Meet the MC Centre.
for the best litigators.
As part of our growth strategy, MC has invested in our new MC Centre in Auckland.
Watch the video here about the new MC Centre, designed to be the workplace of choice for Aotearoa’s most talented litigators.
Want to join MC? Email Cushla Hill in our People team.
Te Reo Māori
“From the start, this project was different. It was less about impressing clients, and all about making this the best place for the best young lawyers and all our team to choose to work. And the brief was to celebrate contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand.” – Kylie Mooney, former MC Chief Executive and Project Leader
Who is MC?
MC is New Zealand’s largest litigation firm, by far. With around 160 litigators and 90 support staff, it is estimated to be at least five times the size of its nearest rival. MC prides itself on being the best training ground for the Crown Solicitors, QCs, judges and corporate litigators of the future.
For over 100 years, MC has been the Office of the Crown Solicitor at Auckland. Former Attorney-General Hon. Christopher Finlayson QC described it as Aotearoa New Zealand’s most enduring and most successful Public-Private Partnership. Current Attorney-General Hon. David Parker says it is “the repository of specialist knowledge that’s accrued from working for the Crown through the generations”.
Today’s MC is a blended firm. All its litigators in its 40-strong Crown Specialist Group have opportunities to litigate on commercial and other civil matters. Except for a small number of specialists, all its remaining 120 litigators spend around 20% of their time on criminal prosecution. This ensures the Crown has available to it a huge resource of litigators to prosecute criminal cases, with expertise in every area of the law – while keeping prosecutorial decisions separate from politicians.
What does MC do?
By far the majority of MC’s work and revenue in both Auckland and Wellington now comes from general litigation which doesn’t fall under its Crown Warrant as Office of the Crown Solicitor at Auckland.
Nevertheless, MC’s expertise in public-interest law means a major share of this general litigation and other legal work comes from central and local government. Significant public sector clients include the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Markets Authority, the Commerce Commission, MBIE, the Ministry of Education, Worksafe and the NZ Police.
MC’s public-sector work means it may be conflicted out of working for participants in industries of interest to government agencies. MC therefore tends not to work for major banks, telcos, large supermarket chains or the extractive industries. Instead, MC’s commercial clients tend to lean more towards plaintiffs, such as the victims of the Ross Asset Management ponzi scheme who sued ANZ.
Why did MC build the MC Centre?
Strong growth in the mid- to late-2010s meant MC outgrew its Auckland offices, of 3500m2 in Graham Street, despite only moving in as recently as 2016.
By 2019, MC had to choose whether to cap numbers, accommodate growth by leasing additional office space, or move to a new site. The partners opted for continued growth and MC aims to have a team of 300 by the beginning of 2023 and to continue growing thereafter.
But the efficiency gains and cultural benefits from being on one floor since 2016 meant MC wanted still to be able to operate out of one workspace with a team of 300, 350 and beyond.
As a very first step, Managing Partner Steve Haszard and Chief Executive Kylie Mooney asked David Lambie of TwentyTwo Independent Property Advisers to show them the most innovative new office spaces in Australia and New Zealand.
“David was instrumental in helping develop and bring to life our vision for Graham Street five years ago and was the first expert we called for our next step up,” Steve Haszard says. “David and the TwentyTwo team are extraordinarily well connected in the commercial property industries on both sides of the Tasman, meaning we could get access to and draw on ideas from the newest and most innovative office spaces in Australasia.”
To ensure MC continues to operate as one integrated team as it grows over the decade ahead, Mansons came up with a brilliant solution, offering MC the chance to become the cornerstone tenant of the new MC Centre at 8 Hardinge St, across a single interconnected workspace of 5500m2.
“Mansons was a fantastic partner from the very beginning.” Kylie Mooney says. “We were also brilliantly supported throughout construction and fit out by our project manager The Building Intelligence Group, our engineers Calibre Group and Agile Engineering, and our interior construction team, Impact Interiors. And our quantity surveyors BBD were instrumental in us paying much less for the MC Centre than we budgeted, but getting much more than we first dreamed.”
What was MC’s brief?
For lead architects, MC chose Jasmax, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s leading multi-disciplinary design practices, with a reputation for approaching each project with open minds and a determination to exceed expectations. MC’s brief was to celebrate contemporary Aotearoa and to ensure MC’s offices would be completely different from any other major New Zealand law firm.
The first decision MC took was that Te Tiriti o Waitangi, from which it derives legitimacy as Office of the Crown Solicitor at Auckland, would be featured at the heart of the new MC Centre. Consultation with MC’s Te Tauhere Manaaki emphasised that He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni must also be recognised as the document supporting Te Tiriti.
MC sees itself as in competition with other large Australasian and global law firms – not so much for clients but for talent. It’s more detailed design brief was therefore that the new MC Centre must primarily appeal to New Zealand’s best legal talent in their 20s and 30s.
“Our brief was that our current and future staff should be assured they are operating out of the very best work environment in Aotearoa New Zealand, and Jasmax and the whole team, delivered,” Kylie Mooney says.
But she emphasises the competition doesn’t end there.
“We believe it is important as many of our team are in the office each day. In the modern professional-services industry, where people are working in the office, up at the court, with a client, at home or wherever works best for them, we need them to actually want to be in the office each day.
“That means we’re not just competing with other law firms. In the 2020s, we have finally reached that long-promised place where the office must compete with home, the local café and even the local park or beach as a place for people to meet their employment obligations in the professional services industries. There’s no doubt the MC Centre will compete successfully with every other work option, every day.”
Being the Best
As New Zealand’s premium litigation firm, MC invests more than any other in training. The MC Centre boasts a full training courtroom designed exactly like a courtroom at the Auckland High Court – the only training courtroom of its type in Australasia and perhaps unique in the world.
“The people who want to work for us are those who decided to go to Law School because they wanted to be court lawyer and work directly with clients,” Steve Haszard says. “At MC, we aim for all our lawyers to appear in court within a few months of starting here, and the ‘first appearance’ is a major rite of passage for our team.”
But Steve Haszard says no one is thrown in the deep end, the way litigators may have been a generation ago.
“We invest an enormous amount in training not just for own our needs but for the profession,” he says. “Our newer lawyers learn directly from our top team, before they first have to say ‘may it please your honour’ as a junior counsel before a judge, supported by someone much more experienced. MC is about today’s best litigators training and passing on their knowledge and expertise to the Crown Solicitors, QCs, judges and corporate litigators of the future.”
In addition to the courtroom, MC’s commitment to training means the MC Centre features two large seminar rooms, a law library and a dedicated IT training room.
Trees, coffee and Kiwi-made fittings
Early on, Jasmax responded to MC’s brief to celebrate contemporary Aotearoa with the idea of terrariums, celebrating New Zealand’s natural environment. Staff had said they valued the large number of plants in MC’s Graham Street office and Jasmax suggested taking that idea to the next level by centralising them into the terrariums, to create a true native bush feel, evoking the Waitakere Ranges to the west of Auckland.
The terrariums have been brought to life and are professionally maintained by Auckland’s Outside In, which specialises in merging nature and design.
“Outside In has created spaces unlike any in any other New Zealand office space,” Kylie Mooney says. “They are places of work and business, and also sometimes online courtrooms in today’s Covid world. But they are also places of tranquillity and connection with nature, and all our team uses them every day.”
Also taken to the next level are the staff café and kitchen which had become the heart of MC at Graham Street. For the new MC Centre, MC brought in hospitality-sector interior designers Burning Red to ensure its new staff café, Te Kāuta, would be the equal of any café on Ponsonby Road or Cuba Mall. Burning Red also worked on the firm’s heritage area, next to Te Kāuta and outside the training court, a nod to MC’s 100-year history.
“Burning Red delivered us an exceptional café space that is not just where people go to eat and hang out, but also choose to work in teams or individually on their laptops,” Steve Haszard says.
Throughout the office, MC required that New Zealand suppliers be used wherever possible, and over two-thirds of all furnishings were supplied by Kiwi providers, including Autex Acoustics, Zenith Interiors, IMO Group, Tim Webber Design and Harrows.
Brightest and boldest
At the same time, MC’s brand agency, Saturday, was working to refresh MC’s identity.
“We had taken a major step in 2016 from our ‘old leather books’ feel to being bright and bold. The positive response from our team and clients meant we felt confident to work with Saturday on an even more audacious brand identity, while still emphasising the credibility that comes with being around for over 100 years. Saturday delivered our brief magnificently to push the boundaries of how a law firm presents itself, just as we wanted,” Steve Haszard says.
Collaboration between Saturday, Burning Red and Jasmax saw Te Kāuta and the whole office make the most of MC’s bold new visual identity, including a 12-colour palette. In Te Kāuta, art by Charles and Janine Williams celebrates Aotearoa’s natural environment from before the arrival of the first waka to the present day.
Working the way that works for you
The main work areas in the MC Centre are six “neighbourhoods” around the themes of Land, People, Exploration & Immigration, Diversity, Enterprise & the Human Mind and Capital, the things we build to make the things we value.
Six contemporary New Zealand artists identified by Saturday were commissioned to provide their interpretation on the themes: Israel Tangaroa Birch (land); Xoë Hall (people); Yuki Kihara, Aotearoa’s representative at the 2022 Venice Biennale (exploration and immigration); Evan Woodruffe (diversity), Mary-Louise Browne (enterprise and the human mind) and Michael Hight (capital). Saturday’s creativity gave further expression to the neighbourhood themes through impactful graphics and uplifting illustrative language.
MC has more than 20 practice areas so that several, usually related, operate out of each neighbourhood.
No one at MC has an office. Instead, everyone has their own desk in one of the neighbourhoods, with partners located with and working directly with their teams. And everyone, from the newest intern to the Crown Solicitor, has the same adjustable sit-to-stand Zenith Rumba desk and Zenith Belite ergonomic chair, as well as the same IT equipment including laptop, oversized curved screen and Jabra noise-cancelling headset.
Each neighbourhood has its own collaboration rooms, designedfor internal meetings, client meetings and AVL court appearances. As well as AVL for court appearances, virtual meetings can be held via either Zoom or Teams. There are also meeting rooms and conversation areas throughout the terrariums.
Additionally, each neighbourhood has two enclosed phone booths for confidential phone calls, as well as a nearby concentration space, for silent, focussed work. The desks in the concentration spaces are fitted with wide-screen monitors to allow seamlessly transition between an individual’s workstation and the concentration spaces.
MC has a casual dress policy. Everyone has a locker and access to dressing rooms so that they can change quickly for court or to meet a new client.
MC has opted for a 100% wifi solution so there is no cabling on any desk – but, even more important, so that people can pick up their laptop and work wherever in the MC Centre works best for them, from the complete silence of a concentration space to the hustle and bustle of Te Kāuta.
“Great IT suppliers are like great rugby referees,” Kylie Mooney says. “It may not be fair, but the better they are, the less anyone talks about them. Thanks to the world-leading knowledge, equipment and expertise provided by Provision Technologies and Kordia, our team haven’t really thought about IT again since the day we moved in. Everything has worked superbly with everyone working the way that works best for them.”
This includes all access to the building and office being via a smartphone app, people wirelessly casting onto screens in collab and meeting rooms, and a big screen located above Te Kauta serving as an effective communication tool to staff and visitors.
Well, well, well
Like an increasing number of commercial properties, the MC Centre has a six-star rating under the New Zealand Green Building Council’s Green Star programme.
But MC has taken a bolder and more holistic approach to wellbeing by seeking to become New Zealand’s first professional services firm to achieve WELL v2 Certification from the International WELL Building Institute.
That required it to provide evidence and in some cases make improvements to meet standards measuring 108 different features covering ten concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community. MC aims for platinum certification.
An example is Autex Acouistics® helping achieve the 'Sound' feature of WELL certification, providing a range of acoustic products for a variety of work spaces within the MC Centre.
“The very nature of our work means noise reduction is critically important to us, and Autex has delivered a solution that gives all our team confidence,” Steve Haszard says.
As a result of dozens of such initiatives, MC is not just the first law firm and organisation in New Zealand to receive WELL precertification, but the first law firm in the entire Asia Pacific region to meet that test.
“Norman, Disney & Young were crucial to us being first in the Asia Pacific and being able to say this is the workplace in New Zealand that is most focussed on the wellbeing of its team,” Kylie Mooney says.
WELL served as a measure against which MC could assess how well it supports staff wellbeing, whether in the design layout, or the policies and procedures that underpin the different work spaces.
“With all WELL standards being evidence-based, our partners could see the business case for every one of the improvements we made. We were acting on hard science, not the latest reckons,” Kylie Mooney says.
MC’s offices feature a wellness area, comprising a parents’ room, retreat room and reflection room. The parents’ room is equipped with feeding chair, change table, microwave and sink. The retreat room is intended for those who are feeling overwhelmed or unwell. The reflection room has been designed as a space for silent prayer and meditation for MCers of all faiths and none, and includes a Wudu wash facility for those who are Muslim.
As with all meeting rooms and collab rooms, the rooms in the wellness area can be booked in advance by the user through Microsoft Outlook, or can be automatically booked with the touch of button located on the screen outside each room, ensuring both privacy and certainty of availability.
Also reflective of WELL and Green Star requirements, the MC Centre features enhanced bike parking and storage areas, exceptional end-of-trip facilities, including showers and lockers, and e-bike / e-scooter charging stations.
With the continual evolution of Covid guidelines and requirements, including vaccine mandates and passes, all mc staff are fully vaccinated, and masks, hand sanitiser and rapid antigen tests are available to everyone as they need.
And the result?
The long Auckland lockdown in the latter half of 2021 delayed the move to the MC Centre from September to November of that year. When it was allowed again, staff were rostered to come in and unpack their boxes for a day. They didn’t want to leave.
“For the first few weeks, so many people wanted to come in, we had to take extra care we were complying level 3 Covid rules,” Steve Haszard says.
And Kylie Mooney says the novelty hasn’t worn off. “We are reminded every day that everyone met their brief, when we look around and see all our team at work, working in all the different spaces, and working in the way that works best for them. It’s what we asked for, and all our suppliers delivered as a team, better than we ever imagined.”