Growing up in the small Hawke's Bay town of Waipukurau, corporate lawyer Cathy Quinn admits her passion for the profession was fuelled by the US TV show The Paperchase and reading Rumpole of the Bailey .
But while the reality hasn't always matched her original vision, Quinn's long career in law has seen her involved in some of the biggest corporate deals of the past 30 years.
It has put her in key leadership roles for New Zealand's business community as a company director, member of the Securities Commission, the Capital Markets Taskforce, New Zealand China Council and an adviser to Treasury.
In 2016 Quinn was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit for services to law and women.
Now, after 34 year years with tier-one law firm MinterEllisonRuddWatts, she is stepping down as a partner.
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"Growing up in small country town in the 1960s and 70s, your role models are relatively limited," she says. "Most people's mums worked in the home or a shop in town, they might be a teacher or a nurse."
But Quinn's family had a strong focus on higher education and she was encouraged to follow a profession - ideally as a doctor.
"My dad was Scottish, he came from a very poor Catholic family. He grew up in a really tough part of Glasgow, one of 16 kids. Education was everything to him, that was the only way you'd get out of poverty," she says.
"Dad was a really proud doctor, he travelled the world as ship's doctor. That's how he came to New Zealand, and he thought it was the best profession in the world.
"He probably thought all his children should be doctors and so he was very disappointed when I said I didn't want to do medicine. I told him I was going to study law and he said "I guess that will do".
Quinn comes from a family of eight children.
Her youngest brother was killed by a drunk driver 33 years ago and last year her eldest brother died of an aggressive form of leukaemia.
She recalls being captured by the romance of the legal profession watching the TV show The Paper Chase (the 1970s US drama that followed the lives of law students) and reading Rumpole of the Bailey .
"But you have a dream and your expectation is totally different," she says.
She began her career in litigation, but she found it a pretty negative experience. "I describe myself as a failed litigator," she says today.
After switching to corporate law, Quinn thrived.
She was made a partner at 29 and found herself in the midst of a rush of high profile mergers and acquisitions that followed the 1987 stock market crash.
"I was quite lucky," says. "I Joined in 1985 and so by the time of the crash, I was still quite young. So you saw a lot of excess around you but I was still too young to [participate] in it."
She recalls her first big deal being memorable for its connection to her first job - a paper run back in Waipukurau.
The deal was Brierley Investments' sell-off of media company NZ News in 1989.
"I remember, it was selling off my local paper the Central Hawke's Bay News , which had been my first job, delivering the paper," Quinn says.
"My mum remembers reading my diary when I was seven years old and it said: 'I hate my paper round' ... so anyway, I got to sell the paper round."
Quinn also worked on high profile market deals like the Trustbank float and then the takeover by Westpac.
The deals continued into the new millenium, but the merger and acquisition landscape changed.
"In 2006 we had a huge year with Hirepool and Healtheries, it was the height of the private equity boom."
For a long time, private equity buyers could outpay corporates, but as the industry has consolidated, trade sales have become a more viable option, she says.
"There's still a huge amount of activity - it's just a lot more private.
"And I can understand why the owners of those businesses don't want to list because listing is really hard."
There are exceptions, she says, but many New Zealanders prefer to stay private and out of the public eye. Listing changes all that.
The pace of dealmaking has also changed, Quinn says.
"Things move much faster on transactions. It has made the M&A process less adversarial."
So is the shift away from market listings a problem for New Zealand?
Quinn was the sole legal voice on the NZ Capital Markets Taskforce, which sought to address some of the big challenges coming out of the global financial crisis.
"I think that work the Capital Markets Taskforce did was good, it has helped private companies raise capital more easily and it did make it easier for listed companies to raise capital.
"That's a positive thing. We've seen the rise of the funds thing, KiwiSaver and others, become an increasingly important part of the market in terms of investment."
But there is only so much the NZX can do.
"If you own a family business and the choice is between the risk and liability of listing and a public profile you get that you don't want, or selling to someone else, you can see why people do it."
Quinn has been recognised a champion for women in the boardroom over the years but says her own experience was far from negative - despite the male dominated legal culture of the time.
"I never really experienced that," she says. "When I joined [MinterEllisonRuddWatts] was already one of the more progressive firms and one of the key reasons I joined was that it already had a female partner - Dame Patsy Reddy."
She says she never felt disadvantaged by being a women.
"All I knew is you had to work really hard.
"I'm not saying issues didn't exist because there was lots of behaviour and that needed to change.
There is still a gender imbalance at the top in the corporate world, so have things really improved?
"I think there are a number of very good women amongst the professional directors and it's really now at a management level that we need to see more progress," Quinn says.
Every organisation needs to work out its own strategy, she argues.
"Industries need to start very early to attract more women right through from the graduate level.
"But I think most New Zealand corporates are working very hard in terms of gender diversity and other diversity. Things have changed."
If you look at an issues like sustainability as an example, she says, no one was really talking it seriously 10 years ago.
"Now everyone is," she says
"Customers are demanding it, staff are demanding. It goes to your social licence ... I think those are positive things."
When it comes to advice for those coming up, Quinn describes herself as quite old-fashioned - perhaps a bit un-PC.
"I just don't think you can be successful at any walk of life if you don't work hard," she says.
"And back yourself. Once you've been given the job, you must be smart enough."
She says things are better in the workplace now than they were.
"Everyone is focused on flexibility and wellbeing, balance is a good thing," she says.
"But it's a bit elusive. You need to accept that it's not always perfect. If you're holding down a job as a partner in a law firm and you're a mother as well, then it's pretty damn hard work."
There are always challenges, she says.
"Treat those as opportunities. And that's about mindset."
So why is she going now?
"It's always hard to say: time to get off the treadmill and do something different," Quinn says.
She will be looking to take on new challenges, such as more directorships.
But the firm is in good shape right now, she says. Both in terms of the management team and its ranking in the competitive landscape.
"Our firm's now ranked top tier, our Corporate M&A team is ranked tier one. There's lots of partners in the corporate group that I've supported through their careers ... so I feel like I've done my job."
Director of Fletcher Building, Tourism Holdings, Rangatira Ltd. Chair - Fertility Associates. Advisory Board - NZ Treasury. Partner - MinterEllisonRuddWatts (retiring on December 31.)
Waipukurau, Central Hawke's Bay
Central Hawke's Bay College, Victoria University of Wellington
Two sons - Hugo (20) just finished second year at Auckland Medical School, and Henry (18) just finished 7th form at Auckland Grammar, with plans to study law and commerce
Last movie watched:
"The last thing I watched, from memory, was on Apple TV with my eldest son, Hugo - he picked it -
The Morning Show
It was memorable because we watched it together - as your kids get older, just doing relaxing things together and being together is special."
Last book read:
Maybe the Horse Will Talk
. "It's about a lawyer who hates his job, works for an awful law firm but finds a way to do much good in his job - for others, but ultimately good for him too!"
Last overseas holiday:
"I took Henry to Hayman Island in July - the highlight of our trip was booking a boat trip and hiring some underwater scooters that you use to dive under the water. It was fun to do together and the sea life was amazing."