Henderson Reeves isn’t your typical law firm. Forget the harmful culture of excessive “work hard, play hard” – at this Auckland law office in Rosebank Road, the hard work is certainly there, but the vibe is all about collaboration, work-life balance, and lots of laughs.
“Our vision is that we are happy people providing high-quality legal services, making happy clients,” says director Shelley Funnell, co-founder of the Auckland branch of Henderson Reeves.
“Hard work is a given, so happy is our main goal,” adds co-founder and fellow director Taina Henderson. “We’ve created jobs where we get to have fun, we work with great people, and we hope to create a balance where we have lives as well.”
After over four decades in law and with a reputation for excellent service, Henderson Reeves was already known for having a happy, engaged, and long-serving team when Shelley and Taina approached the Whangarei-based firm about starting an Auckland office. Having met at another big city firm, both were busy lawyers before taking a ten-year hiatus to have children.
Despite going to law school, Taina entered the field “never meaning to be a lawyer.” “I took a job with my dad so I could save up for my OE,” she recounts. By the time she left for overseas a year later, she was hooked on the law.
Shelley had a stellar trajectory once she’d decided the law was her calling. After getting a taste of the law while training as a Quantity Surveyor , she moved from her hometown of Hamilton to Wellington and put herself through uni in law and accounting, where she obtained first class honours and placed top in many of her classes. She was recruited to the Auckland firm where Taina later joined her, and their friendship became a steadfast one marked by parallel milestones. They both enjoyed a stint practicing law in Europe—overseas at the same time, but in different cities. They both left to have children—each having four—and settled into life as Playcentre mums in different suburbs.
During that time they met regularly to discuss a new way of doing law.
“The law isn’t a great model of balancing work and life with motherhood,” says Taina. “We didn’t want to go back to the traditional law firm model where you and your client drive hours into the city with all the parking issues.” In 2016, when the youngest of their children were about to start school, the timing was right, and Shelley and Taina approached Henderson Reeves about starting an Auckland branch with a more flexible, balanced way of working.
“When we first started, we were working from home,” Taina recalls. “We had Priuses and tried to build a different model.”
They focused on their initial product—Smart Move Conveyancing—and hit the road, meeting with clients at their homes to provide a well-packaged fixed-price conveyancing service. Between them, says Shelley, “we had a wealth of experience that really helped us” as they grew their legal offering.
Shelley, a former high-flying finance lawyer now passionate about businesses, property and estate planning “is good at cutting through complexity,” says Taina. “Showing the client how things fit together. And she always brings the fun. We nicely balance each other, since Shelley is a numbers nerd.”
“I love documents,” laughs Shelley. “Preparing documents, and reading documents, doing transactions…almost the more stressful the better! I like to make things as simple as possible for the client, and that means explaining it the way I’d explain it to my friend.”
Taina, who is drawn to relationship property, pre-nup type agreements, helping people to sort out a division of assets, spousal maintenance and disputes, is “very thorough,” describes Shelley. “She’s like a dog with a bone with a legal issue and really thinks things through, taking the time to go the extra mile for clients. She remembers everything, and that’s really useful when giving legal advice. I would choose her as my lawyer if I were going through a separation. Actually, I did!”
The two-woman, Auckland based operation has now grown into a 10 strong Auckland based team. Henderson Reeves operates as one whole firm of over 70 people across Auckland and Whangarei, with shared resources. With their use of technology and quick adaptation to new processes (like remote meetings and digi signing) they have been able to continue that innovation.
They have specialists in every main area of law: residential and commercial property, civil and family litigation, employment, commercial, wills and estates, agribusiness, and more. They moved into their Rosebank Road office just before Christmas last year.
“Everyone is approachable and friendly,” says Shelley. “We’re really invested in our clients. The whole firm really values their individuality, and there’s quite a flat structure. We’re very collaborative.”
“Sometimes it’s a hard job,” Taina admits. “You have to end up laughing together and crying together. It’s really supportive and fun, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.” Noting her favourite part of their firm’s values, she says: “Our whole truly is greater than the sum of our parts.”
The friendly team at Henderson Reeves welcomes anyone needing a stellar lawyer and excellent legal services, to drop in during office hours at their office on Level 1, 703 Rosebank Road.