My Life as a Barrister
We were privileged to hear from John Burn (LLB), an ex St Andrews lad, who spent three terms on the CCC specialising in finance and policy.  He was also Deputy Chairman on the Canterbury International Airport.
Working as a barrister only started in the 60s. Mahon was the first one to set up and got all the big firm work so I decided instead to look after the small firms who were delighted to have me.
In terms of working with the CCC the main mistake I made was I did this for free. They now get up to $150,000 a year. Back then, though, we ran the council which I loved doing for nine years.
I was then offered a position with Hunt and Hunt in Sydney as they wanted a commercial litigator. I eventually decided to go for a year and only returned to Christchurch 6 years later.
My topic today is practice at the bar. New South Wales follows the English system which means you cannot be both a solicitor and a barrister. The good thing about this is that solicitors have to do all the work whereas barristers simply read briefs so it is much easier.
Sydney has 25,000 barristers who all specialised in a main area. Hunt and Hunt worked in the injury issues field for individuals. I was lucky to be put with a group covering personal injury e.g. someone who might have put their hands into a machine and being badly injured.
I was also privileged to go on a New South Wales Crown panel which covered asbestos related cases. In New Zealand you can't sue for personal injury as this is covered by ACC.  Most of the cases I dealt with settled but the more complex ones often went to trial.
My toughest cases involved bedside clients who, once diagnosed, often died within 6 months. Everyone, regardless of the situation, was very sympathetic with these clients who were very understanding of us which we were humbled by.
In Australia it was not unusual for claims to be settled for $2 Million. In New Zealand the same clients would get medical costs and some weekly support. So the ACC system, while supportive in some ways, can also mean significant financial hardship for affected clients.
When I first moved to Sydney I experienced the result of the cricket underarm event on the first Saturday I was there. When my boys attended school they were approached by students who apologized for what happened.
When barristers start up, they often need to take any work they can get. I was lucky and got into work that I enjoyed quickly.  There was lots of camaraderie but one quirk involved never shaking hands which was done in the past to show that we did not have a weapon on us.  We all had a lot of fun and, while we battled in Court, we never fought personally.
All Sydney cases on personal injury are on a “no win no fee" basis. You typically earn a percentage of these while in New Zealand you get a lot less.  Briefs are frequently passed from one person to another. This can work and in one situation I only held a brief for a short time and still got a sizable fee.
After I retired I took a position investigating fraud and impropriety for politicians. We were fairly busy! It was a phone job for six months but eventually I returned to the bar.
In recent times I have been fighting the development of the Merivale mall. A colleague and I attended a meeting regarding this and it goes to a hearing shortly. A decision is expected in August.
In closing John shared with a smile that he originally came home after his wife died to see his old friends but now spends much of his time trying to avoid them.
We thanked John for sharing his interesting experiences and thoughts in recent years and wished him well in his future endeavours.