Partner - Environment and Planning at MinterEllisonRuddWatts
- Bachelor of Laws (Hons)
There’s an international network of environmental lawyers who meet regularly in exotic places to discuss changes and trends in their specialist area of practice. They address legal issues around topics such as climate change, infrastructure projects and environmental liability in corporate transactions.
University of Waikato law graduate Rachel Devine is part of this group. She’s carved a successful career in environmental law and is a partner in MinterEllisonRuddWatts in Auckland where her environment team is internationally recognised as being at the top of its field.
“I was accepted into all of the law schools but chose Waikato. I wanted to leave home in Auckland but I didn’t want to move to the end of the country. I never regretted my choice,” Rachel says. “Another plus - I met my future husband in Bryant Hall.”
During her study years, Rachel found herself drawn to papers that dealt with the often-complex issues that surrounded resource management and environmental planning. “It was also fun being taught by founding Law dean and former Labour minister Margaret Wilson too – she said she would only teach the principles of employment law because she promised that Labour would change the law at the next election and so she did!”
After graduating, Rachel worked at Chapman Tripp and her current firm before heading overseas. In London she worked for Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy and then, in Paris, living in an apartment on the Seine, she was an in-house lawyer for Fortune 500 global energy company Schlumberger. “That was a fantastic learning and living experience, and the work took me all around the world,” she says.
Back in New Zealand, Rachel cut her parental leave short to return to MinterEllisonRuddWatts where she has been for the past 13 years.
“My degree instilled an early openness to innovation and keenness for creativity which I believe has shaped my desire to deliver pragmatic, real-world solutions to legal issues, and to invest in the creation of an AI contract management software business.”
That software business is McCarthyFinch, established by partners at MinterEllisonRuddWatts to boost the productivity of legal teams, contract professionals and business users through automating contract reviews, and streamlining activities such as red-lining documents, comparing clauses and defining legal terms.
“Ours is a profession where you can never rest. If you’re not keeping up with cases, regulatory developments and the commercial world, you’re falling behind. So informal study is firmly integrated into working life for me and the teams I work with.”
Rachel is pleased the legal profession is changing, becoming more accessible. “I believe lawyers are getting better at collaborating and communicating. A reduction in formality has meant lawyers work as part of teams and don’t sit separately from the ‘real world’. I also think there’s greater acceptance of people as individuals and more fluidity in how lawyers can operate. In my own field, I am confident that the current focus on the mana of our environment will expand further in coming years as we increasingly focus on environmental bottom lines. That’s going to be interesting.”
Rachel has maintained links with her old law school, currently as part of the university’s Public Law and Policy Research Unit. In this role she expects to provide support and practical insights to students and academics undertaking research in her area of expertise.