Technology has enabled law firm Treadwell Gordon to secure its new partner Lisa Douglas.

Mrs Douglas lives in Clevedon, southeast Auckland, and does some of her work for the Whanganui firm from her home office. She is a specialist civil litigator and a skilled negotiator, focusing on alternative dispute resolution where claims are mediated and settled without having to go to court.

"The practice of litigation has changed a huge amount since I started," Mrs Douglas said.

"At that time young people were going into it off the back of (popular 1980s-90s television show) LA Law and its court trials. Now as a civil litigator you do that very rarely. If a graduate or law student wants to be Perry Mason there's not so much scope for it now.


"I started out doing a lot of court work but advocacy skills are less important now. Negotiation skills and the ability to mediate a settlement are just as important, if not more important, than one's advocacy skills.

"The court can be an unpredictable environment and it's extremely costly. In the last nine years I have learned a lot about how to resolve claims in terms of alternative dispute resolution and mediation. There is quite a lot of psychology in the process. It's not about just the law. Understanding people and what motivates them is key to resolving a case and avoiding court."

Mrs Douglas has worked in London and Auckland since she qualified in 1989. Before joining Treadwell Gordon in mid-July, she spent nine years, the last two as a partner, in an Auckland boutique law firm specialising in dispute resolution.

However, a move to a home in rural Clevedon prompted a change of direction.

"Commuting to Auckland city, day in and day out, was really hard yards. So I was looking to move away from it all and maybe set up by myself in Clevedon when along came this opportunity.

"I thought 'that is a rather dynamic law firm looking for someone not based where they are based'. I'm mixing it up - I live in Clevedon and I spend as much time as I'm needed in Whanganui. It's a breeze. I hop on a nice little (Air Chathams) plane, get my Tim Tam and I'm here.

"I can work remotely but I'm in daily contact with the office in Whanganui. If I need to see clients or meet with the partners or anyone else in the firm, I just hop on a plane and I can do that at the drop of a hat.

"I was drawn to the firm because it's dynamic and prepared to think outside the box. It's a whole different mindset. They are lovely people - smart thinking, warm and wonderful. It says a lot about the firm and how they think that they have recruited three senior practitioners from Auckland in the last wee while.

"Law is a bit slower than other industries in remote working but it's starting. There's no replacement for face-to-face and at some point you need some face-time with your client but it doesn't need to be frequent.

"I've done quite a bit of work remotely before. Not every day but enough that I'm confident it will work."