Several have asked what I do in my role as Area Legal Counsel for the Pacific Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Let me give you a little view into a typical day for me. WARNING – details follow. Read only what interests you!
Our routine each day usually means waking up without an alarm at 6 am. Why? It could be the result of doing my best to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. I can – for the first time in my memory – just pop out of bed, wide awake and ready for the day. It is a refreshing change.
After daily preparations, a bit of stretching, and some planning and ponder time, Julie and I have breakfast while often listening to a talk, and read the scriptures. I zip a stylish blue soft-sided insulated lunch bag into my backpack full of the wonderful lunch Julie has made, and I am out the door right around 7 am for my daily walk to work. My brisk 8-10 minute walk takes me past a few shops and restaurants still shuttered for the night, across a parking lot next to the local movie theater, by the City rose garden and the local Burger King, past the bus stops and the Hospice Shop where Julie volunteers to the corner of Lake and Huron Street. I turn the corner and walk the remaining 1/2 block to the 4 story (ground floor plus 3) Area Office building of the Church.
I discovered that my day is broken into three parts. We are currently 18 hours ahead or 6 hours behind the headquarters staff in Salt Lake City (SLC) if you go west instead of east around the world – so it is the next day. When it is 8 am in Auckland on Tuesday morning, it is 2 pm on Monday afternoon in Utah. That means when I need to work with people in SLC, I need to do so before 11 am my time. The second part of each day is the work I do with the people in my time zone. That work usually needs to be completed by 3:30 – 4:00 pm due to many starting early (around 7 am) to avoid traffic and then heading home about 8 hours later. Sometime during that middle part of the day I try to break out my lunch at my desk. The third part my day is working with those in time zones in our Pacific Area that are behind me – like Australia. They are 2 hours behind me so I find myself bunching my calls with them in the late afternoon. By the time it is 6 pm in New Zealand it is only 4 pm in Australia. Thus I have to be really disciplined not to routinely spend 12 hour days at the office. (Julie reminds me that I can also work from home AFTER dinner.)
I do have some self-imposed limits since Julie and I play pickleball every Tuesday night from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Browns Bay community recreation center about 25 minutes north of us, and since we just started a 12-week “Eat Healthy and Be Active” course together from 6:30 – 8:30 pm on Thursdays. Julie teaches an English class to non-native speakers on Wednesday nights, so that is my catch up day. I do my best to get home by 9 pm when she does (but always before 10 pm). We try to do something with others on the weekends and spend every Monday evening together, so that gives us some guaranteed together time. The dream when we arrived was to walk Takapuna Beach daily. We have had to adjust that dream due to winter weather, high tides, and matters that demand immediate attention. However, usually a week does not go by without at least one walk together hand in hand along the arching sandy and very beautiful Takapuna Beach.
Finally, what kind of work am I doing? It is varied and constant. I am very indebted to the four AALCs, their spouses, and the two legal coordinators who work with me for their support. Essentially we have a small law firm with all the attendant administrative work to “keep the trains running on time” – processing bills, managing and follow up on active matters and the outside counsel we use, training, staff meetings, etc. Our goal is to get quality legal work done in a timely way, in great measure through the labor of local counsel in each of the 17 countries we serve. Thought I have not counted, I am told we use about 60-70 different law firms. Given the size of Australia and New Zealand and the specialties needed in each, we use about 20 law firms in just those two countries.
On my first day I picked up the negotiation of a logistics and transportation services agreement for the shipment and distribution of goods through New Zealand ports to the the other countries in the Area. Since then I have dealt with legal issues involving employment, employee benefits, risk management, litigation, human rights violations, data privacy, corporate maintenance and agency questions, child protection, religious liberty legislation, humanitarian project funding and structuring, a large residential plat development, commercial contracting involving purchasing, operations and maintenance of facilities, and a wide variety of real estate transactions. One thing I have learned is that in many of the islands it is not possible to purchase fee title due to the majority being classified as “customary lands” owned by tribes and families. Thus we have a lot of long term leases. It is fun to learn about new legal systems with the help of very able local counsel. Having French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Vanuatu in our Area adds the spice of French Civil Law into the mix of the common law of the British Commonwealth.
The work is challenging, engaging and fulfilling. We feel blessed to be here and can see the positive results of the work we do in the lives of the people we serve.