Five Minutes With… Steve Keall, Auckland barrister

Five Minutes With… Steve Keall, Auckland barrister | Insurance Business

Five Minutes With… Steve Keall, Auckland barrister
Why insurance law?
Like many things in life, this has been partly by design and partly by accident. To the former extent, there is generally a good supply of clients facing interesting challenges. I am still waiting for an instruction involving piracy however. To the latter extent, to be blunt, it was a question of what work was available when I was looking for a job.

How would you change the industry?
As in other areas, New Zealand has led the way with progressive law reform – the Insurance Law Reform Act 1977, for example. The general legal environment is now quite settled and there is not anything in particular I would change. In the broader industry, it is true to say that offshore insurers enjoy the benefit of a very free market in New Zealand. A recent Court of Appeal case has held that certain legislation intended to protect the rights of claimants seeking to enforce rights directly against a wrong-doer’s insurer does not apply to offshore insurers in certain circumstances. One could argue this lack of extraterritorial effect in the legislation might confer an unfair advantage on them. I think there is reason to periodically revisit the issue of who is entitled to do business here and on what basis.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Learn to listen. (I’m still learning).

If you were prime minister for one day, what would you do?
Purport to use executive power to summarily deport a certain well-known person. Then hurry through emergency legislation making that lawful, and grant myself immunity.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the industry today?
I think everyone has a different perception of what the “industry” is, and it depends on whose perspective you are considering. Looking from the point of view of a lawyer, which is the perspective I understand best, I think understanding future trends is absolutely key. We get some clues about this from what people are already starting to do in other countries. Conceptually speaking, this involves lawyers acting less like magicians, with a bag of tricks only they can perform, and being more like tradespeople, providing a measurable service, the value of which is readily understood. Technology is the primary mechanism by which this transformation is occurring and will continue to occur. People who fail to grasp this will, most likely, find themselves doing something else.

What’s been the highlight of your career?
Becoming a self-employed barrister.

What’s your favourite style of coffee?
Can I answer this by saying my least favourite coffee is urn coffee; the kind you get at conferences, where a gaggle of waiting staff stand around it looking at your strangely and you are forced to ask yourself what they have done to it exactly, and what proportion of it is, actually, “coffee". Otherwise, I wish to use this brief spotlight to give a hurrah for filter coffee. I have a little plunger I have become very fond of. I don’t know why people are so fixated on espresso. I think they are impressed by the machines. Sadly, filter coffee is now regarded as the poor cousin. This is completely undeserved. Thank you for listening.

Union, league or soccer or other?
Anyone who knows me who reads this would laugh derisively if I expressed any preference. I don’t really follow any organised sport. So I guess this puts me in the “other” category. I’m putting running in that category.

If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive, and excluding family or friends, who would they be and why?
Oscar Wilde for entertainment, Genghis Khan for his horsemanship/archery and St Thomas Aquinas for after-dinner musing about what it all means. I would probably sit between Genghis and St Thomas however, to prevent any cultural misunderstandings or misplaced arrows.

Complete this sentence: if I wasn’t in insurance law I would be…
Focussing on my various other areas of practice. Saving $800 on the NZILA conference.