Fifty years young and going strong

This article first appeared in the National Business Review on 22 May 2009.

Around Chapman Tripp, Arthur Young is known as the director of happiness - a reference to the gales of laughter that erupt from his end of the office.

The 74-year-old has just celebrated 50 years as partner with no plans for retirement. This is good news for Chapman Tripp, which wants to keep him around as long as possible - not just for the humour but also for the knowledge.

Mr Young, who still manages to rack up 55 hours a week, says as long as he still has something worthwhile to offer he will continue turning up.

He has been with the firm since his own, Sheffield Young, joined Wellington firm Chapman Tripp in 1985 - it was only a month ago that the Sheffield Young part of the name was officially dropped from the name, leaving the more recognised half of the brand.

When Mr Young first started as a lawyer he was earning just £18 a week. While the pay has changed along with much else, he is certain one thing hasn't. "My clients have blood running through their veins - they are not just balance sheets," he says. And much of Mr Young's success can be attributed to this attitude.

He represents many of New Zealand's most prominent business families and several who prefer to remain under the radar.  Who is on that client list is not up for discussion - Mr Young is adamant he's not that kind of person. However, he admits to having been involved at the centre of many of the country's biggest business deals. He talks of one family business, with which he has been involved since its inception 40 years ago, and another that he has been with since day one and has seen it through a calamity to a now successful and notable business.

Having worked with many of these businesses through the 1987 sharemarket crash, he has advice to pass on. "I learnt a lot then and in the years that followed," he says, before adding that while there are differences it is possible to put some of these lessons into practice. Most of what he learned centres on the importance of cash flow and the need for financial management. As a commercial lawyer, however, his advice to new lawyers at Chapman Tripp is much more poetic. "I tell them it's a wonderful career and that they've got to take it step by step. They will find it hugely satisfying if they stay with it," he says.

But commercial law has changed considerably since Mr Young started - the biggest of these changes is the size of the transactions being dealt with. He says when he first began the biggest deals were the sale of a dairy store or a grocer's shop.

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Related topics: Chapman Tripp announcements; Private client & trusts

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