australia and now New Zealand within the medium term.

So that's what we're aiming for; it'll be to establish ourselves here in a legal sense, to grow and eventually to be the leader in our field.

Are there any plans to expand that offering in the future?

In the legal practice, I think that will happen naturally. The nature of New Zealand's economy is that people will come to you with other issues as well, so I think there will be more but life sciences always be our home.

In the next part of this interview, Johns talks about the most memorable case he’s ever worked on, and shares his opinion on the impact of AI on IP.

Recent articles & video

US federal judge upholds law suspending 97-year-old appeals judge

US law firms retract from expanding markets, close multiple offices

UK Law Commission proposes reforms to contempt of court laws

Classic Cases Revisited: R v Brown – What Legally Constitutes Consent?

Succeed Legal successfully courts long-time DLA Piper partner as consultant

University of Waikato law prof takes top role at UN

Most Read Articles

Three join the District Court bench

Lane Neave moves Wellington premises to Customhouse Quay

Kate Sheppard Chambers takes on three

Succeed Legal successfully courts long-time DLA Piper partner as consultant