“I am very focused on flexibility and time, that’s the way I work,” says Mitch, an Auckland-based solicitor with Wellington-based Juno Legal.
“The most important thing for me is time and I try not to let too many things dictate how I spend it - there’s always compromise. Time is one thing you can’t get back; you have to appreciate time.”
Returning to New Zealand in 2017 from London, Mitch says he was lucky enough to meet Juno Legal principal Helen Mackay, a former president of the In-house Lawyers Association of New Zealand.
Juno Legal provides in-house counsel who can work alongside an existing legal team, provide an in-house function as seconded sole counsel or support a business remotely.
“Juno’s business model is based on flexible legal support, system reviews and legal technology solutions. Juno does things a bit differently, which I really enjoy.”
Among other roles, Mitch previously worked in British Telecom’s major transactions team, where he drafted and negotiated complex global outsourcing agreements and guided colleagues from the wider business through the competitive bid process.
His experience in researching and developing software enables him to identify how technology and process can improve internal legal systems while on placement with Juno.
As a commercial and corporate lawyer, Mitch’s current placement is at major office supplies business OfficeMax New Zealand, where he is sole counsel for New Zealand.
“I do Juno work for 20-30 hours a week across three days. That leaves me with four days a week to do my own projects.”
One of those projects is starting a business, with the help of his brother-in-law, making a non-alcoholic drink called Kawa – described on its website as “a probiotic-rich, wild fermented drinking vinegar crafted from cold pressed fruit, filtered water and Manuka honey”.
Mitch says Kawa can be served straight over ice or mixed with soda water.
“I’ve always had a fascination with making drinks, from going out to Raglan to see Granddad make his own beer or rum, to brewing beer at university. We used an electric blanket to keep it warm during fermentation.
“I loved trying the many unique drinks on offer. The drinking vinegar is a take on a drink I first tried in a café in London, which was vinegars with a pear and rhubarb base.”
Kawa is a fermented drink like Kombucha, but rather than being a fermented tea drink, it is made using seasonal organic fruit from New Zealand.
“I've previously been through the trials of getting an app development business off the ground. There's no easy way to go about setting up a new business except cautiously throwing time at it. It takes a lot of effort but I enjoy it so it's not wasted time. I wanted to try and make a product with positive health effects, particularly for your stomach.There’s a lot of research showing good stomach health is linked to good mental health.”
That curious middle name
“The story goes that I got my middle name Cash after Australian tennis player Pat Cash who won Wimbledon the day I was born. Dad was popping his head in and out to watch the tennis as I was being born.
“I went to Wimbledon a couple of years ago and as a result started playing tennis in London. Three self-employed friends and I catch up each week and play tennis at Mt Eden.”
A student exchange in Prague in 2010 piqued his interest in travel and architecture.
“I do a lot of travel and like seeing the world. You learn a lot about other people and yourself.
“There is a unique history in Prague. A communist state for a long time, with a lot of history, it is still a beautiful old medieval city. And on the outskirts, where the student quarters are, there are big Soviet-style concrete, efficient buildings.
“It’s an awesome place. As a student it’s affordable and you can go and do things without being restricted by budget. It has a good mix of different students from different countries around Europe.
“Before I came home last year I had a reunion with friends in Prague and it is a shame some of the old buildings have been turned into McDonald’s and cheap souvenir shops. A contrast of old and new.”
With no family yet Mitch and partner Katie came back from London to put down some roots in New Zealand. Katie works in journalism and communications.
“I love technology and do a lot of research around technology and learning. I’m teaching myself to code through the website interactive programming tutorial Codecademy.”
When he left New Zealand for the UK, Mitch and two friends did a charity race in a motorised rickshaw across India. “Two weeks in a three-wheeler and we raised some money for Hospice Waikato. My gran was getting a lot of support from them at the time.
“I listen to all sorts of music on Spotify, from oldies like Fleetwood Mac to newer bands like Arcade Fire and The XX. I don’t play any instruments but wish I could.”
Mitch also likes podcasts and audiobooks. “I listen to a lot of podcasts and audio books – including Tim Ferris' podcast and I've just finished listening to the audiobook version of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It’s a fantastic book and I recommend it.
“We don’t have a TV, so we stream Netflix and Lightbox on the computer, and have been watching The Handmaid’s Tale.”
You can mix commerce and law.
He says the attraction of both commerce and law is a good mix.
“I think the way a lawyer thinks is quite unique, almost like a scientist. You can deconstruct something, step back and analyse it objectively.
“When I do my work I have both legal and commercial skills in my back pocket. I realise that if there’s no business then there’s no need for in-house legal support. And if there’s not a good legal presence then a business can get itself into trouble, which could potentially mean that there’s no longer any business. So it seems logical to me to understand both sides.
“I like business and I like how lawyers think and how they solve problems. Again it’s about not being a one-dimensional person. You can be out doing some painting, learning about technology, hanging with friends and put quality time in with your family.
“I’m a bit frugal on the car front and drive a 2002 Ford Mondeo sedan with golf clubs in the back, but I am a bit slack in getting on the course.”
Flatting in Auckland means there is no room for pets for a man who grew up in a household with a cat, a miniature Schnauzer and two cockatoos, but he and cat-lover Katie are hoping to buy a home they can share with pets – at least a cat.
“In New Zealand I love all of the Coromandel Peninsula and would go there over and over again for holidays. Overseas, you get into a mode of always wanting to experience something new and put yourself into something that’s a bit unfamiliar and a bit uncomfortable. I wouldn’t tend to go back to the same place overseas.
“I love the sea and being by the sea, particularly the fishing villages next to them. My ideal holiday spot would be water and a cool fishing village where you can go and meet some locals and have some good food.
“Winston Churchill and the Obamas would be my dinner guests. I’m a big fan of Churchill, he lived in interesting times and was also an artist who was challenged with mental illness. I love cooking. So there would be some fresh pasta, a ravioli, and some vinegar brew to help the digestive system.
“I love to paint and am exploring an acrylic ink paint. I paint all sorts of stuff. In London I created a mindfulness colouring book for adults. I drew a lot of sketches for myself as part of that process and I’m slowly working on those images by adding ink and paint to paper.
“Painting is for myself. It’s time for just me. I don’t have to do it any way or meet any rules. It’s just me and some equipment, it’s quite primitive. I kind of go into a meditative state doing it.
“When you start mixing job and passions there’s always got to be some things that you leave just for yourself.
“People see a lawyer and think that’s all they are. Lawyers are humans, too which means they aer inherently interesting. There’s a lot more to a person than doing a job.”
Over a long career in journalism Jock Anderson has spent many hours in courtrooms and talking to members of the legal profession. He can be contacted at [email protected]
This article was originally published on the New Zealand Law Society's LawPoints Bulletin and is republished here with permission.