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How a lone parent challenge instilled resilience and drive

10 May 2016 - By Jock Anderson

Raising a daughter alone while studying law in New Zealand and Germany was a tough prioritising challenge which gave England-born Maya Mitchell "a huge amount of drive…"

"I am a mother and was a mother throughout my studies," says Maya, who – after four years lecturing at Auckland University law school - recently joined Len Ward at Tusk Legal Services, in Auckland, as a senior associate.

 Maya Emily Christa (Maya) Mitchell

BornSalisbury, England, raised in Germany.
Age37.
Entry to lawGraduated LLB(Hons) from Auckland University in 2006, LLM from Wurzburg University, Germany, in 2008, and PhD from Cologne University, Germany in 2013.
WorkplaceSenior associate at Tusk Legal Services, Auckland.
Specialty areaContract law, international commercial contracts and cross-border commercial transactions.


Her daughter Jada – now 17 and in her final year at high school – was two when Maya started her law degree at Auckland University.

"I put her in the university creche … Jada has seen me study for many years … She kept me busy then and as a teenager still keeps me busy…

"It was tough going … The key thing for me was prioritising and prioritising my time …  I became very strict and methodical about what I was doing and when…

"I was alone raising my daughter and it gave me a huge amount of drive because I was doing it not just for myself … I've since got married - I got married last year to Tim, a financial analyst, the numbers guy…"

photo of Maya Mitchell 
"I have always been fascinated by being a lawyer..."

Born of an English father and German mother, Maya took Jada with her to Germany while she studied at Wurzburg and Cologne Universities.

"She learnt my language – which was important to me – and can speak German and knows the culture…

"Being with me while I was studying and working has given Jada a resilience which later in life will enable her to adapt to situations…

"She has always looked at the health sector or law for a career … She would make a great lawyer because she is very good at arguing, but I'm not sure if I've put her off…

"I think she will go down the health track…"

While family takes up much of her time outside work, she goes to the gym regularly, plays social tennis every week and is going to evening classes with Tim to learn Italian.

"Tim has Italian roots – his family come from the Malfi Coast – and we are going to Italy later this year to search them out…

"I'm always on the lookout for a good recipe and a good cook book … I love German baking and like to cook and bake for relaxation when I'm in the mood…

"German baking is a hobby … They have such fantastic cakes and at Christmas time I make German biscuits … I try recipes from my Ooma (grandmother) - who passed away this year at 95 – she was a strong woman who really inspired me…

"I fancy light fiction and try to read German authors at random to keep up with the language…

"Now that television is more selection I prefer English and foreign dramas and Scandanavian crime … I don't like American shows, although Better Call Saul – the forerunner to Breaking Bad - is quite entertaining…

"And I'm waiting for a new series of Australian legal drama Rake … It gives an insight to what probably is really happening and the legal arguments are incredible creative…

"For holidays we got to a 1970s family bach at Mangawhai Heads, about an hour north of Auckland…

"When I was 11 or 12 I was fascinated with becoming a policewomen … I liked the whole idea of protecting people and enforcing the law…

"My mother didn't like the idea and I never thought about law until she mentioned it … She probably thought I was too little and petite to be a policewoman, so she changed my mind and from about 12 or 13 I wanted to be a lawyer…

"I always been fascinated by being a lawyer and if I wasn't one I would probably be a university teacher or unemployed … I love lecturing and feeding hungry minds…

"I agree we possibly have too many law graduates but almost all of them now -  compared to when I was at university - are doing conjoint degrees and some don't go into law…

"Law is a strong base degree to have…

"I don't have a car but drive my husband's supercharged V8 Range Rover Sport - it makes a big noise … He is usually on his classic Vespa scooter…

"I love driving the Rangie, it's like a truck and I'm only little so it makes me feel bigger…

"Raised as a Catholic girl I would have to have the Pope as a dinner guest, and my favourite actor Al Pacino … He is incredibly talented … I think his best film was Scent of a Woman

"The Devil's Advocate with Keanu Reeves was good … and now you mention it I feel like watching it again…

"I'd bake them a German  cake…"

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for most of his career in journalism. Contact Jock at jockanderson123@gmail.com.

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Last updated on the 10th May 2016