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Practising law in Auckland's suburbs

02 February 2018 - By Angharad O'Flynn

A sizeable proportion of New Zealand’s lawyers are based in the largest city: of around 13,000 lawyers who work in New Zealand, just under 5,700 (44%) are in the area covered by Auckland Council.

For many non-Aucklanders the typical Auckland lawyer is based in Shortland Street or elsewhere in the CBD. The reality is somewhat different. The Council’s catchment area sprawls over 4,894 sq km and includes countless distinct suburbs and communities.

Auckland coastline and houses
Photo: Long bay. Flickr user Sids1 b

“The Law Society’s Auckland branch membership is becoming increasingly broad and diverse, by geography, demographics, by practice area and by professional and personal life stage”, says Glenda Macdonald, the New Zealand Law Society General Manager Representative and Auckland Branch Manager.

The experiences of three lawyers who have opted to practise outside the centre shows that practising law in suburban Auckland has some compelling features and benefits.

North Shore: Holbrook Law, Hurstmere Road, Takapuna

Dana Holbrook, founding partner.

Established in 2012 by Dana Holbrook, Holbrook Law is a general practice law firm in Takapuna that also has a keen focus on family law. The staff of six is made up of three lawyers, Ms Holbrook, Chris McBreen and Yoonha Park, registered legal executive Lynette Wade, legal secretary Sarah Coan, and receptionist Raewyn Williams.

Before establishing Holbrook Law, Dana worked on the North Shore in a partnership role at another firm.

“I have practised in the North Shore for approximately 15 years and moved here in 2007. It made sense to have my practice in the North Shore.

“It is close to my home, kids’ schools and we have a beautiful view of Takapuna Beach at Holbrook Law.”

Dana says the community atmosphere is a family friendly environment.

“I very much enjoy working with my colleagues from other firms who also practise in the North Shore.

“Takapuna is a vibrant suburb with activities such as the Beach Series and summer movie nights and is generally a fun place to work.”

It seems there is always something happening in the North Shore. One quick ‘Events in Takapuna’ Google search brought up dozens of ‘All Ages’ events – including making your own lollipops, school theatre programmes, and even a Russian language Opera performance.

“The collegiality amongst the North Shore lawyers is very strong and one of the reasons it is so enjoyable practising on the Shore. In addition, the support staff at the North Shore Family Court are amazing people and always incredibly helpful.”

West Auckland: Teei & Associates, Railside Avenue, Henderson

Poi Ngatokorua Teei, founding partner.

Teei & Associates has a staff of seven: four lawyers (Poi Teei, Cherie Phillips, Nelson Augustine and Peter Leaupepe), two legal executives (Julie Kane and Lauren Thornton), and support staff Kaylene Crosswhite in accounts and receptionist Trudi Richardson. The firm is situated in the centre of Henderson at the foot of the Waitakere Ranges.

“I have always lived in the city but when I was admitted to the bar, one of the jobs that I applied for was in Henderson,” says founding partner Poi Teei. “I was offered the job and have not looked back – that was back in 1988-89.”

The general practice firm covers most areas of legal work from conveyancing, family, estates and trusts, criminal, immigration, civil and debt collection. “We have lawyers who appear in the Family Court, tribunals and District and High Court,” he says.

“Henderson is a great place to work and it takes 15-20 minutes to get from home in the city into the office.

“Parking is still free … [and] the courts are within a short stroll although we also attend courts outside the area.”

Much like the suburb, the firm is multinational and caters to Henderson’s diverse language needs with lawyers who are fluent in Samoan, Hindi and Cook Island Māori.

“Many of our clients are local although we also have clients from the city, South Auckland and the North Shore.

“I think what stands out when dealing with locals is that you can identify the streets where they come from and know of problems that may have occurred in that area. When you know a street or area where a client lives that can usually be the ice breaker when a client comes in for the first time.”

On the legal community in the Henderson area Poi says, “West Auckland has a great bunch of local lawyers in both the Family Court and the criminal court.

“It is very easy to deal with most of them. It sometimes makes it easier to reach agreements when dealing with a local lawyer as there is a certain element of trust and respect that he or she won’t do anything to try to make it harder for you or your client. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule.”

South Auckland: Rice Craig Barristers and Solicitors, Queen Street, Papakura.

Henry Herman, senior solicitor.

With a staff size numbering in the thirties, Rice Craig Barristers and Solicitors is one of the larger suburban general practice firms.

Established in 1924, the firm has established strong roots in Papakura over its 93-year long existence.

Senior solicitor Henry Herman heads up the family law team and, prior to starting at the firm, he worked at firms in Auckland City.

“For me, moving to Rice Craig suited my long-term aspirations and what kind of environment I wanted to build my career in.

“It was more about having a small team culture and a big thing about work/life balance, and that was a big factor for me.

“In terms of clientele, we’ve got long established relationships with clients who have worked in the Franklin farming districts,” says Henry.

This kind of long-term client relationship is something that can really only be established by firms with strong connections in their working community.

Despite the natural changes over 93 years, the firm name has been kept due to its long presence within the legal community.

When it comes to the legal community in the area, Mr Herman says “I might be slightly bit biased when I say this, but I think the South Auckland bar is amazing.

“The collegiality, from my experience, is second to none, not just in terms of formal and professional interactions, but also in the social aspect to the work.

“Any lawyer will tell you that the work can be stressful – no matter what area of the law. I think having a collegial network of lawyers in your local community brings people together.

“You bump into each other around the shops, people know each other. They may not know each other well, but well enough that they can strike up a conversation. I think that’s a really nice indicator of what warms me to being in the small suburban firms.

“All the local firms get on really, really well; trust is a big thing. When you can establish long-lasting relationships with local firms it improves the efficiency of things.”

Much like the lawyers in the other suburbs, Henry Herman feels Papakura gives off a family friendly atmosphere.

Another benefit of living in a suburb is that Auckland’s notorious rush hour commutes, which can turn even the most passive of people into rage incarnate, are avoided.

“When I tell the wife I’m 20 minutes away, it’s pretty accurate. And I think that’s a luxury.

“Lawyers these days are realising work/life balance is very important.

“I think your personal sanity is a big factor. I think we are good as lawyers when we have a good environment and a good support network, and it will help that much more if you live and work local enough that you’re not having to contend with the traffic congestion.”

Last updated on the 2nd February 2018