Hamilton lawyer's life: Work hard, play hard

23:01, Aug 17 2014
Matthew Bates
IN THE ZONE: Hamilton lawyer Matthew Bates is always thinking about work.

It's the last thing he thinks of before going to sleep and often the first thing when he wakes up. No, it's not what kind of car or CD he's going to buy - but that's probably not far off the list.

Work consumes the life of Hamilton lawyer Matthew Bates.

So it's only healthy that he has a few passions to keep the work-life balance in check.

As far as hobbies go, he summed his up in three words.

"Loud music, fighting and fast cars," he laughs.

Anyone who knows the lawyer of nearly 20 years will know by fighting he means martial arts; by fast cars, likely his penchant for HSVs. But as for loud music; well, the man is simply a bogan.


His love of thrash metal - Soulfly, Testament, Clutch - has taken him to music festivals all over the world. In June he flew to England for the Download festival then Hellfest in France.

But it's not to bang his head or drink till he's comatose like an 18-year-old.

"I like the energy, I like the atmosphere, I like seeing the different types of people, I like mixing in a crowd of all sorts, I've always liked that."

He admits to being the only one in his household with that music taste.

"If you were to sit in my car and flick through the CDs, you'd dislike all of them."

As for his love of "fighting", he means Tae Kwan Do.

"I don't mean street fighting, but I mean disciplined, structured and sanctioned in the context of a recognisable learning environment. I've always had an interest in martial arts, I think it's good for you."

He's so passionate about it, three of his four children have also trained in it.

"I wanted to start them in it for basic co-ordination, balance, flexibility and confidence, and it's obviously self defence too."

Bates, 43, was born in Levin but moved to Hamilton about 30 years ago.

He wasn't intending on following in the footsteps of his father, David, who is a former detective inspector-turned lawyer based in Tauranga.

"My main goal is to not ruin his good name," he jokes. "He's a good sort, dad."

Bates said he'd always worked since a teenager, but eventually decided he wanted a job to get further ahead, career wise. So, aged 20, he went to Waikato University, and knowing his dad had done pretty well, he chose law.

"I wasn't wanting to follow him, it was just a case of getting my act together."

He was admitted to the bar in 1996 before getting a job at Evans Bailey lawyers in Hamilton's CBD.

"They were great, I didn't want to leave them but then I decided it was time to go and work for myself and I have been barrister sole since 2002."

It's the thrill of not knowing what each day is going to hold that keeps him going.

"If nothing else, it's always interesting, it's definitely challenging. I wouldn't say it's easy at all."

He has branched off into other fields. He was the Waikato district inspector for mental health for five years, investigating complaints from patients in care facilities. He's also one of the few youth aid advocates; lawyers who are able to act for young people, 14 to 16, in the Youth Court.

Working in the field of law, there's not a lot of room for mistakes.

"I do genuinely care about the results I get for my clients, which means I probably spend too much time thinking about them.

"They're quite often the last thought at night and the first when I wake up . . . I think I'd be concerned if a lawyer turned up and wasn't worried about the result."

He doesn't have any support staff either, so he knows his files inside and out.

That means he's often working seven days a week, but having an office at home means he gets to spend time with family; wife, Liz, and children Zoe Bates, 13, Eden Bates, 15, and Jordan Armstrong, 20.

Oldest daughter, Sahri Armstrong, 22, lives in Auckland.

As for his love of cars, his most outlandish purchase would have to his bright orange Hummer which he says was due to getting his arm twisted by his kids.

It began with HSVs after stumbling on to Ebbett Holden's Hamilton yard many a year ago.

However, he recently swapped size for sensibility after picking up a supercharged, 3.0 Audi Quattro S5.

But he's uneasy about showing off any so-called wealth when he's appearing for clients that are sometimes on the other side of the ledger.

"I do work long hours, I do work hard, I really do care about the results I can get for my clients, then if I can make sure the bills are paid . . . and if I'm able to afford a nice car and I enjoy driving a nice car, then really it's that simple."

So Bates is happy with his lot; and appears to have struck that perfect balance between working hard and playing hard - or loud.

"I'm just going to keep doing this until retirement age."


Waikato Times