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Meet incoming ADLS President Tony Herring

6 Mar 2023

| Author: Reweti Kohere

“I’m good, I’m good. I’m sweaty,” confesses incoming ADLS president Tony Herring. “I know you don’t need to know that but I’ve been racing around.”

That’s not surprising. Since learning at the ADLS annual general meeting last Thursday that he’d won the vote and would succeed outgoing president Marie Dyhrberg KC, Herring hasn’t yet had time to let the election result sink in.

A commercial and property partner at Gibson Sheat, he flew back to Wellington the morning after the AGM, shot up to Thorndon for a client meeting and, having returned to his office, is now telling a journalist he’s sweaty. And he won’t get time to catch his breath over the weekend, either. On Sunday, he sets off for Antarctica, the driest, coldest and windiest continent on Earth, to run his 20th (and last) marathon – a swansong that’s three years overdue. The many parts of his life have all come to a head, Herring says.

“It’s been a funny old time because I’ve been focused on this marathon for so long. I’ve been trying to organise my life around my training and then I’ve been trying to campaign to be president of ADLS for a while and trying to keep my day job as well.” he says.

Marathon man

Herring should’ve ticked off the Antarctic marathon already, had the global pandemic not scuppered his plans in early 2020 when the marathon was cancelled just days before he was set to depart. As he told LawNews at the time: “Eighteen weeks of training during the New Zealand summer for a bitterly cold adventure marathon in one of the most forbidding environments on the planet had come to nought.” Luckily, he’s been given a second chance.

Herring took up long-distance running 10 year ago after falling from a first-floor balcony and breaking his neck. Since then, he’s completed the world’s six major marathons on six continents and is chasing his seventh – and last – long-distance run. “You can commit this in writing if you want. This is my last. It’s just too hard and I’m getting too old,” he says. “I’m going to retire victoriously.”

He’ll have his work cut out. Any marathon is a slog, let alone completing a big run in one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet. Herring’s best-case scenario on race day? A fine, sunny day with no wind. If the wind exceeds 24 knots, the entire 42km race might be shifted from the ice to the deck of the competitors’ holding ship, a scenario that happened nearly 20 years ago, he says. “The wind is key for me. I don’t mind running in the cold – I’ll have plenty of layers on. It’s the wind, because the wind will not only make it potentially precarious in getting back to the ship, but it will just make [the race] harder.”

The frozen continent still beckons. The three-day voyage begins in Buenos Aires, followed by chartered flight to the resort town of Ushuaia, nicknamed the “End of the World” for its location on the southernmost tip of South America. Herring will then board the Ocean Victory, a vessel purpose-built to tackle polar waters, and traverse the Drake Passage, considered one of the world’s most treacherous voyages with travellers contending with 12-metre swells. By Sunday week, the marathon will have taken place. And afterwards, a week of sight-seeing.

“It’ll be an amazing trip, but I just need to get the marathon out of the way,” Herring says. After completing the race, he suspects he’ll be emotional, much as he was on finishing his first marathon, in Christchurch. “This will be the culmination of an awful lot of effort and an awful long time of running. And to do the seven continents and the six world marathon majors is just, for me, such a special achievement. “It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a few tears crossing the finish line. They’ll freeze, of course.”

Fresh eyes, new name

Once he returns home, a new set of ADLS councillors will await him around the table. Four councillors – Chris Eggleston, Craig Fisher, Andrew Skinner and Ellen Snedden – are departing. They will be replaced by Martelli McKegg litigator Telise Kelly, criminal defence barrister Samira Taghavi and Shine Lawyers managing director Angela Parlane, who also ran for president. Criminal barrister Julie-Anne Kincade KC and cybersecurity consultant Michael Wallmannsberger will remain on the council. Herring acknowledges the influx of new blood has its challenges.

“It won’t be seamless. It won’t be ‘let’s just carry on doing what we’re doing’ because it’ll take a meeting or two or three to learn where their skills are, what they’re interested in doing and what they might be able to get involved in. They’re not known quantities,” he says. “But fresh eyes always bring a new perspective and that’s exciting. They’ll be motivated to make the profession better, I would hope.”

The fact that ADLS has a president based outside of Auckland – for the first time in 144 years, Herring understands – is proof that the membership body is increasingly being perceived as truly nationwide. It’s ground Herring has broken before: when first elected to the council six years ago, he was ADLS’ first-ever non-Auckland councillor.

Turning that perception of serving all New Zealand lawyers into reality is the next challenge. “My vision is not only that we are a genuine national organisation that helps all our members on a day-to-day basis, but we are an absolute leader in representing our lawyers through law reform, through select committees, through [our] committees, through the CPD that we offer,” he says.

That vision aligns with ADLS’ rebranding plans. Members attending the AGM were told the organisation wants to drop the “Auckland District” from its name because it doesn’t reflect the body’s national reach, excludes the 46% of members who live elsewhere in New Zealand and something more modern is needed. Members will be given the chance to vote on an alternative.

Herring says he’s familiar with concerns from some members that much of the ADLS legacy might disappear with a name change and it’s a worry he shares. People he’s interacted with, including those who don’t work in the legal service industry, know about the organisation through its valuable webforms, such as the ADLS sale and purchase agreement for real estate. But he acknowledges that ADLS must move on. “It’s 2023, we have to move on. A name is only a name. We’re not going to destroy everything we’ve built up.”

Wider issues

Being a sought-after organisation with a seat at the table is Herring’s aspiration for ADLS. “Not only are we sought after by members who want to be members because of the great stuff we offer them, but we’re sought after by media if there’s a story because we’ve got such a good reputation. Politicians seek us out for our views on an issue before they embark on or are drafting policy.”

On some of the problems confronting the profession – access to justice, work culture and inclusion and diversity, to name a few – having influence will prove critical to finding a solution, Herring says. “If we have the ear of the people who make the rules – the politicians or cabinet or select committees or whatever it is – then we’re much more influential.”

Even before I push back on that, Herring has beaten me to the punch. “Power and influence – it sounds dangerous in a way,” he says, before explaining his aspiration for decision-makers to think of the organisation first when contemplating solutions.

Herring wants an ambitious future for ADLS. He just has to knock off that last marathon first. ■

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