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Ben Nettleton
18 January 2021

Meet Your Instructor: Ben Nettleton, Professional Legal Studies Course

Published on 18 January 2021

Ben enjoys a classic portfolio career, working as a consultant lawyer, mediator, facilitator, and adjudicator, and serving on several boards. We hit up Ben for a quick Q&A on his career, teaching at the College, and advice he has for students to make the most of PLSC.

What does your job involve?

I guess my job could be what is these days described as a “portfolio career” I am a consultant lawyer with a southland based law firm, where I practice in the areas of commercial, corporate, employment and dispute resolution.

I also have a governance career presently sitting on the boards of the Judicial Control Authority for Racing, Southern Health School and two private companies. I previously served on the boards of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, a local council forestry company and recently retired from the board of Youthline.

In addition I undertake work as a mediator, facilitator and adjudicator including ACC cases, as well as appointments to the mediation Rural List and as a provider to the Ministry of Education.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

The variety and the challenges, my work has taken me to all sorts of places, including representing New Zealand internationally at a racing conference in Hong Kong.

The key skills established through legal studies, including analysis and problem solving have a range of applications across my work.

It is a unique position when mediating particularly working one on one with the parties being in both rooms during a dispute.

How did you come to work in this area?

I had a unique start to my career first working for a queen counsel and then moving to a regional firm where I undertook a broad range of legal work, I think it is important to have a good grounding in the law generally as there is commonality in its principles and application, I did quite a lot of litigation work in my early years and still enjoy it, however balancing governance work with court fixtures is very difficult, which moved me to focus on the more adjacent alternative dispute resolution space. While Court work is challenging and highly stimulating it is also time consuming and costly for the client, therefore I see ADR as playing an important complimentary role the Court process, enabling the parties the flexibility to design their own solutions.

What advice would you have for students keen to practise in your area of law?

It is important to network and make yourself known and form connections, most in the profession are very supportive and giving of their time as they have been in the similar place themselves. So this means going to functions and events when they come up and making an effort to meet people, it can be very daunting at the beginning but like riding bike or learning any new skill the more you do it the easier it becomes.

What do you enjoy about teaching at The College of Law?

The range of students I get to interact with, and watching their skills grow and develop over the course of the modules.

From your perspective as a lecturer, how can students make the most of PLSC?

Embrace the feedback and use it to improve your work, feedback can frustrating and challenging at times, but as I often point out to students it will be (or should be) a regular feature of your practice whether its partner feedback or indeed judicial decisions, even now in my work where I draft adjudication decisions I get a robust appraisal of it from peer reviewers before it is finalised and issued, it helps improve the overall quality of my work.