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Legal team largest on the Coast

Legal team largest on the Coast
From left, Sandra Thomas PA, Helen Taylor office manager, Bev Connors principal, Rebecca Pratley staff solicitor, Donna Stanton administrator and Nichola Donovan staff solicitor.

A call to a lawyer should always be made before committing to legally binding transactions or decisions, says Connors Legal principal Bev Connors.

“You should take advice before you enter into agreements, and in fact you take advice before you plan a business move of any importance.”

While contacting a lawyer for some is a last resort, Bev encourages people to develop a longterm relationship with their lawyer or with any professional so that the inquiry can be made with confidence and without hesitation.

“Calling a lawyer doesn’t always result in a fee and can save an awful lot of grief.”

With legal advice, a person can be in a better negotiating position, or avoid unnecessary and stressful consequences of poor decisions or a lack of proper planning.

Apart from commercial and property transactions, this can apply to many areas of life, including the likes of succession planning. “Professionals play a lead role in changes people make.”

After 36 years of legal practice on the West Coast, Bev has witnessed many changes in the profession and economic cycles in the regional economy. Of the nearly 20 practitioners on the West Coast in 1981, only one was a woman.

Today, with a similar number of lawyers practising in the province, eight are women, a “clear sign of the flexibility of provincial legal practice and the lack of glass ceilings”.

When Bev started law in the 1980s she recalls primary industry was the backbone of the West Coast economy.

While this situation remains, there have been several shifts and cycles of dairy farming, tourism, gold mining, coal mining, forestry and fishing.

“Now we are entering a new phase where tourism is a significant driver of the economy. It’s an ever rotating cycle of business here, with an economy that supports a lifestyle.”

Each of these cycles, along with the everyday needs of people, creates  demand for a range of Connors Legal’s comprehensive services.

These include property and commercial transactions, employment law, wills and estates, trusts, succession planning, powers of attorney and rest home issues, relationship property agreements, family law agreements and court proceedings and civil disputes.

With five lawyers, the firm has the largest legal team on the West Coast, complemented by experienced support staff working out of offices in Westport and Greymouth, all of whom are currently women.

Bev worked as an employee of a well-founded practice in Greymouth until 1995, when she went into practice on her own account.

“Then in 2007 I took over a practice in Westport that had long-standing connections to the district going back generations.

“There’s been a long continuity of loyal staff. One of the staff when she retired recently had more than 50 years’ experience working in legal offices.”

Thanks to the evolution of computer-based modes of communication in the last 15 years, living in the regions does not need to be a barrier to effective business or professional development. Participation with video links is commonplace.

Even without access to study in a university centre, there are remote study options available for professionals.

One of Bev’s staff members undertook study via London University to obtain a legal degree, then was admitted to the New Zealand bar while holding down a full-time job within Connors Legal. No mean feat.

“I have found that if you invest well in people and facilities then everyone benefits, clients and staff alike.” Bev says working as a solicitor involves problem-solving, and it is satisfying to achieve a positive outcome.

“Working on the West Coast has provided an enjoyable and rewarding mix of professional satisfaction, camaraderie and achievement,” she says.

“I haven’t once regretted my decision to live, work and lay a foundation here.”

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