If David Farnsworth was a car he’d be a Landrover – not a flash new one, but a classic in mint condition that has stood the test of time. Like the Landrover he’s of solid character, can handle different environments and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Now nearing a well-earned retirement, David can look back on a career that spans half a century.
When he was starting his Law degree President John F Kennedy was still alive, mankind had not yet reached the moon and New Zealand still had pounds and pence. Looking back over his nearly 50 year career the common thread has been change – and an increasing pace of change. “Society and the legal profession have changed hugely, but people haven’t changed. Most of the law I practice still centres on relationships, money and health.”
Relationships were what first attracted him to undertake a law degree at the University of Canterbury back in 1963. “I was always a people person so Law seemed a good fit.” And it’s his people skills, his care and respect for his clients, which has kept them with him and Pitt & Moore for over 30 years.
David grew up in Christchurch and was a boarder at St Andrew’s College. After he’d completed his Law degree he went to work for a legal firm in Australia before following the All Blacks on tour to Africa. The short break ended up being a two year working holiday where he drove safari tours – Landrovers of course – for a British company. He then worked in London for a Law firm before the travel bug consumed him again and he journeyed to Russia and then South-east Asia on a slow return to his career and life back in Christchurch.
In the mid 70’s he met Jay, his wife, built up his legal experience and started a family. When the wanderlust returned early in the ‘80s he and Jay opted for a change and took the opportunity to join the team at Pitt & Moore in Nelson. Within two short years he became a partner and a decade on, 1992 he became a Notary Public. On his retirement David is proud to say he’s clocked up 32 years with the same firm. “To be honest, living in Nelson has always felt a bit like being on a permanent holiday. I’ve really enjoyed the people I’ve worked alongside and my clients so it’s not been a very arduous three decades.”
David has specialised in estates, wills and trusts because he liked the constructive nature of the work. His most satisfying career highlights are around getting positive results. His work assisting The Suter to overhaul its governance structure was one of those. “The Suter is a very old institution that our firm has worked with for many years and to help it transition to becoming a modern art gallery for Nelson it needed to change its governance. We helped bring about the legislative change needed for Nelson City Council to take over ownership. That work we did, alongside many others, has secured The Suter’s future and I’m proud of that.”
In his time in Law, he says the biggest change has been in communication. “When I first came to Nelson we still had to log toll calls through an operator. Documents were posted between cities and that was when there was still a stretch of unsealed gravel on the road from Nelson to Christchurch. It’s amazing how much things have changed.” David says sending documents via computers has transformed the speed at which information can be relayed. “That speed has been a bit of a double-edged sword as lawyers now are more pressured than they were last century. The expectation from clients now is that if they send an email they’ll get a pretty immediate response, so there’s less time to dwell on things.”
And reflecting on change his other observation is that in terms of legislation, things have got more complicated. “Not only is there more legislation but the legislation itself is more complicated.”
Looking back at his time at Pitt & Moore, David is pleased to have been part of these fast-moving decades. “I’ve always liked to think that we’ve been at the forefront of changes in the legal area – both technological and in terms of how we manage our practice. I think that’s some of the reason why we have managed to keep so many long-term clients satisfied.”
David leaves Pitt & Moore confident that the team has a successful formula for keeping clients happy. “We’ve always realised we need to keep adapting. Our clients and the marketplace are adapting all the time so we have to as well.”
Respected as a gentle, intelligent, humorous and caring man, David Farnsworth will be missed by his colleagues and clients but their loss is his family’s gain. David intends to enjoy his grandchildren and with his wife, indulge in his passion for travel. “When I look back at my career there’s been a lot of change – but it’s all been really positive.”