Law: Why more top lawyers are moving to Cooney Lees Morgan

Greg Stringer, Special Counsel and Robbie Bennett, Senior Associate - Cooney Lees Morgan

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A growing desire to combine career and lifestyle opportunities means Bay residents and businesses now have access to some of New Zealand’s sharpest legal minds and courtroom operators.

Our region’s enviable weather and lifestyle, combined with the hefty and challenging legal work on offer at Cooney Lees Morgan, is attracting an increasing number of highly-skilled lawyers to Tauranga from a variety of backgrounds.

The firm continues to recruit top talent and now employs well over 100 staff who handle significant deals and clients on a nationwide scale.

CLM recently spearheaded a $300m property partnership between Tauranga-based Classic Group and the New Zealand Super Fund; administered Zespri’s $350m annual grower licensing project; advised multiple Councils and private employers on how to implement mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policies; and appeared before the Court of Appeal to represent clients regarding Resource Management case law of national significance.

It’s that reputation and capability that caught the eye of Greg Stringer who is a former partner of a prominent Auckland law firm. He has spent his entire 30 year career working in South Auckland, going head-to-head with renowned KCs and senior lawyers in the High Court and Court of Appeal – and has now relocated to Tauranga to work at CLM.

As a child, Greg spent a year living in Ohope, near Whakatane, and has always loved the Bay of Plenty. “Tauranga just really appealed because it’s a growing place. It’s a vibrant city that has some really good work, but also has the outdoor lifestyle aspects like the beach and tramping which I love.

Cooneys has a good culture, good systems and is a modern firm.

“I always use the analogy that a good law firm is like a good pub quiz team – you have to have a range of experience and ages to get a good mix. They also have a great range of high quality work which was important to me as well. I want to continue to be challenged and keep growing as a lawyer.”

As Special Counsel at Cooney Lees Morgan, Greg is now working across the firm’s family law, civil litigation and local government teams, collaborating with his new colleagues and mentoring younger lawyers.

“I’m able to react quickly and can cover anything because I’ve worked across so many different areas. I’m a safe pair of hands and can add value, and it’s a good symbiotic relationship – I can do the sort of work I want to without the pressures of being a Partner, and can enjoy being part of a great team as well.”

The chance to enjoy the Bay of Plenty lifestyle is also what drew Robbie Bennett to Cooneys in April this year, leaving behind a role at a top tier law firm in Auckland where he spent the previous five years.

He is now a Senior Associate in Cooney’s Property & Development Team and advises clients on a range of property and commercial matters including large-scale property sales, acquisitions, leasing arrangements, developments and syndications. During his eight year career, Robbie has acted for a number of clients in deals worth well in excess of $100m, and Cooneys continues to provide him with high-quality, challenging work.

“There is definitely the opportunity to become involved in complex legal work and large transactions here. I’ve also enjoyed the challenge of becoming a more well-rounded lawyer and advising clients on a wider range of legal matters, such as funding and corporate structural aspects rather than just pure property work. I’ve become more involved in clients’ whole end-to-end business rather than just one aspect of it which is very satisfying.”

Greater lifestyle opportunities and Auckland’s high house prices also contributed to Robbie’s decision to relocate to Tauranga with his partner, Becky.

But ultimately, the opportunity to work at Cooneys was too good to pass up.
“Cooneys has a really good reputation and it’s a good opportunity to build my practice and my career. There’s a supportive and collegial atmosphere and everyone gets on well.”

Having grown up in Hamilton, Robbie is excited to now live in the Bay of Plenty and is looking forward to his first summer as a local. “I’m definitely enjoying the region’s lifestyle opportunities and a more relaxed pace of life. A round of golf or a morning walk with our dog are my ideal ways to unwind.”

CLM’s CEO Cecilia Burgess says the arrival of Greg and Robbie are just two examples of the depth of legal talent now available at the firm to support growing Bay businesses and private clients. “Cooneys has been pivotal to the growth of Tauranga for more than a century. We’re proud to continue providing that vital legal support and have all the expertise on hand to help our clients thrive and achieve their goals.”

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