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Knowledge - Energy - Dedication

 
New Year brings new roles and new office for Whanganui's Dewhirst Law

 

Sue Dudman

Whanganui Chronicle/NZ Herald

February 2018


Whanganui's Dewhirst Law is kicking off 2018 with some exciting changes, including a new associate, an enhanced 'shopfront' and the beginning of a presence in Wellington.


Principal Michael Dewhirst has promoted lawyer Samantha Bills to the role of associate, giving her a say in the firm's decision-making. Ms Bills has been with Dewhirst Law since it was established in 2015.


"Sam will be stepping up to a key role in the firm in what looks like being a very busy year for us," Mr Dewhirst said.

"We have some staff moving into our new front of house, one going on parental leave and another working on our next phase which will be in Wellington."


Dewhirst Law operates from a building in Victoria Court but has now also established a reception and front of house office at 94 Victoria Ave.

The new office was previously the electorate office of former Whanganui MP Chester Borrows.

"We have designed and built the new office ourselves with the help of friends and contacts," Mr Dewhirst said.

"It's a new look for us, quite minimalist, and will provide a light and bright meeting space for clients. We wanted our front of house to look very professional without going overboard and I think we've managed to achieve what we were going for.

"Unfortunately we've had to paint over the Prime Minister's and other politicians signatures that were on the wall of Chester's office."


Mr Dewhirst employs three lawyers, two administrative staff and a staff member who is establishing the Wellington presence.


The firm is the sponsor of the 2018 La Fiesta programme and is offering free legal clinics every Monday afternoon during the festival which runs from February 14 to March 11.


"We really enjoy opening our doors to people who need legal advice but may not usually have the opportunity to obtain it," Mr Dewhirst said.


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New associate Samantha Bills is passionate about the opportunities she has been able to build on at Dewhirst Law.


Ms Bills, who grew up in Horowhenua, moved to Whanganui four years ago after completing her Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Commerce in Dunedin. After working for another firm, she joined Dewhirst Law when it was established in 2015.


"We all started at the same time and built the firm," Ms Bills said.

"It was a great opportunity for a junior lawyer like myself to build my own practice. None of the other graduates I know have done that.


"As an associate I'll be working really closely with Michael [Dewhirst] and having input into the direction of the business. It shows that Michael really respects my opinion and takes it on board.

"It took some very hard work but by doing a lot of networking I've managed to build good relationships with people here in town and forge a practice."


Her focus is mostly on employment and rural law, plus some family law and dispute resolution.


Ms Bills has thrown herself into the community and is chairwoman of the Whanganui Young Farmers Club and a member of the Women's Network board.


"I feel like I've been here since Whanganui has started to grow. It's really changed in the last four years. When I first came here I couldn't find many young people to hang out with but now a lot more people are migrating here and staying. I noticed a high turnover when I was first here."


Ms Bills has bought a house and sees her future in Whanganui.


"I hope to grow my practice and really build my own business in Dewhirst Law. I've worked really hard to build my little client base and I want to keep that growing."

 
Young Whanganui lawyer promoted at Dewhirst Law

Emma Russell continues her series charting the stories of former Whanganui students who have gone on to success in the big, wide world.
Wanganui Chronicle
July 2017

When Megan Christie started out as a young lawyer in Whanganui, law firms were dominated by "old-school blokes".

And now Whanganui is thriving with fresh young lawyer talent.

Last month the former Whanganui Girls' College student made a jump in her career becoming Dewhirst Law's new senior associate.


She left secondary school to work as an administrator at another law firm in town.

Miss Christie said it was there that she decided she wanted to aim high and pursue law.

She studied a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Victoria in Wellington and later scored a graduate position at another law firm in Whanganui.

"I was open to being swayed by the big law firms in Wellington but to be honest Whanganui's slow paced living really appealed."


Now, the 31-year-old said the River City is booming with young talent.

"Not just Whanganui returnees but, because of the job shortages in the industry, newbies are migrating here as well which is cool."


In August 2015, Miss Christie started working for Dewhirst Law when it was first established and nearly two years later she has been promoted.

Her boss, Michael Dewhirst, described Miss Christie as a "quality nut" who has worked extremely hard to get to where she is.

"She is diligent and works at a high level to get good results. Her super powers are problem solving, finding the flaws in arguments.

"There is a new age of law emerging and Whanganui is becoming a lawyered-up town. There is an opportunity for those 30-something year olds to take over law firms which is exciting," Mr Dewhirst said.


Dewhirst Law has four lawyers and one administrator and specialises in property and business.

The promotion for Miss Christie means she will become a key anchor in the firm's decision making as well as taking on a seniority position.


Miss Christie said it felt really good to be recognised for her hard work.

"I chose law because I wanted to help people manage their life and it is really special to be doing that in the town you grew up in."

 

Local law firm offers free advice

Emma Russell 

Wanganui Chronicle

February 2017


A Whanganui law firm is offering a free legal clinic as part of the La Fiesta festival.


Dewhirst Law ran its first session on Monday and will run two more sessions - next Monday, February 27, and on Monday, March 6, both from 2pm to 5pm.


The clinic offers legal advice about employment, family, property matters and free consultation regarding wills.


Solicitor Samantha Bills said people were often overwhelmed by big legal fees and the free clinic was aimed at helping them get past that and make life a bit easier.


"Giving people that 20 minutes or half an hour can help people get the advice they need," she said.

Ms Bills said seven people made appointments for this week's clinic and there was one booking for next Monday.


"Will consultation seem to be the most popular ... I guess nobody likes getting around to sorting out their will and they think the expense will be too large."


Ms Bills wanted to remind people it could relieve a lot of stress for families and was an important matter.

This is the second year the law firm has run the service and Ms Bills said they aimed to make it an annual event.


Last year around 18 people attended the clinics with a few getting their wills drafted.


"We think its important to empower people, which is what

La Fiesta is all about," she said.


*La Fiesta, a celebration of women and community runs until March, 10.


 
A successful first year at Dewhirst Law

Whanganui Chronicle
October 2016

A steady stream of new clients has been the reward for a full-on first year in business for the team at Dewhirst Law in Whanganui.


The practice opened its doors in offices in Victoria Court just over a year ago and principal Michael Dewhirst said hard work in those first 12 months was paying dividends.


“Our statement of purpose is to work hard every day to be better lawyers, so that we can help our clients achieve their goals. We believe that’s working for us.”


Mr Dewhirst leads a dedicated line-up – including three other qualified lawyers – whose efforts have started the practice from scratch.


“We went to work with a mix of mainstream marketing and hit the pavement to meet people face-to-face. Our strong brand image and approach proved a great strength and has attracted a steady stream of clients through our doors.” He said some of the success could be put down to the fact that “we’re faster, better, more fun to deal with and focus on lower cost for high quality work.”


“Most of our business comes from the Whanganui district, although we have strong connections in Taranaki, Manawatu, Kapiti and Welington. We’ve recently had a number of overseas contacts, with work coming from as far away as Singapore and Hong Kong,” he said.


Mr Dewhirst began his legal career in Wellington and has advised major corporates on national projects including commercial property, wind farms, transmission lines, roads and infrastructure. He primarily works in business, commercial, rural and residential property, energy and local authority law, resource management and dispute resolution.


Others in the practice include Stacey Hyland and Megan Christie, who returned home to Whanganui after completing their law degrees in Waikato and Wellington. Samantha Bills is from Horowhenua and studied at Otago University.