Carl Rowling says his law practice hasn't skipped a beat since moving to Napier from Auckland nearly a year ago.

He is one on the country's most experienced event lawyers and with headline-making Duco Events one of his main clients he is never short of action.

Duco often makes headlines thanks to high-profile events such as heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker's quest for a world title fight, the highly successful Auckland NRL Nines and next year's launch of the Brisbane Global Tens, an international club rugby tournament with a 10-a-side format.

He once shied from prominence. He was in his early teens when his father was prime minister of New Zealand which he says was "the worst possible age".


When his Sir Bill Rowling was alive he would actively avoid people making the connection between him and his father.

"I grew up in Dad's shadow and I was pretty determined to try and get out from under it, no matter how much I respect the guy."

But the young lawyer was quite happy to tag along when his father became the New Zealand Ambassador to the United States.

"I had just got admitted to the bar in New Zealand - I think I got admitted one day and was on the plane the next.

"I was at the embassy for about two weeks, maybe even less, and Dad says if you haven't got a job in another two weeks you're flying home.

"I was very fortunate to get a job as a foreign associate, because I wasn't admitted to practice, in a top DC firm with a great name - Patton Boggs. It's probably the top lobbying firm in DC. I was working in the commercial department where I had a couple of great years."

30 Sep, 2016 2:21pm
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He moved to California where he worked for a San Francisco firm and passed the three-day bar exam.

"They really have way too many lawyers in California and the exam is how they control numbers. When I sat it I think there was a 27 per cent pass rate - it was pretty tough."

He returned to New Zealand a lawyer with overseas experience, unusual at the time, and subsequently enjoyed plenty of job offers.

"I got straight into some great work. The first project I can remember was setting up Sky TV, working with Craig Heatley and Terry Jarvis."

Becoming a partner in a major Auckland law firm didn't sit well, calling it a "golden handcuffs" experience.

"I was never totally happy in my skin and that environment.

"You are doing interesting deals with a lot of adrenaline flowing but your time is not your own. You don't have nearly as much flexibility as you think because you just have to be there."

Competition was not only stiff between different law firms but also between partners.

He was a partner in two of New Zealand's leading national firms - Buddle Findlay and Simpson Grierson.

He led legal teams on some of the largest deals in the country at the time such as the floats of Auckland Airport and Contact Energy, the takeover of United Networks, the redevelopment plan for Auckland's Wynyard Quarter and the renegotiation of arrangements for Maui Gas.

"I did well in the big city - I certainly held my own and did some big stuff and some interesting stuff - but I guess I was a square peg in a round hole. I never really truly enjoyed it.

"It's a pretty tough existence and you can get into terrible spending patterns."

He had a good relationship with Auckland City Council and in 2007 became its first on-staff general counsel.

"When they decided to create that role I thought, even though it was a dramatic change in income, it sounded fantastic.

"I liked the change. But not the money. They were very flexible - they allowed me to do a little bit of consulting to the extent that my job allowed on the side.

"My level of happiness is proportional to my income. The three years I ran that team in Auckland City was three of the most enjoyable years of my life - I absolutely loved it."

Following amalgamation of all Auckland councils, he became the principal lawyer for all council events, negotiating with Duco Events' Dean Lonergan and David Higgins for the Auckland NRL Nines.

When he decided to start his own practice Duco gave him all their legal work.

"They said they felt so done-over by me they would rather have me on their side."

He said the Brisbane Global Tens will become one of the biggest events in the international rugby calendar, involving all Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby Teams plus Toulon of France, the South African Bulls, Manu Samoa and the Panasonic Wild Knights of Japan.

Each annual Tens is expected to cost more than $11 million and involve 350 players and coaching staff.

Over three years he has helped pull together agreements with all 14 teams plus sponsorship deals, an ongoing process as interest builds.

While the project requires travel to Australia, he is able to do the bulk of the deal from Rowling Law & Strategy's base in Napier.

He moved to Napier with wife Meghann and their two young children.

"The move to Napier was a natural one - Meghann was born and grew up in Napier. Her father, Rob Elvidge, was for many years one of Napier's leading lawyers and her mother, Liz Elvidge, was a long-serving teacher at Napier Girls High School."

He said business hasn't skipped a beat since moving to Napier but he floated the move first with key clients.

"The universal response was supportive, if not a little envious."

Meghann Rowling held a senior HR role with Auckland Council, responsible for more than 3000 employees.

After a stint with local telecommunications company NOW, helping them set up HR systems, she too has started her own business - Rowling HR.

Event law has given a broad range of skills. His work has included the Rugby World Cup 2011, the World Masters Games 2017, the 2015 Under 20 Football World Cup, the 2015 Cricket World Cup, the NRL Nines and now the Brisbane Global Tens.

"It becomes a specialty because you know your way around the space and understand, I suppose, key commercial drivers and what works and what doesn't work.

"You are sensitive to where the risks really lie and what the issues really are."

He said a lot of people called themselves sports lawyers "but that tends to actually be as much as anything a form of litigation because it is about dealing with people in disciplinary-type situations. It is almost an employer and employee relationship. Whereas I am on sort of that deal side of things - putting stuff together."

His background also keeps him active in "complex commercial transactions" including mergers and acquisitions, energy contracts and joint ventures.

As he gets established in the community he hopes to become more involved in local matters.

"Mainly legal, but possibly political."