From electric blankets to earthquakes, Matthew Sherwood King has seen it all. Having spent the better part of 20 years in commercial litigation, Matthew knows litigation is all about telling a story. Catch up with Matthew in this 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 am a commercial barrister based in Wellington and have been so for over 20 years. I have conducted cases involving all manner of topics from electric blankets to earthquakes, from cosmetics to counterfeit car parts. My current practice includes insurance, leaky homes, trusts, insolvency, construction, and a full range of tort and contract disputes. Prior to that, I only ever worked in large law firms, here and overseas. I sit as an arbitrator and have acted on many occasions as a mediator for the NZ Law Society. I also teach Ethics at Victoria University Law School and conduct seminars for expert witnesses in major cities around NZ.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Litigation is all about telling a story. The clients and other witnesses telling their stories, particularly in the courtroom, is the most enjoyable part of the work.
How did you come to work in this area?
I worked for several years for one of the huge international law firms in London. I was offered a position in the banking department of another huge firm but decided to go to another interview the next day at another large firm, but this time for a litigation job. The senior litigation partner I met in the interview at the second firm had an oil painting of Te Mata Peak in Hawkes Bay on his office wall. How could I not take the litigation job? On such small, seemingly insignificant moments, careers are defined.
What advice would you have for students keen to practice in your area of law?
Positions for new lawyers are hard to come by at present. My advice to students is to get professional help with drafting your CV, with interview technique, and also to compose an interesting covering letter to differentiate yourself from the pack. Both the CV and the letter, and indeed what you say at the interview, must be focused on the job for which you are applying; generic CVs and letters do not work. Don’t be afraid to seek out people already working in fields in which you are interested. People are usually very willing to meet and talk about what they do and why – it is surprising what may come out of such a meeting.
What do you enjoy about teaching at The College of Law?
Remember, law school taught you how to think, not how to be a lawyer. I enjoy teaching at The College of Law because it gives me an opportunity to meet talented young people at the beginning of their careers and hopefully I can make a difference in some way by giving them a head start.
From your perspective as an Instructor, how can students make the most of PLSC?
My professional studies all those years ago were a disgrace. The PLSC course is worth two and a half years of me floundering around in the dark at the beginning of my career. I repeat, law school taught you how to think, not how to be a lawyer. You will be very surprised what you will learn during PLSC.