Scott Gazley discusses what he considers to be the biggest challenge to the business of law
Commercial litigator Scott Gazley believes that law is most fun when he gets to execute resolution strategies that fall into place for his clients. The experienced debater, whose career path “seemed settled before I even knew I had a choice,” is today a skilled mediator with a passion for bolstering access to justice.
The Wynn Williams senior associate has taken part in remarkable cases for what he describes as “great causes,” but he believes that the legal profession could provide more support to other industries aiming to improve access to justice. He also believes that transparency is an area the legal industry has fallen behind in.
In this interview, Gazley talks championing environmental efforts as a member of Lawyers for Climate Change Action NZ, Wynn Williams’ tech initiatives to support complex litigation and the continuous improvement of value propositions for clients.
What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?
I was told, “you should be a lawyer” after almost every argument, so it seemed settled before I even knew I had a choice. Law is the most fun when you execute a strategy to resolve a client's issue and see it fall into place for them.
What is the most memorable case you've taken on/been involved in?
I’ve been lucky to have been involved with some amazing cases over the years for deserving clients and great causes. The most memorable would have to be acting for Transport for London in a construction dispute over works to the Bond Street Underground Station. It was a technical, fast moving, and high-stakes dispute with a great outcome. You couldn’t ask for more.
What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
Wynn Williams is always welcoming change and innovation which our profession needs more of. Recently there have been some great sustainability, wellness, and Te Reo Māori initiatives. As a member of Lawyers for Climate Change Action NZ, I was especially pleased when the firm was certified as a carbon zero firm by Toitū Envirocare.
The firm has been incredibly supportive of staff during lockdown, even going so far as contributing to the additional costs of working from home, which is a credit to the firm, especially when some other law firms chose to cut remuneration instead.
What tech-related initiatives adopted by the firm, if any, are you most excited about?
Wynn Williams is great with utilising new technologies to increase value for our clients. The one I am most excited about is an e-discovery platform called LawFlow. Not only is it a Kiwi company, but it’s an always improving platform that makes it easy for us to manage discovery in complex litigation.
What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so?
I am very proud to have been made an associate member of AMINZ and considered for their panel of mediators. I have been acting as a mediator for over a year now with a 100% settlement rate, and have AMINZ’s training and courses to thank for that. AMINZ does amazing work in the ADR space and I’d recommend joining to anyone interested in improving their alternative dispute resolution knowledge or to just up-skill in this exciting area.
What should the profession and law firms focus more on?
There are so many important areas of focus it seems a disservice to mention just one. But I’d like to see lawyers take up the challenge of improving access to justice. The chief justice has laid the foundation for once-in-a-generation change in the court system which all lawyers should be engaging with through the rules committee consultation process. I’ve been involved with this by being on ADLS’ civil litigation committee, but it’s important to capture the broadest possible range of views and insights to try to improve our justice system.
We could also do more to support the efforts of other professionals trying to improve access to justice; for example, the Building Disputes Tribunal’s low value claim scheme is a great example of a mechanism designed to make a quality dispute resolution process available to everyone in the construction industry.
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 biggest challenge for the business of law is to keep improving the value proposition for clients. Clients are too switched on and savvy to be paying for billable hours with little to no actual deliverables. Transparency is an area we've fallen behind other professions and we need to get comfortable being asked and answering, “what was the actual value of this work?”
As for the challenges to the legal industry, those are too multitudinous and complex for me to do justice to but tackling inequity is a huge and urgent challenge facing the industry.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
Getting out of lockdown and back into court!