By: A.j.h. Witten-hannah  06-Dec-2011
Keywords: Employment, Litigation


We specialise in keeping our clients satisfied!

When Alex started out at 21 in 1970 young lawyers were given the opportunity and challenge to take on all kinds of legal work.  Those days have long gone.  Today, young lawyers must specialise to cope with the complexities of the law.  Alex has been fortunate to have been exposed to a very wide range of work.  He has long had something of the actor in him and enjoys the cut and thrust of legal argument on his feet in the Courtroom.  He can claim worthy successes in litigation in the Court of Appeal, the High Court, District Courts and Employment Court and many other Tribunals from town planning to employment.  Having said that, the financial and emotional cost of litigation to the client is such that Alex prefers to achieve a mediated result that resolves problems as expediently as possible.

Over 38 years of legal practice, many of Alex's clients have become friends and he recognises that as both a privilege and a pleasure.  The whole office thrives on an ambience of friendliness.  A happy legal team results in happy clients!

We can assist you in the following areas

We pride ourselves in the service we can offer in helping people through what is usually the most important financial investment in their lives.

Wherever possible, we prefer to be able to see a contract, whether for sale or purchase, before it is signed.  If a real estate agent faxes a draft contract we give it urgent attention.  We won't let you lose a deal while we pour over the fine print!  While real estate agents often do a sterling job in putting contracts together, they do not have our legal training and may not appreciate some of the nuances or difficulties that can arise when clauses are not clearly drafted or even not included at all.

It is amazing how often what starts out as a simple transaction can become complicated when something of concern arises late in the piece.  Murphy's Law being what it is, that is usually the day before settlement!  We are willing and able to throw all our resources into ensuring that difficulties are overcome and that settlement takes place on due date and if at all possible at the appointed time to suit the removal trucks!

We have considerable experience in handling cross-leasesub divisions and in strata titlingor unit titlingand of course sub divisions. 

Where planning approvals are required, if a notified application is necessary then Alex has the necessary experience to appear before either the relevant local authority or, if necessary, before the Environment Court.  If the case is particularly complicated then specialists are available to assist.

Alex has a special interest in acting for private companies where the directors are tired of being pushed from pillar to post among the personnel of large city, glass tower firms.  Alex is happy to get in his car and visit clients in their office, in their yards, their factories or even in some cases their quarries!  His pragmatic and down to earth approach enables him to move as easily and effectively with men in muddy work boots (women don't wear them!) as men and women in executive suits!

We have the expertise and ability to handle effectively and efficiently commercial transactions, whether millions or merely thousands of dollars are involved.

We can assist in raising finance or handling the documentation where you have arranged finance yourself.  Banks are normally happy to instruct us to act for them also, thereby reducing your costs.

If we arrange finance for you through ASB Bank Limited we receive a commission that otherwise might go to a mortgage broker.  We share that commission with you - effectively reducing your legal fees - sometimes significantly.

Money to invest?  We can give sound general advice based on many years of practical experience. 

Amongst other things, Alex has been involved in matrimonial law for most of his years in practice.  These days his involvement tends to be with matrimonial property issues or serious contested custody/access issues.

Susan Howard has considerable expertise in the stressful matrimonial area too.  She has a special ability to empathise with and support people struggling with the difficulties and trauma of a matrimonial dispute. When battle is inevitable Alex takes the Courtroom floor and together with Sue they are a formidable team!

Currently we are assisting with more than 250 family trusts we have set up.  We have systems in place which give us the capacity to handle many more.  We have a linkage with an expert Trust Service that in turn is associated with Russell McVeagh, solicitors, the largest law firm in the country, which provides updating, precedent and advisory services at no additional cost to you, the client.  There are many different reasons why it may prove to be advantageous to form a family trust.  These are best discussed at interview with Alex *.  You will be surprised how straight forward it can be and how relatively inexpensive.  We have taken the mystique out of it!

*  or Sue


We are experienced in acting for clients who are either selling or buying businesses, large or small.  You will get practical advice that is not restricted to examining the fine print of the lease!

Over recent years, Alex has become increasingly involved in employment related issues.  While predominantly he acts for employers, that gives him an edge on those occasions when called upon to act and advise employees.  You should not hesitate to have us peruse an employment contract, or if you are an employer, to draft one.

If you are an employer, it is critical that you obtain legal advice before taking disciplinary action with an employee and especially in the event of a dismissal situation.  Alex prides himself on being able to mediate out disputes in this area.  However, on those occasions when a matter must go to a hearing we have the experience to put forward your case effectively and so as to achieve the best possible outcome.

Wills are important.  Mistakes or misunderstandings can be costly, both emotionally and financially for your heirs.  It is important that your Will is carefully drafted so as to ensure, as far as possible, that it will not be attacked from some quarter following your death.

Straight forward Wills can often be prepared from telephone instructions and for a very modest cost indeed.

Where someone else has prepared the Will which governs the Estate of one of your family members who has died and you have not been properly provided for, then we can assist you in either negotiating for a fairer share or if necessary to bring a family protection claim before the Court.  Equally, if you are a trustee or a beneficiary having to defend a family protection claim, we are well placed to assist you.

Coping with the death of a loved one is never easy.  If you are confronted with that situation we are able to assist you in every possible way, even if that involves us in attending to funeral arrangements.

Once the funeral is over and you must turn to more practical matters resolving the Estate, again, we are very well placed to assist you in administering the Estate from start to finish.  We pride ourselves in obtaining Probate from the High Court (the authority to enable you to administer the Will) quickly and efficiently.  This is very important so that you can gain access to Bank accounts and so on at the earliest possible opportunity.

You will find us able to look after you sensitively and expeditiously at a difficult emotional time.

Over the years we have been involved in a considerable volume of civil litigation - Court proceedings.  These range from the District Court where only a few thousand dollars are involved (although these days minor disputes are being steered towards the Disputes Tribunal for economic reasons) or in the High Court where millions may be involved.  Alex has experience as an advocate/barrister before the High Court of Appeal*.  These days, the litigation pressures on major matters are such that it may be necessary to brief a specialist barrister to assist or take over a case.  Where this is appropriate, Alex's experience over 38 years of litigation makes him particularly well placed to effectively instruct and assist a specialist barrister to actually conduct the litigation before the Court.

* And the Privy Council in London

Litigating disputes in the Courts has become so time consuming and expensive that it is usually preferable to achieve a mediated solution to a dispute as soon as possible.  Alex has considerable experience with mediations and is well placed to advise you how to take advantage of this process.  The success rate from mediations is remarkably high and if parties can be steered to mediation there is a very strong prospect of being able to settle a dispute themselves without having a result forced upon them by the Court.

If you get caught in a situation where the police are involved whether for alleged traffic or criminal offending you should not hesitate to contact Alex at the earliest possible opportunity.  Believe it or not, having Alex plead your cause before the Judge can make a dramatic difference to the outcome - in your favour!

The days when Alex conducted lengthy criminal trials are largely over because of the demands of the practice generally.  Nevertheless, his long experience in handling these matters pragmatically will enable him to ensure you get the best possible defence with a specialist barrister.

Whether you are a large or small company or a small trader business, debt collection can be a real frustration.  We achieve good results by communicating effectively with debtors at an early stage.  If necessary, we can pursue a debt through to the winding up of a company by the High Court or steering a difficult debtor to payment with the threat of bankruptcy proceedings.

At any one time we usually hold more than $5 million  of clients' monies on trust for them.  We have a very efficient computerisedbanking system that enables us to place your monies on term deposit without even leaving the office!  The funds are usually placed in a call account where the daily rate of interest has a modest margin over and above what you are likely to get from the Bank if you went in off the street.  That is because of the sheer volume of funds that we maintain with the Bank.

Funds are placed on term deposit for short or long periods.  Sometimes, a house sale may settle on a Friday afternoon just before 5pm.  We can hold the funds on term deposit over the weekend earning you interest until you can take possession of them to your own account on the Monday.

The only charge for the term deposit service is a deduction of 5% of the interest earned (a very small fraction of the interest you are actually earning).

Where you have funds which you wish us to hold on term deposit for a month or more you should not hesitate to discuss instructing us to negotiate a higher rate of interest than the call rate.  We are happy to negotiate this directly with the Bank to your best advantage.  There is no charge for this service over and above the standard administration costs referred to.

Alex became a marriage celebrant in 1978 and performed his first marriage that year for two clients who were Opera singers!  Since then Alex has performed more than 120 marriages - often for clients who enjoy the special drama and humour he is able to bring to the ceremony.  This is not an area of work that is sought out.  The last thing that Alex needs to do after a busy week in the law is to spend his weekend performing marriages!  However, it is always a special pleasure and privilege for him to be able to marry friends and good clients and invariably a great time is had by all!  30 years as an advocate before the Courts has given him the confidence and ability to conduct a marriage with special flair.  If you want Alex to perform a marriage ceremony for you, be prepared to ensure that it is not only a ceremony but also an event!

The information in this article was current at 02 Dec 2011

Keywords: Employment, Litigation

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