As the membership body for the profession, the Law Society recognises the importance of welcoming and supporting new lawyers.
The National New Lawyers Group represents those in the profession with fewer than seven years post-qualified experience.
The group is designed to support new lawyers by providing a direct channel into the Law Society, and complement the networking and education work already carried out by our eight regional new lawyer groups.
The National Group will reach out to all new lawyers across the country and will have a voice to influence positive change for new lawyers and within the Law Society.
Expressions of interest for the group were sought in 2021. There are sixteen members in the group representing a diverse range of locations across New Zealand, ethnicities, genders, types of practice and PQE.
Opportunities to join the group will come up every 1-2 years, depending on projects and members PQE. We want to ensure that other new lawyers have the opportunity to be a part of the group.
Keep an eye on this page for opportunities to become a member.
My name is Bree Munro. I am from a small town in South Otago and completed my LLB and BA through the University of Otago.
I am a solicitor in the Litigation team at Woodward Chrisp, a medium sized law firm in Tairāwhiti (Gisborne). Most of the team’s work is criminal legal aid; however, we also represent clients across a broad range of areas including civil and commercial litigation, ACC law and employment law. I have gained experience across all of these areas during my two years at Woodward Chrisp.
Criminal law is my passion. I enjoy appearing in Court and supporting my clients through the process. Through my appointment to the New Zealand Law Society National New Lawyers Group, I hope to provide representation for other lawyers who are starting out in the criminal law jurisdiction. In particular, I aim to provide a voice for junior legal aid lawyers who are navigating the issues that were brought to light through the recent Law Society survey.
We are the future of the profession; therefore, it is important that new lawyers have a seat at the table. I am looking forward to representing New Zealand’s new lawyers in this role and empowering new lawyers to have their voices heard.
Callum practices as a generalist lawyer in the beautiful Taranaki. With 2 years' PQE, he has found his passion in providing high-quality service and legal advice to his clients.
Callum graduated from Victoria University in 2017. Originally from Wellington, he worked in Levin for 18 months and in 2020 moved to the Taranaki. Since graduating he has worked primarily in the property and asset planning fields, and is getting more into commercial and corporate law.
His experience in the legal profession has been with smaller firms, assisting in different matters and getting plenty of client interaction. He loves working directly with clients to help them achieve their goals.
In his spare time, Callum is an amateur pilot, working towards getting his private pilot's licence. He also volunteers with his local Toastmasters club and is the legal advisor to Mensa New Zealand.
Callum is enthusiastic about joining the New Lawyers' Group because he knows the power that it has to effect change in the profession. By being part of the group, he hopes to join like-minded lawyers throughout New Zealand to support them on their legal journey, to bring the issues that new lawyers face to the forefront of the profession, and to advance their interests through co-operation with the wider legal section.
At my graduating ceremony from Otago University in December 2016 my rational mind told me to follow the path many of my fellow graduates were on and dive head first into the practice of law. However my heart had other plans, telling me that my home was my backpack, to take a chance, and to immerse oneself in all that the world had to offer.
This ethos guided many decisions over the next four years of my life. After travelling abroad and throughout New Zealand, in January 2021 I felt a calling to finally begin a career as a lawyer and in May 2021 I found myself starting my first day of work in Dunedin, my hometown, at Jenny Beck Law.
Right now I am immersed in the general practice of law and working predominately on family, employment, and conveyancing matters under my wonderful Principal, Jenny Beck, and alongside 8 other amazing junior solicitors. Quite frankly, I am amazed at just how much I have learnt in just 6 short months, and feel so energised thinking about the possibilities that lie ahead in the next 30 years.
My goal as a representative for all young lawyers in the National New Lawyers Group is to proactively consider what our demographic of the legal profession needs in order to grow and contribute to the best of our abilities, so we can create a profession where everyone wins.
My name is Ella Stolwerk and I grew up in Langs Beach, Northland. I studied at the University of Auckland and spent my first two years of full-time work in the Civil Litigation and Property and Construction teams at Russell McVeagh.
I have recently returned to my hometown and am working as a Junior Prosecutor in the Crown team at Marsden Woods Inskip Smith in Whangarei. I am excited about being involved in the National New Lawyers Group and hope to contribute by helping all new lawyers (but with a particular focus on those in Northland) access the resources and opportunities provided by both the National New Lawyers Group and the other law associations and groups affiliated with the New Zealand Law Society.
This will ideally include increasing the provision of and participation in collegiality events, professional development opportunities and health and wellbeing initiatives. My passions and interests outside the law include socialising with my friends and family, event management, walking/running, tennis and surf lifesaving.
Hi there! My name’s Georgia, and I’m currently working at Gibson Sheat Masterton. My legal specialty is Elder Law (Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney, Right Agreements) in Occupation and Estate Administration Law, and I’ve also been doing some work in Trust Law.
I was born and raised in Auckland and went to the University of Auckland to study Law. I moved to the Wairarapa at the beginning of 2021. It was definitely a bit of a culture shock moving from Auckland to the regions, but I’m slowly starting to put down my own roots here. Outside of work, I’m an avid Rugby League fan and enjoy listening to podcasts, exercising (walking, running, playing squash), baking, and have eaching myself how to crochet.
Making the transition from law school into the workforce was confusing and stressful at times, and if it weren’t for the knowledge passed down by my friends who started working before me, I definitely would not have survived. Couple that with moving out of Auckland, and it felt a lot more stressful.
Out of the National New Lawyers Group, I hope that we can create a space for new lawyers to come to and entering the legal profession, ask whatever questions they have about entering the legal profession, especially those who haven’t worked in a law firm before. I also hope that we can connect new lawyers across New Zealand, especially those living outside of the big cities, to create a sense of unity across the country.
I’m really looking forward to being a part of this group and see what tangible change we can create in the legal profession for new lawyers!
Jay Rajendram LLB (Hons)/BMS
Jay is a solicitor at Harkness Henry Lawyers which is based in Hamilton and Paeroa. He specialises in Resource Management, Employment and Alcohol Licensing Law. He completed his studies at the University of Waikato with a conjoint degree of Bachelor of Law with Honours (First Class) and Bachelor of Management Studies, before being admitted to the profession in March 2020.
One of Jay’s career highlights includes authoring the chapter on the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal in the 2020 book New Zealand Tribunals: Law and Practice.
Jay enjoyed an association with the Waikato New Lawyers (WNL) Group during his time as a law clerk and while studying law at University, before joining the WNL Committee in June this year. In his short time on the WNL Committee and with the assistance of his fellow Committee Members, Jay was able to organise a panel of esteemed judges to speak to members of WNL about their experiences on the Bench.
He also has an ongoing association with the University of Waikato and frequently volunteers to judge negotiation and client interviewing competitions run by the Waikato University Law Students Association. Jay also volunteers as a mentor for the Asian Law Students Association at the University of Waikato.
On hearing about the exciting initiative of the New Zealand Law Society National New Lawyers Group, Jay saw an opportunity to continue his community involvement with a particular focus on promoting connectedness and collaboration between individuals who are relatively new to the profession.
He believes that there is great value to be had in networking and the sharing of experiences between new lawyers, which is perhaps even more crucial in a profession which can be highly competitive and adversarial.
I was born and raised in Hamilton. After obtaining a BSc(Hons) from the University of Auckland and an LLB from Victoria University of Wellington, I took up a graduate position at Gascoigne Wicks in Blenheim.
I was initially hired into the commercial and conveyancing team where I worked mainly on matters such as wills and property conveyancing. After about a year in that team, I was shuffled around the firm a bit before settling into the litigation team as a civil litigation lawyer focusing on resource management.
Day to day, I mainly practice in resource management law assisting clients up and down the country with consent and planning matters both before local authorities and before the Courts. I also act on a wide variety of civil disputes such as contractual disputes and professional disciplinary matters.
I am optimistic that the newly established National New Lawyers Group will fill a gap in representation for lawyers who are early in their careers. One group of new lawyers who are particularly underrepresented are those working in the provincial centres, such as Marlborough. Those branches of the law society are often not large enough to support a local new lawyers’ group.
It is my hope to be able to bring the perspective of a new lawyer finding their feet in a smaller provincial centre. I hope that, by being in the group, I can foster a legal profession which supports new lawyers in an environment with values reflecting the 21st century.
Josh grew up in Hamilton/Kirikiriroa and has approximately four years of experience as a lawyer. He is the current Chair of the Waikato New Lawyers Committee, which he has been a part of for four years.
The Waikato New Lawyers Committee has organised and run educational and social events for lawyers with 0-7 years PQE (“new lawyers”) to facilitate collegiality between new lawyers and others such as more senior members of the legal profession, the judiciary and other professional groups.
After being in general practise for a short time, Josh has practised predominantly in employment and health and safety law since joining Tompkins Wake’s Disputes Resolution team in 2019. The majority of his work has been advising clients on employment and health and safety matters (both contentious and non-contentious), encountering unique challenges arising from the pandemic.
Josh has a strong sporting background and has deep ties to the Waikato. He hopes the National New Lawyers group can help regional new lawyer groups to have a wider reach in terms of geographical location and practise areas, to better serve the needs and wellbeing of new lawyers and support them in their careers.
Moving from a small private practice as a property and commercial lawyer to an in-house position at the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand was a big cultural shock. I’ve always believed that the difference between a good working environment and a great working environment is good support, and this was ever more apparent when I changed practice areas.
Moving into an in-house environment has shown me that staying well connected with individuals from various departments was essential to staying grounded when outside my comfort zone. There were times I needed guidance, and I imagine for a new lawyer this experience in managing professional relationships and finding your way in an unfamiliar environment is reflective of the overwhelming experience one feels transitioning from a law student to a professional lawyer.
I think we can all agree that the law profession acknowledges that new lawyers need encouragement and assistance. However, hardly anybody asks the question of how they can help, nor do we have a forum for discussing the various barriers that hinder individuals from participating. Simply being thrown into the deep end and directed to read copious amounts of material is hardly supportive of the practical complexities of the various transactions we come across as new lawyers.
Therefore, advocating for new lawyers in the profession is so very important. New lawyers will come from diverse practice areas with individual ambitions. In order to find a sense of belonging in the law profession, it is this initial support that can help young lawyers feel a sense of collegiality. I hope the National New Lawyers Group will provide a voice to discuss the challenges a new lawyer may find navigating, for most, in their first professional job.
Tēnā koutou katoa. Ko Kaitlyn White tōku ingoa.
I am thrilled to be a part of the National New Lawyers Group. I was admitted in late 2019 and initially worked for a large commercial law firm. Since March 2020, I have specialised in criminal defence and I work for the Public Defence Service in Christchurch as a PAL 1 lawyer.
My job sees me represent clients across a range of criminal offences and advocate for them, whether that be in conducting defences on their behalf, representing them at sentencing, and everything in between. It is a real privilege to work in a field I am passionate about.
I hope to be a part of setting up the National New Lawyers Group so it continues to benefit new lawyers for years to come and complements the work of our regional groups. Whether it be for mental health and wellbeing support, career planning, mentoring, professional development or social opportunities, I’m excited for the challenge of advocating and supporting our new members of the profession. I want everyone to feel connected and valued as the next generation of lawyers.
In my spare time, you’ll find me out exploring Canterbury’s amazing landscape with my dog Maddy, gardening or volunteering in my local community.
Tēnā koutou katoa and malo lava le soifua maua ma le lagi e mamā.
My name is Maria Sopoaga and I hail from the villages of Tulaele and Nofoalii in Samoa, proudly born and raised in Māngere, South Auckland. I currently work in the Dispute Resolution division at MinterEllisonRuddWatts in Wellington. In 2019 I was the inaugural New Zealand recipient of the Centre for Legal Education’s Young Legalpreneurs Scholarship and in 2020 was named by NZ Lawyer as a Rising Star in the legal profession.
During my time as in-house counsel at Auckland Council, I also served as the Deputy Convener of the Auckland Young Lawyers’ Committee, and was recognised by the Inhouse Lawyers’ Association of New Zealand with its Community Contribution Award in 2021 for my contributions to the profession and in the wider community. I was also recognised by NZ Lawyer in 2021 as one of New Zealand’s Most Influential Lawyers and I currently serve on the executive of the Pacific Lawyers Association.
In being part of the National New Lawyer Group, I hope to foster an environment that is safe for those who might never have seen someone like themselves thrive in our profession. As someone who never before believed she would be valued in this profession until I saw Tiana Epati take up the Law Society presidency, I hope the New Lawyer Group will encourage and support new lawyers from all walks of life to thrive in spaces that are safer, inclusive and supportive.
Mat is a senior solicitor in the litigation team at Martelli McKegg Lawyers in Auckland. He began his career working in refugee and immigration law, before moving to a broader litigation practice (in civil, criminal, family, and employment litigation), and now specialising in commercial litigation (including insolvency, construction, employment and general commercial / civil disputes).
Mat has worked in both small suburban and large commercial law firms, so understands the unique pressures that junior lawyers face depending on where they practice. Mat is looking forward to providing young lawyers with a voice and a platform within the New Zealand Law Society, to help make the legal profession a better place to work for everyone.
I am a property and construction specialist with nearly 6 years' experience in those fields. I spent around 5 and a half years at Russell McVeagh and joined DLA Piper as a Senior Associate in July 2021. During my career to date, I have been fortunate enough to gain experience in most aspects of both property and construction law and have worked with (and learned from) some incredibly talented people. I have also had some great mentors who helped guide me through the transition from student to solicitor (which not the easiest path to navigate!), and I will be forever grateful to those individuals who took the time to invest in me and help me grow.
I am a dad to two awesome kids, Barnaby (2) and Mabel (6 months). Two kids and a busy job can make life pretty hectic at times, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Things will probably get even more complicated when my partner Frida (also a lawyer) returns to work next year; such is the life we chose! When not working or hanging out with my family, I like getting stuck into some social sport with mates.
The New Lawyers Group
Embarking on a legal career is exciting but can also give rise to some challenges and anxious moments. With my fellow NZLS National New Lawyers Group members, I hope to be able to provide support and guidance to new lawyers to help them find their feet in the legal world. Our goal ultimately should be to help new lawyers not only survive but have the opportunity to thrive in a sector that can provide an immensely fulfilling career. With the collective experiences of the New Lawyers Group members, I feel confident that we can set a platform to achieve that outcome.
Tena koutou katoa
My name is Thilini Karunaratne. I was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka and migrated to Aotearoa/New Zealand with my family when I was 7 years old. I grew up in Tamaki Makaurau before moving to Kirkiriroa to pursue law school.
Coming from a family of teachers that has an obvious love for working with tamariki, I went on to become a primary school teacher after leaving high school. It was only in my second year of working as a teacher that I became interested in the field of law and decided to switch careers.
I attended the University of Waikato and graduated with an LLB and LLM(Hons). While at Law School I became deeply passionate about family law and international indigenous peoples’ law. My passion for indigenous peoples’ law and biculturalism led me to work for two years as a Research Counsel for the Māori Land Court Judiciary and Waitangi Tribunal members specialising in Māori land issues and Waitangi Tribunal claims before moving over to work in child protection law.
I see the establishment of the National New Lawyers Group as a significant development. This group will be a platform to assist and support new lawyers as they transition from education into practice. Not only will it be an opportunity to build networks between practitioners, but it is an exciting opportunity to be creative and deliver resources at a national level to ensure that every new lawyer feels supported as they embark on their legal career.
Kia ora! My name is Victoria Rea and I am a Senior Solicitor at Luke Cunningham Clere (the Crown Solicitors Office in Wellington). In that role I deal with the whole breadth of government and public law litigation.
I am currently the managing editor of The New Zealand Women’s Law Journal — Te Aho Kawe Kaupapa Ture a ngā Wāhine and I sit on the Wellington Young Lawyers Committee. This year as part of WYLC I have been responsible for organising the Wellington Junior Lawyers Mooting Competition and assisting the other regions to run theirs, with a view to launching a national moot competition at some point in the very near future!
Prior to moving to LCC at the beginning of 2021 I worked at Wilson Harle, a specialist litigation firm, in Auckland and sat on the Auckland Young Lawyers Committee. While attending university I was the president of the Victoria University Law Students' Society and the New Zealand Law Students' Association.
I am really excited about the National New Lawyers Group! I think it will be a great place to share ideas and knowledge about the various runnings of new lawyers committees across the country and create a cohesive national platform for advocacy and the running of national events. It is really important to have guidance and support entering the profession and the national new lawyers' group will hopefully make sure that experience is a good one for each new lawyer around the country.
Tēnā Koutou Katoa. Nō Queenstown ahau, kei Tāmaki Makaurau tōku kāinga ināianei. Ko Vivian-Lee Schaaf tōku ingoa. I am originally from Queenstown but currently live in Auckland. My name is Vivian-Lee Schaaf (nee Rewi). I am married and have recently had my first child, born October 2021.
I work in the Auckland Council Regulatory and Enforcement in-house team and have worked in this team for the past six years. I undertake prosecution work under multiple areas of law including the Dog Control Act 1996, Resource Management Act 1991, Building Act 2004, Food Act 2014 and the Local Government Act 2002.
I also appear for Auckland Council in appeals at the High Court and have appeared as Junior Counsel in the Court of Appeal. I also provide advice to multiple departments within Auckland Council.
Being a part of this group, I hope to support, encourage and promote diversity, unity and inclusiveness within the young legal community. I would hope this would encourage confidence and mana from every young Lawyer to be involved and proud no matter their background. He waka eke noa - A canoe which we are all in with no exception (we are all in this together).