Force of nature: Todd & Walker Law consultant Graeme Todd, left, with partners, from left, Louise Denton, Pete Sygrove and Michael Walker

The man affectionately known as ‘Toddy’ has left the building — but only temporarily.

When Todd & Walker Law partner and co-founder Graeme Todd returns from his overseas jaunt, though, he’ll be continuing as a part-time consultant — three days a week — for the firm.

Partner Michael Walker says the transition’s been planned ever since the pair officially joined forces, on April 1, 2017.

‘‘From a strategic perspective, we’ve had independent facilitators and experts come in and work through this, and I think we’ve been pretty deliberate about what the next chapter’s going to look like for the firm.

‘‘In terms of a succession plan for what was a sole practitioner … it has been like a masterclass.’’

Walker notes many lawyers struggle with succession as they near the end of their careers, because they haven’t invested enough in the next generation to ensure they’re ready to support existing clients through the next stage.

‘‘Everyone’s got their flaws, but it would be very, very difficult to criticise Graeme in terms of what he’s achieved, and what was achieved, collectively, over the past six or seven years,’’ Walker says.

Originally from Invercargill, Todd spent the first two years of his career in Dunedin before moving to Queenstown in 1981, becoming just the fourth lawyer in the resort.

He spent almost 30 years as a partner of Macalister Todd Phillips, which subsequently became Mactodd, before he went out on his own in 2011, with legal executive Andrea Gilbert, to form GTodd Law.

By the time Todd & Walker Law was established, the firm had grown to eight.

Walker started the litigation side, then Louise Denton and Pete Sygrove came on board — they were promoted to partners on April 1, 2020 — and a Wānaka office, headed by partner Ben King, was established in 2018.

Over the hill: Todd & Walker Law’s Wānaka head, partner Ben King

The firm now employs 41 people, including a host of Queenstown born-and-raised professionals, such as Molly Beauchamp, Jessica Weinberg, Katie Hensman, Ashley Dawson-Swale and Tessa Marchand, something Todd’s particularly proud of.

Walker: ‘‘[The firm] is pretty well poised now to make sure that there is a machine, or a large team, around [Todd’s] whole client base.

‘‘There is genuine depth in the senior ranks with Laura McPhail, Rosie Hill, Jessica Weinberg, Sarah Ogilvie and Ben Gresson, who are all brilliant lawyers in their specialist areas.

‘‘There are a lot of clients that he’s serviced for the past 45-odd years — it’s quite staggering to see how many long-term clients Graeme’s acquired.’’

And while the succession planning’s been a masterclass for those involved, Todd’s also provided his own masterclass, daily, to young lawyers he’s mentored.

‘‘Graeme’s certainly got quite a rare gift, as a lawyer, to be able to take really, really complicated subject matter or material and just distill it down and be able to articulate [it] in very simple terms to any organisation, court or client,’’ Walker says.

‘‘If people don’t understand, it’s pretty hard for them to follow and agree with you.

‘‘For me, that’s probably one of the rarest gifts you see, and what distinguishes between a good and great lawyer, in my opinion.’’

Todd’s enjoying his well-earned holiday with wife, Jane, before returning to his new role in a couple of months.

‘‘It’s not that he’s retiring,’’ Walker says, ‘‘it’s a step in the direction of retirement.’’

It’s fair to say Todd’s more than earned a wee part-time gig, but Walker quips ‘‘let’s just see how ‘wee’ and ‘part-time’ it is.

‘‘There’s only one person that can control that, really,’’ he chuckles.

As to whether or not the firm will look to change its name, Walker says it’s been talked about before — ‘‘watch this space’’.

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