Harder to Mellower for Renegade

Posted in the Sunday Star Times - 20th March, 2010

MAVERICK LAWYER Christopher Harder was booted out of the courtroom five years ago this month – but the bad boy of Kiwi law is back.

The former barrister – whose colourful career included travelling the world offering to help solve international conflicts and representing some of New Zealand’s most notorious criminals – marked the occasion by speaking at an international law conference.

He has also been invited by government officials to demonstrate a computer programme designed to help solve confidence issues surrounding the controversial legal aid regime. But, Harder insists, that doesn’t mean he’ll again be available for hire – at least for now. "As of yet, I haven’t found a shirt or jacket thin enough, or a tie so unrestrictive as to justify going back into court," he said. "I have a peace and serenity about me that I wouldn’t exchange, even for $1 million."

Harder, 62, instead marked his fifth year out of a lawyer’s robe by flying to Sydney to speak at a conference on March 11 about how the internet can improve profit and efficiencies in law firms. Since being disbarred in March 2006, Harder has been working – with the permission of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal – for long-time friend and barrister Melanie Coxon as marketing manager for her two legal brands. Harder lost the right to practise law after allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards clients and of drug and alcohol use. He has since been involved in a 12-step drug and alcohol fellowship.

He has been tasked with developing a website where applicants seeking work licences can apply online for a court order allowing them to drive during periods of disqualification, and, more recently, a Time Tracker system that lets lawyers accurately record the time they spend working on a particular client file. Clients can also see exactly what work their lawyer has completed.

Harder was one of 25 speakers at the Online Legal Services Conference, which taught lawyers how to use Twitter, Facebook, podcasts and other web tools.

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