Commercial Property & Construction Solicitor, Russell McVeagh
Commerce and Law, 2016
Helping Build NZ’s Future.
Just two years out of UC, Tom Scott is enjoying the variety of challenges in his role as Commercial Property and Construction Solicitor at Russell McVeagh. He relishes the idea his work has a tangible effect in getting major projects off the ground. “I've been involved in things as diverse as the sale of large commercial forestry assets to helping draft construction contracts for skyscrapers. I love the idea that in 10 years time I'll be able to point to a building and say, ‘I had a role to play in creating that’".
How did you land your job as property and construction solicitor at Russell McVeagh?
I was lucky enough to get a Russell McVeagh scholarship out of high school. That enabled me to intern with the firm while I studied law and commerce at UC. After graduating I was able to go from intern to a graduate position.
Awesome stuff! What’s it like working for the firm?
In a firm like Russell McVeagh we do a lot of bespoke work for large institutional clients. It's often new and hasn't been done before, so in that sense every day is genuinely different. I've been involved in things as diverse as the sale of large commercial forestry assets to helping draft construction contracts for skyscrapers. Everything requires a completely different train of thought.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It's exciting to be working with some of New Zealand's best property lawyers and helping to get big projects off the ground. The work is complex and challenging but really interesting and exciting. I've always been someone who likes to see the tangible outcome of what I do. I love the idea that in 10 years' time I'll be able to point to a building or asset and say, “I had a role to play in creating that”.
Did you always know you wanted to go into law?
Not at all. It just made sense to me based on the subjects I liked – English, Classics and written-based subjects. My mother, who's a legal executive, suggested I might like law. I looked into it and friends said that if I wanted to study law, Canterbury was the best place to do it. So I fell into law in a sense, but the more I went through my degree, the more I realised I had a genuine interest in it.
What else did you get up to while you were at UC?
I was president of Lawsoc, the Canterbury Law Students’ Association. I was treasurer in my fourth year and president in my fifth and final year. While I was president we really focused on making the club more inclusive by introducing new initiatives like social sports, junior student coffee catch-ups and a women in law breakfast. Our hard work was rewarded with the UCSA (students' association) Supreme Club Award that year which remains one of my proudest achievements.
Where did that experience with LawSOC lead?
Out of that I was elected to be a member of the New Zealand Law Students Association, which is a national body that sits above all six New Zealand law schools. I was the education and welfare representative, which is something I'm really passionate about. One of my main goals in that role was to update and publish a new edition of NZLSA's Mental Wellness Guidebook. This was published at the start of 2017, which was really great.
Tell us about the Guide – who’s it for and what's its purpose?
Research has shown that the stress and workloads associated with legal study can mean that law students in particular may be prone to mental health issues. This has been found across-the-board in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. The guidebook isn’t designed to be a cure, but rather to provide students with resources and tips that may alleviate some of the stresses they face. It's been well received and students have shown a lot of appreciation for it.
Did you have any wisdom to share from creating the Guide?
In my research I found that there's a huge correlation between physical health and mental health. Even today I still take time outside of the office whenever I can to play sports and go to the gym. I find that being fit really helps me focus. Staying physically healthy is a big priority for me and something I would encourage all students to factor into their lives and schedules. I am fortunate that this is something that Russell McVeagh really supports and endorses.
What's the most important thing you learned in your time at UC?
The most important thing my legal studies taught me was work ethic. Practicing law can be hard – physically, mentally and emotionally. My studies prepared me well for how intense the work can be. UC is one of the more progressive universities for driving work experience programmes like clerkships, internships and volunteering. That’s really good because they give you a more realistic expectation of what to expect as a graduate lawyer. In addition, UC is great at promoting the non-legal opportunities and options that a legal degree provides. There is good balance.
Looking back, what advice would you give to 18-year-old self?
Take time to appreciate and celebrate the successes. We’re often so goal-focused that when we do achieve something, it’s a sense of relief rather than a sense of pride. Slow down, appreciate the successes when they come and don’t sweat the small stuff.