Holland Beckett Law‘s new partner Christie Goodspeed tells why she became a lawyer, and what family means to the firm.
WORDS DANIEL DUNKLEY / PHOTOS BRYDIE THOMPSON
Christie Goodspeed opens the door to her Omokoroa home mid-conversation, with a phone pressed to her ear and her seven- and five-year-old daughters in tow, and is immediately joined by a boisterous German schnauzer and a fluffy ragdoll cat. The hectic scene offers a glimpse into the busy life of one of the newest partners at Holland Beckett Law (affectionately known as Hobec), the Bay of Plenty’s biggest law firm.
Christie smiles and takes a breath before sitting down to talk about her role at the firm known for its prowess with commercial clients. She may be leading a full life, but her surroundings hint at the meticulous planning of a top lawyer. Christie organised every detail of her family’s modern home, plotting the house from start to finish and overseeing its development from floorplan to family dwelling. Yet interior design, art and landscaping are only her part-time hobbies – in May, she was made partner at Holland Beckett, and now leads its employment and family law teams.
For Christie, Omokoroa is the perfect place for her family to call home. With idyllic views overlooking the water and a lush tropical garden, their property connects to a scenic walk leading to the children’s school. Her husband Nick, an IT technical consultant, works from home two days a week to help the pair strike the right work-life balance amid the rigours of their professions and parenting.“We’re certainly very lucky,” says Christie. “I come to work happy every day.”
Born in Hamilton, Christie decided she wanted to be a lawyer at the age of 10. She says she was attracted to the profession after watching an episode of TV show LA Law. “I liked the rough and tumble of the court litigation,” she says. “It takes a certain type of person to become a litigator – someone who likes to argue. You’ll have to ask my husband!”
She studied law at university alongside psychology, a decision that has proven useful in her work in the delicate and often emotional field of family law. “With family law and employment, it’s all about personal relationships. My psychology background is helpful, particularly when I’m dealing with separation, division of property and issues involving children.”
Christie’s journey to joining Holland Beckett in 2016 began with jobs at New Zealand firms Tompkins Wake and Buddle Findlay, and advisory firm PwC in Sydney. After becoming parents to Lily (7), Sophie (5) and Callum (3), she and Nick moved back to New Zealand.
Holland Beckett has offices in Tauranga, Rotorua, Whakatane and Opotiki. The full-service firm employs lawyers who specialise in property, estate planning, corporate and financial transactions, environmental and resource management, employment, dispute resolution, health and safety, and family and Māori law matters.
When it comes to employment law, Christie covers all areas. She says she likes to help employers problem-solve and “get it right” with their employees. On the family law side of things, she specialises in complex relationship-property cases, in which assets need to
be divided at the beginning or end of a relationship. In particular, she excels at cases involving companies and trusts. Holland Beckett is able to utilise the skills of a large commercial operation to solve difficult issues. “We help people define how they want to manage their assets going forward, and what they want to keep separate,” says Christie.
Christie’s demanding profession puts her at the centre of the Bay of Plenty’s commercial and family life. She has volunteered for Women’s Refuge and spoken publicly about racial-, gender- and sexual orientation-based discrimination. She says it can be difficult for lawyers to not to bring work problems home. “Our role is inherently being involved in conflict. You have to be able to take a step back and look at these issues with objective eyes, and that makes you a better advocate for your client.”
You might say the Bay of Plenty’s unique beauty and relaxed lifestyle provide the perfect backdrop for a family law firm. Many of Holland Beckett’s lawyers have moved here from Auckland or further afield to enjoy all the area has to offer. “Many of the partners have big-city experience or have come back after living overseas,” says Christie. They’ve chosen to be here because they want to raise their families here, and that’s a great thing. We’re a big firm with a high calibre of clients, but there’s a real sense of collegiality between everyone. The culture of the firm is important to us.”
So what makes Holland Beckett stand out from its rivals? Talking to Christie, it’s clear her employer practices what it preaches when it comes to looking after families. She was offered flexible working hours when she joined, which has allowed her to pursue her career goals without sacrificing her personal life.
She says the firm understands the importance of family. “They were so receptive to that. It certainly hasn’t stood in the way of me becoming a partner, which is fantastic. People have been promoted on parental leave, and that’s just unheard of. We have a really supportive team environment, and we all work well together. We just want to get on with it and get the best outcome for our clients.”
Christie looks outside, turning her attention to the garden. If her pristine property is anything to go by, this lawyer’s clients are in safe hands.