What a great honor to have as guest speaker to my Masters class, a barrister from New Zealand, Tim Russell. He talked for about an hour to my eager students, half of whom are majoring in law, doing a kind of Q&A with them. I was proud of my students for asking Tim some GREAT questions.
Tim Russell studied for his law degree in Cambridge, England and followed his father’s dream to be a lawyer. His father had been a successful banker after having not been able to pursue his own schooling because of fighting in WWII. Tim found that the study of law was quite detail oriented. He practiced for 7 years. Even if you are not in law but doing business in any country, you need to know something about law in contracts and what agreements between two parties really say
When asked about the most interesting business deal, Tim said when he worked for an organization where there were fruit and vegetables being produced in New Zealand and he was lobbying for it not to be so government controlled that the extra produce could be sold to other private markets. He was dealing with the “nashi” industry or a Japanese kind of round pear. He worked in Ackland (similar to Almaty) and the capital of New Zealand is Wellington (like Astana)
He was interested in changing the public policy that didn’t suit the current situation anymore, things had changed from 30 years earlier where he was lobbying the government to change the law about this particular fruit so it could be sold privately.
There is a difference between the role of judiciary in New Zealand, the judges are independent of the political structure, justice for everybody. Tim claimed that having an independent judiciary is fundamental. If anyone has a chance to study in a western law program, he recommended, take the opportunity
Tim admitted that he obtained a “Sportsman’s degree” from Cambridge as his real passion was rugby and rowing. His real academic background, prior to law school, had been in history, he was interested in the broad sweep of the past which meant memorizing facts and dates but he preferred the Big Picture of the subject of history
“Devil is in the detail” – in law you must have an aptitude for detail and be aware of the exceptions to the rule, the variations. As a student you must concentrate and focus on the details. One piece of advice for law students, “when you take a case to court, never leave yourself short of time.”
Tim had a high school friend who was a barrister or a senior court lawyer “Queen’s council” He said that there are six streams during the school years and this friend of his was in the second to bottom stream. However, he worked very hard (came from a dairy farm) and he became a successful lawyer because he prepared for every case as if he was a desparate graduate student needing to pass an exam.
His significant work paid off, he defended the doctors and dentists in medical negligence cases. This took enormous commitment on his part to work hard and he didn’t win every case. It was his hard work and focus on detail that led to his success.
Why did you come to Kazakhstan?
Tim was interested in the 1989 Berlin Wall coming down and wanted to work in some post-communist country. By 2006, there was someone he knew that directed him to Kyiv, then that organization sent him to Moscow which finally led him to Kazakhstan with a job opening. He believed that Central Asia was the “last frontier.” This was a “global geopolitical reality” for him and his family to finally come to Kazakhstan in 2007.
He told the masters students to be patient with the democratization of Kazakhstan because it is said that England has the oldest democracy but it goes back to 1216 with the signing of the Magna Carta when barons gave over their power for the common people to have more of a say in their government.
What about “playing the devil’s advocate?” It is a metaphor and shows that there are at least two sides to an argument. If one has a robust discussion, one will take the opposing view to test the quality and rigor of the others’ thinking. There are two sides to a story in most cases.
What about the Nuremburg trials? Senior German officers, such as the #2 guy Geren (sp) was hung for his war crimes. Churchill understood what the Allies attitude should be toward defeated Germany after WWII. Churchill knew that it was not the German people but the Nazis who had carried out the atrocities. He knew that there were serious mistakes made after WWI when savage penalties were meted out to the defeated Germans which eventually created the Depression and other symptoms that eventually brought on WWII. The Allies understood that a quick restoration of the German nation was needed, they knew they had to move on and yet justice had to be done for those responsible with the war crimes.
An example of this is in South Africa after apartheid where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up. This was after 40 million blacks had been treated as 2nd class citizens under a white minority for many years. Mandela knew that seeking revenge would not help build the nation but rather he spent the next 10 years helping to identify the people who were the perpetrators and give them a chance to say “sorry” so that the healing of the nation could go on. Mandela helped set up the process so the nation would not be ripped apart with further misery and bloodshed.
“Justice should always be blind” though we live in an imperfect and flawed world.
Is justice the same as law?
There is British Common Law where precedence in an earlier case helps decide a current case in court, former judgments help to guide a judge on how to rule.
There is Roman Law which are set by statute, driven by law.
Tim commented “Let law evolve naturally.”
What about corruption? New Zealand, Denmark and another country are considered the least corrupt of all countries in the world. No bribe is given or taken to a public official or police officer. Both would be put in prison if found out. Of course here in KZ there are cultural and historical reasons for it due to the Soviet Union, etc. How to resolve the problem of corruption? Have intolerance for it by saying, “We won’t play the game.” Have courage to swim against the tide. Rosa Parks as a young 16 year old black girl refused to sit in the back of the bus. This was the spark that Martin Luther King needed. This helped to accelerate the change that happened for blacks.
As future KZ government employees say, “We want it to be different.” But do it non-violently. Evolutionary vs. revolutionary
Mahatma Ghandi was a role model of passive resistance. He said, “This is wrong” and stood against it.
What about the word “Kiwi” is that an offensive word? No, Tim said New Zealanders wear it with pride. Back in the 1950s they were producing a fruit known as Chinese gooseberries and it was exported to CA. The Americans asked what it was called and since back then with Mao Tse Tung, it wasn’t popular to be called Chinese, so the thought of the bird kiwi and the producers called it kiwi fruit. If they had patented the name, they could have made much money, but it became a generic name. So, now it started with the bird native to only New Zealand, to the people being called that to a name of a fruit. Kiwi!!!