Thought Leaders: Corporate Immigration 2017
David began legal practice in 1989 after a career in foreign language teaching and translating. In 1995 he set up his own boutique litigation firm focusing on immigration including corporate immigration, litigation, and immigration tribunal work. His team now includes a number of highly skilled immigration specialists all focused on providing a quality service to a global clientele including multinational companies. He has been a regular speaker at local and international conferences since 2000 and has authored a number of papers.
Describe your career to date.
After an introduction into legal practice and focusing on litigation, I worked for a number of years for a leading New Zealand human rights law firm. With a background in teaching languages and in translation work I soon found my niche working with immigrants and their families to establish their place in New Zealand society and helping to resolve the many legal issues and challenges along the way. In the late 1990s the business began to expand and I began to train other legal professionals in the work, developing a business that works for clients in all parts of the world.
What was the most challenging aspect of opening a new office and setting up your own firm?
One of the greatest challenges has been to find and employ other competent legal practitioners willing to devote the many years needed to establish a sound background, thus enabling the practice to grow and expand. We now have one of the most experienced legal immigration teams in the country.
What inspired you to become a corporate immigration practitioner?
With a sound grounding in all aspects of immigration work our corporate immigration practice started with referrals from international colleagues but now has a momentum of its own. For many years I have focused on this work by giving potential clients priority over other work and ensuring that our corporate clients receive our best advice and attention. It provides a healthy balance to our humanitarian work facilitating multinational companies seeking to locate executives or specialist personnel in New Zealand and secondments. I enjoy the clients I meet through this work which brings our firm into contact with senior business men and women as well as individuals who will often make a significant difference in our country and community.
As founding solicitor, what will be your main priorities regarding the development of the firm over the next few years?
My main priority is to develop our corporate immigration practice, but I also hope to put together a textbook, for use internally and then perhaps for publication.
What advice would you give to younger practitioners who hope to one day be in your position?
Young legal practitioners need to combine a thirst for academic legal knowledge and the practical application of that knowledge. Develop your accuracy with everything you do. The answer does not lie in computers (they are a tool). It lies in the application of your knowledge in the pursuit of the interests of your client. Even when specialising, however, keep a careful eye on collateral developments in related areas of the law.
Looking back over your practice, what have you been the most proud of?
Mentoring and watching my juniors morph into leading members of the legal profession. I have also been enormously proud of helping our many individual clients in their pursuit of a better life or in the advancement of their talents to the benefit of our country.
According to Bloomberg, New Zealand has witnessed a recent surge in its net immigration, reaching just under 70,000 people in the year through April. How do you envisage the country’s immigration policy developing over the next few years in response to this?
Much of the current surge has arisen because of the high number of Kiwis returning to New Zealand from Australia and elsewhere, adding to the number of arrivals under our immigration programmes. Our immigration programmes will continue to target skilled individuals and corporate personnel involved in the setting up and expansion of businesses in New Zealand. I see a reduction in family and a reduction in study-to-work-to-residence, with, however, a focus on work-to-residence programmes where there are occupational shortages. I see IT and highly skilled positions taking over service (hospitality) immigration. Where there is a shortage I see the authorities focusing on attracting young immigrants and their families.
How would you describe the competition in the market at the moment, and how do you differentiate yourself from other practices?
A lot of our work comes from the larger law firms in New Zealand that do not have a corporate immigration division. Often this involves working alongside project developments or secondments involving large multinational companies sending specialists into New Zealand. I have a major concern and that is where occasionally a senior practitioner thinks that by opening up the Immigration Act that they will be able to navigate the complexities that lie ahead for an immigration case. However, that is rarer now because I think it is better understood in the profession (it once was not so understood) that immigration is a specialist area. An internship at Ryken & Associates lasts three to five years. Even after two-and-a-half decades on the job, I am still learning, becoming more efficient and adapting to new challenges. I think my success is enhanced by the fact that I now have a sound group of colleagues working with me who have gone through their internship training successfully and I am able to divide out the work appropriately. I think our practice is differentiated by the collective expertise and the focus on the work that we do.