Jon Calder was watching the livestream of the NZ Law Awards in his Hamilton East home in December, gin in hand.
The year prior Tompkins Wake had been named the mid-size Law Firm of the Year and Jon had taken out Managing Partner (Chief Executive) of the Year in the Under 100 Lawyers category.
The uncertainty of Covid had put paid to an awards dinner. Instead, Jon and the partners of Tompkins Wake watched the awards announcement from the comfort of their home lounges.
Just as Jon was again named Managing Partner of the year, his wife Karina wandered by. But as Jon began to tell Karina the good news, the announcer had already moved on to the next category giving Karina the impression her husband had missed out on the award this time around.
“There I am sitting there feeling pretty rapt and Karina gives me a hug and says, ‘Oh well, you won it last year right. Never mind,’ and she walks off,” Jon says, laughing. “I’ll certainly always remember that award.”
Watching the livestream didn’t compare to previous years when a Tompkins Wake delegation has attended the black-tie awards ceremonies, but the feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie that brings about for the team was the same come Monday morning.
For the second year in a row, Tompkins Wake had also been named the mid-size Law Firm of the Year. And, fittingly, the firm also won Employer of Choice (51 to 100 Lawyers).
The firm’s family-like culture is what got staff, spread across four offices, through lockdown with the reassurance that staff and their families’ wellbeing was the firm’s priority. “While income security enabled the team to focus on delivering for their clients, it also meant they could take care of their own mental and physical wellbeing,” Jon says.
There were extra measures put in place to take care of staff and maintain the strong, cohesive, collegial culture the firm has worked so hard to build over the past few years. There was daily communication between teams and virtual CEO updates across the week to keep staff connected and informed.
And teams kept doing things they used to do at work, albeit virtually – morning teas and coffees. “Underpinning our Covid response was our culture which puts our people front and centre of the firm.
Pastoral care, and genuine concern for our people’s wellbeing was first and foremost the priority for the Partnership. Alongside other values, we are incredibly focused on providing our people with a great working environment and the support they need to succeed not only in their roles, but also to thrive professionally and personally.”
Indeed, the NZ Law Awards judges described Jon as “an exemplary leader who lives and breathes the firm’s core value of ‘people matter’ in every aspect of his work”.
And it’s that people-first environment that continues to provide momentum for growth. The team has grown around 30 per cent since October 2018 under Calder’s leadership. That shows no signs of slowing.
The firm’s presence in the Bay of Plenty is growing with appointments underway to further bolster the Rotorua and Tauranga offices. Tompkins Wake has just announced it is the naming rights sponsor for the Rotorua Business Awards for the next four years – the $100,000 investment testament to the firm’s commitment to the region. And the Auckland office is on the move. Having outgrown its current premises, staff there are moving to a larger office space on Shortland Street with room to expand the Auckland team to 55.
The accolades have come thick and fast over the past few years. Added to the list last year was also the Legal 500 rankings – Tompkins Wake featured as a recommended firm in the Asia Pacific list for the fourth year in a row, with 23 ranked lawyers. And Chambers and Partners Asia Pacific and Global ranked Tompkins Wake’s Dispute Resolution Team, and James MacGillivray and Mark Lowndes as ranked lawyers.
But Jon is quick to point out that the awards and rankings belong to every single member of the firm. “I am so incredibly proud of our people and the strength and resilience they've shown over the past year in supporting each other and delivering for our clients.”
That strength and resilience has set the firm up well to continue its growth trajectory in 2021.
Tompkins Wake is coming through Covid-19 in a robust operational and strategic position. And, with economic forecasts showing GDP should rebound this year, the firm is already seeing a resurgence in investment activity among its client base, bolstered by the Government’s fiscal and monetary policies.
Tompkins Wake Partner and board chair Peter Fanning said some years ago the partnership decided to put an independent management regime in place which would free up the partners to do what they do best, and to bring in exceptional management to help steer the firm strategically and operationally.
“The 2019 and 2020 NZ Law Awards are a vindication of that decision,” Peter said. “We are on a growth path and we’re actively seeking out opportunities that are right for us. And it’s the ‘right for us’ that is critical; we have a unique culture that is hard won, and we won’t compromise that just for the sake of continued growth.” Though grow it does.
Tompkins Wake’s ever-expanding footprint in the Golden Triangle means the firm is in an incredibly strong position at the centre of New Zealand’s economic and commercial heartland.