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NEW IN THE LAW: Alexandra Li, Solicitor, Wellington

30 June 2016 - By Angharad O'Flynn

Alexandra Li's family migrated to New Zealand when she was eight years old and settled in Wellington.  After high school, Alexandra went on to study at Victoria University obtaining a double degree, LLB/BCA. She was admitted to the bar in 2007 and began practising in 2010.

When did you realise that you wanted to be a lawyer?

"I can't even remember.  Growing up, I've always liked detective, crime and mystery books and movies. My paternal grandfather had a strong influence in my upbringing, and he always made comments 'this one will be a lawyer', and I guess it just stuck."

photo of Alexandra Li 
 "I guess the best way to learn is on the job."

Neither of Alexandra's parents have law-based backgrounds with family members on her father's side practising medicine while her mother's side practise dentistry.  Alexandra says of her choice, "I faint at the sight of blood, so there was no way I would be able to work in the medical profession, even if I wanted to."

What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?

Alexandra likes the diversity of her clientele saying, "I'm in general practice where I get to meet so many different types of people". 

She enjoys practising in the different specialities commenting, "some lawyers can feel pigeon-holed in their work", from practising the same thing every day. 

For Alexandra, practising in multiple areas allows her the freedom and diversity to build experience, growing as a lawyer. 

"I can go right from the beginning; meeting a client, taking the instructions and working out a solution for them and meeting with them. So I'm there from step one through to step ten, or even step one hundred, and that's been very helpful as well."

Alexandra also values the problem-solving aspect of her work and enjoys a challenge while helping people and values "healthy debate" with her peers and friends. 

What made you choose commercial law as a speciality?

While she is a generalist practitioner, Alexandra's chosen area is commercial law: "I don't think I chose commercial law, but I naturally fell into it and happen to enjoy it."

Is there anything you wish you learnt in law school that wasn't covered?

"Law school taught us how to think, the thought process. I wish there was a more practical course at law school but I guess the best way to learn is on the job."

Can you tell me about any issues you think lawyers face today?

"Women in law issue; despite being in the 21st Century where there is an emphasis on equality, we're still in a very male-dominated profession."  

The 2015 November issue of Law Talk reported that around 60% of new lawyers are female and that women comprise almost 60% of firm employees, yet around 26% are either directors or partners. While it is true that the diversity gap is shrinking and a lot of firms are encouraging equality within the workplace, it doesn't go unnoticed that there are still gaps between women and men. Not only is the gender pay gap still an issue, but also some of the attitudes female lawyers face on a regular basis can be viewed as a little questionable and somewhat archaic.

Alexandra also raises the point of burnout, work/life balance and the coping mechanisms used. Some lawyers who feel the competitive pressure can develop mental health issues or turn to destructive coping mechanisms. On this subject, Alexandra says, "Competition is good if it drives you to do better in your job – don't let social expectations get to you."

Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you?

"…I like to say, I've been inspired by almost everyone I've met in life but if I have to point to anyone I'd say my late paternal grandfather was the most inspirational, and I don't think I'd be here today if it wasn't for him. Similarly, my maternal grandmother -  she's a true fighter.  I hope that the best of them will develop in me in the years ahead and help me to become the best version of myself."

Do you have any hobbies or interests?

Alexandra values work/life balance. She has a wide range of interests including fitness, movies, reading, listening to music and learning languages - she's fluent in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and is learning French.  She also says, "I love to spend time with family and friends - always over a table full of good food and cocktails."

Do you have any advice you could give new graduates?

 "Be humble - if you've done well on a transaction, give yourself a pat on the back and a nice glass of bubbly at the end of the day - but never let it get to your head. There is always room for improvement and if you've made a mistake, eat your humble pie as gracefully as you can and soldier on. Unfortunately, mistakes are part of the learning process, just don't make the same mistake twice." 

Secondly, she says, "Learn as much as you can at the start of your career. No job is too small or easy.  You have to build a good, solid foundation in order to maintain your stability at the top."

Angharad is a Wellington journalist.

Last updated on the 30th June 2016