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NEW IN THE LAW: Jessica Watterson, Solicitor, Preston Russell Law, Invercargill

10 May 2016 - By Angharad O'Flynn

Tell me a bit about yourself

"I am 26 years of age. I grew up in Napier/Hawke's Bay. I went to Napier Girls High School. My parents, brother, and sister have all relocated to Perth; however, Napier will always be home."

The first of her family to attend university, Jessica Watterson studied at both the University of Waikato and Victoria University. She graduated and was admitted in 2014. "I initially intended to practice criminal law, however by the end of my study I realised that I preferred commercial law and civil litigation."

photo of Jessica Watterson 
"For as long as I can remember I wanted to study and practise law."  

In March 2015 Jessica made the decision to move to Invercargill, a city she had never visited, and she started working in the commercial law team at Preston Russell Law. 

"Before taking this position I had never been to Invercargill - in fact I had only ventured down South on three occasions and no further than Christchurch. My decision at the time was solely based on the position and not the location. Relocating to Invercargill has proven to be one of the best decisions I have made in terms of my career."  

She continues, "From day one I have been involved in substantive legal work and have had significant client contact. Invercargill has grown on me. In particular, the Southern hospitality and how close it is to some of New Zealand's most beautiful destinations."

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

"For as long as I can remember I wanted to study and practise law." 

Jessica made the best of a bad situation during her first encounter with the law. 

"I was exposed to the legal system when I was eight years of age when my parents divorced. My brother, sister and I were assigned a family lawyer and I recall being completely blown away by his professional manner."

What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?

Jessica is a particularly mature and bright young solicitor who enjoys the challenges she faces working the justice system.  "I get paid to read, write, think, talk and argue. I am continuously challenged and I continue to learn and up-skill. It's perfect!"

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

"Lack of practical knowledge. However, it's the view of the majority of young lawyers."

After finishing your study, did you find the job matched the expectations you had in school?

"I wasn't completely sure what to expect. I had studied over summer and decided not to summer clerk. I had no previous practical legal experience. After six years of study, I was more than ready to start my first job.

"In hindsight, summer clerking definitely would have made the transition easier and I do regret not taking up this opportunity."

Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you?

"I haven't been significantly inspired by any one person. My inspiration is more so from my desire to be the best that I can be." 

Are there any issues currently facing young lawyers and/or the legal system as a whole that you'd like to highlight?

"There are a lot of young lawyers competing for positions in a smaller pool of good opportunities. Young lawyers accept positions in firms that they would not have chosen to work at or are practising in an area of law that they have no interest in."

Jessica raises a good point. With the growing number of young graduates being admitted, there aren't necessarily enough jobs to go around. Unfortunately, this means that graduates won't necessarily work in positions they studied for.  As a fresh graduate, sometimes the only way to break into practical employment is to take what is offered if relevant positions are few and far between.

What are your favourite books/musicians/movies?

"To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My English teacher at high school chose the book for a novel study and I loved the simplicity of it."

Is there anything that you do to decompress after work?

"I find that having a break from technology is the best way to decompress after work. I try to do something active like go to the gym or for a run. At other times, a lighthearted book can be perfect to unwind."

In her spare time, Jessica is also a member of the Southland New and Young Practitioners and the St John Invercargill Area Committee.

Angharad is a Wellington journalist.

Last updated on the 10th May 2016