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Chris Foote rejoins the Holmden Horrocks Team after 42 years

May 2021

CHRIS FOOTE- our new consultant

In Zen Buddhism, a circle represents the cycle of time, the perpetual motion of life, the planets' journey around the sun and the eternally pulsing rhythm of the universe. Chris Foote began his legal career at Holmden Horrocks and is completing his circle by re-joining our firm as a consultant. He brings with him the vast experience in property, trusts, estate planning, commercial, family law and litigation he has acquired in the intervening 50 years.

Chris worked at Holmden Horrocks for 6 years at the start of his career in the early 1970s (we maintain we taught him everything he knows), then qualified as a solicitor in England. When he learnt that career choice required a commitment to stay in the UK through at least 3 winters, he decided instead to work as a debt collector for a burglar alarm company, dealing with a well-off clientele including pop stars and members of the judiciary. But two winters in England were enough, and he headed back to New Zealand to work, originally for Kendall Strong & Co where he covered a wide range of legal work, including civil litigation, family law and tax law. Chris has practiced law in New Zealand for 39 years, since 1986 as a founding partner of Kendall Sturm & Foote, which has now been incorporated into Holmden Horrocks.

Three serious questions for Chris –

Describe your initial stint at Holmden Horrocks?

"I came out of Auckland law school as one of the first intake of full-time students, which meant that, unlike the previous practice of studying while working part-time in a law office, there was no opportunity for newly-minted lawyers to get to know anyone who was a practising lawyer. In those days most of the big city law firms were in Queen Street. I remember walking up one side of Queen Street, starting at the lower end and knocking sequentially on the door (figuratively speaking) of each law firm on the eastern side. Rejected at each inquiry I turned at Wellesley Street and started walking down the western side of the street. By then I had twigged that I needed to change my response to the only question that seemed to matter: what sports do you play? By the time I got to Holmden Horrocks in the NZI Building in the bottom block of Queen Street, I had become a skier in winter and a skindiver in summer. I was interviewed by the late Alan Coulam, who I managed to convince of my sporting credentials (not exercised since), and I have been eternally grateful for his offer to employ me at Holmden Horrocks.

I spent the first few years in the traffic court every day representing the good members of the AA plus a few drunk drivers. That daily experience not only built my courtroom confidence, but also brought me in touch with a number of fellow practitioners and was a great introduction to the collegiality of the profession.

Subsequently, with the arrival of more junior lawyers, I was relieved of courtroom duties, and became the Holmden Horrocks' estates practitioner for several years, as well as building up a background in conveyancing and general practice."

While you spent most of your legal career here in New Zealand, what was the best thing about living and working in England? What was the worst (and was it the food)?

"The best thing about living in London was the ability every week to soak up the cultural activities on offer, and every weekend to take day trips to places of historical significance or scenic delight. The worst thing was darkness falling at 4pm in the winter evenings, and walking home from the tube station cold, often wet, knowing that I'd never completely get the railway grime off my shirt collar. (The food was what you made of it. Mother's Pride bread was an institution but even in the 1970s there were artisan food producers if you knew where to go)."

What is your biggest pet peeve about law? Conversely, what do you appreciate about the law?

"My predominant whinge about the law is about the milieu of law practice as I found it in the 1970s, Holmden Horrocks being an honourable exception. Most of the large law firms had one or more partners who were arrogant, self-entitled and condescending, particularly to young lawyers. A number of them, I discovered from personal experience, were sharp practitioners who seemed to me to lack an ethical compass.

The good thing about the law is, despite the comments above, the collegiality of the profession, and by inference, the shared goal of using the law as a tool to improve the lives of others."

Three extremely serious questions for Chris –

Would you rather choose the power of flight or the power of invisibility?

"As I already have the power of flight (in my dreams), I'll opt for the other to see what it's like."

If for some reason you were unable to be a lawyer, what other career would you have chosen?

"My parents kept telling visitors that I would be a diplomat, but I didn't have the language skills (not a lot of Latin being spoken overseas), and although I always wanted to be a photographer of daily life, I came to realise that a photograph of a baguette would not put bread on the table on a regular basis."

If you could travel back in time to any event, where would you go?

"Having recently read a memoir by one of the participating lawyers, and seen a film adaptation of the event, I would probably pick a seat in the courtroom of the Nuremberg Trials after World War II where the concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity conceived by lawyers were first introduced, and accepted, as civilisation's response to an evil regime."

Interviewed by Julia Holden (Litigation Junior)