Lawyers hold court in the stands, on the field and in the citing room

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 March, 2010, 12:00am

The problem with lawyer jokes is that lawyers don't think they're funny, and other people don't think they're jokes.

Jokes aside, legal eagles who are a dab hand at rugby include 1991 World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jones and All Black Conrad Smith.

Eric Rush and Francois Pienaar both did their bar exams and pupilage at the bar (to become barristers), although Pienaar ended up working as a banker and 'Rushie' as a solicitor.

Hong Kong has its own 'union of lawyers'. Rowan Varty, who has followed in the career footsteps of his mother (a barrister), was recently awarded a place at law firm Tanner De Witt.

Says partner Ian De Witt: 'We've kept a place open for Rowan. We've encouraged him to concentrate on his rugby career as long as he can, and then start his training contract with us.'

Tanner De Witt has a certain rugby bent. Signed rugby jerseys hang in the firm's reception area. Instead of the usual music on their phone system, songs of the Sevens liven up the on-hold time.

The legal fraternity was well represented in the stadium this weekend, including Holman Fenwick Willan's Pete Spizzirri. Apart from playing in the HKFC Tens this week, the Chicago-born loosehead prop is into his eighth year on the Hong Kong national 15s team. And he has his sights set on the Asian Five Nations.

Minter Ellison's head of infrastructure practice Sam Farrands was over in the Leighton Asia box on the west side. The veteran of the Clean Half (a 15km swimming race from Shek O to Deepwater Bay) was swimming in a sea of gold shirts worn by Hamish Tyrwhitt and managing director Ian Edwards, executive general manager and the Leighton team.

Some firms prove that the legal world can be altruistic. Tanner De Witt sponsors an orphanage in the Philippines and helps street children, as well as contributing to the Philippine Rugby Board. Herbert Smith sponsors the HKCC rugby section.

Holding up the law fraternity's presence in the South Stand this year, Hannah Munns, an associate for Maples and Calder, was among the Valley 'Black Ladies' RFC dressed as construction workers.

New Zealander Peter Duncan, a former head of the HKRFU, is a barrister who has lived in Hong Kong for more than 25 years. 'This weekend, I'm on duty as the tournament's judicial officer - just in case there are any citings for foul play. Tournaments of this calibre now have a disciplinary process available.'