Warwick Deuchrass was taken aback recently when a
long-standing client he had not heard from for a while seemed
surprised he was still at his desk, working. But, as the
managing partner and chairman of Anderson Lloyd tells business
editor Dene Mackenzie, he is never happier than when practising
The managing partner and chairman of Anderson Lloyd,
Warwick Deuchrass, believes Dunedin offers an 'enviable
lifestyle'. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
When someone seems surprised that you are either still
working or not dead, you could be inclined to take it the
wrong way. But Anderson Lloyd managing partner and chairman
Warwick Deuchrass says with a laugh it just shows how much he
enjoys his job and that the work put in decades ago in
building up a loyal client base continues to pay dividends.
Mr Deuchrass (60) is thriving. He walks to his Otago House
office at 6.15am when he is in Dunedin, the first to arrive
at work about 6.30am. He puts in a long day before
undertaking unpaid community work, something he still values
as a being a contribution to the place he calls home.
He chairs legal organisations, serves on all sorts of
committees, legal and otherwise, and splits his time between
a home and office in Dunedin and another home with a large
garden in Wanaka he shares with his wife, Shirley.
''We are so lucky here. I get asked what holds us to Dunedin
and Otago and it is the people.''
At his daughter's graduation from the University of Otago, Mr
Deuchrass found himself greeting long-time friends from
around the country. When his daughter commented on how many
people he knew, Mr Deuchrass replied the university created
its own ties through his contemporaries attending university,
followed by their children. That enabled people in Auckland
to keep up with what was happening in this city.
''We have an enviable lifestyle, and they recognise that.''
Mr Deuchrass started practising law in Dunedin 38 years ago
at Gilbert and Francis. Some of the clients he started with
then are still with him now.
''People are very loyal to you if they are treated correctly.
They stay with you and never forget you. Those clients ranged
from farmers to small business owners and mums and dads
starting out. Some of them grew into big businesses and some
just stayed small clients. But they always need some help at
''I have bloody wonderful clients, people I have served for
decades. You can't forget that clients are pivotal to your
Recently, Mr Deuchrass took a call about a client's will. He
looked up the will and found he had drawn it up in 1982. He
had a wide client base and his work had evolved to encompass
the rural sector, agri-business, commercial and small
business law. He had completed some large deals and some
smaller ones, but each satisfying outcome was why he had
remained in law, he said.
He has also become a leading expert in co-operative law and
mergers and acquisitions.
''I have a range of skills and have always resisted being
pigeon-holed into one area. It takes you decades to learn
those sorts of skills. A lot of people now specialise in
niche areas very early. They don't have a wide knowledge of
the law. That's not a bad thing but you do have to have a
good general knowledge of the law to apply it as required.''
The reason for the interview with Mr Deuchrass was to talk
about the 150th celebration of Anderson Lloyd, a firm that
dates back Bryan Cecil Haggitt, who established a law firm in
Dunedin on June 2, 1862.
The South Island law firm now has more than 150 staff and
offices in Dunedin, Christchurch and Queenstown. The
Christchurch and Queenstown offices each have about 30 staff.
The firm continued to serve a loyal client base, who
continued to provide the firm with highly complex legal work,
Mr Deuchrass said. Anderson Lloyd had responded to the
challenges of a changing legal environment by adopting the
best possible technology and ensuring all staff were made
fully aware of the direction and strategy being undertaken.
In 2011, the owner partners completed a review and set a
strategy for the next five years but to do that, all staff
were invited to offer thoughts on values. Involvement and
communication were essential in creating a good working
environment and retaining staff, he said.
That had shown through during the devastating February 2011
Christchurch earthquake when the Anderson Lloyd staff were
trapped in the Clarendon Tower for three hours. Although
there were no deaths or casualties, staff had to deal with
major upheaval in their personal and private lives, Mr
Deuchrass said. They also had to deal with relocating and the
support provided by the other two offices allowed the process
to work seamlessly, he said.
Anderson Lloyd ran workshops for staff on the values of the
firm so everyone could play their part.
''Everyone at certain levels should understand everything.
The owners have a slightly different level of communication
but there shouldn't be too many secrets.''
Asked about the role Anderson Lloyd played, Mr Deuchrass said
the firm was regarded as one of the top three legal entities
in the South Island but he believed it was the only one to
deliver services through multiple locations.
The changes had occurred as clients who started in Dunedin
moved to Christchurch or other parts of the South Island. It
was either follow them or abandon them and abandoning them
was never an option, he said.
The Deuchrass file
• Warwick Deuchrass, age 60.
• Married to Shirley; the couple have four adult
• Attended King's High School and has an LLB from the
University of Otago.
• He chairs the Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust and the Law Link
board from Auckland and the New Zealand Law Faculty from
Wellington. He is also chairman of the New Zealand Law Library
• Interests include gardening in their extensive Wanaka garden
and travel. Mr Deuchrass is a keen fisherman and cyclist, but
says he does not play as much golf as he would like.
• Quote: ''There is not a day goes by that I don't enjoy being
here at Anderson Lloyd. The best day I have is doing law.''