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NEW IN THE LAW: Manaaki Terekia, Solicitor, Woodward Chrisp Lawyers

04 May 2016 - By Angharad O'Flynn

Growing up in Gisborne, Manaaki Terekia had a passion for math and sciences while attending Gisborne Boys High School.  In  his seventh form year he was head prefect and he went on to study at Victoria University, graduating in 2014 with an LLB and a BA in Criminology and Social Policy.  He was admitted to the bar in 2015 and now works as a solicitor at the Gisborne firm, Woodward Chrisp where he specialises in criminal law.

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

After attending a youth environmental conference in Wellington Manaaki was given the opportunity to present at Parliament while in high school.  "…Through this experience, I realised that real change and impact comes through working within and upon the legal system."

photo of Manaaki Terekia 
"People are guaranteed the right to representation and this is what we provide."  

He found his interest in the law surprising and has a fresh take on practising law: "…in my view, the law requires a mathematical style of thinking, that being logic based, with a dash of creativity and critical reasoning.  It is often a problem-solving exercise."

What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?

"I enjoy the people, the stories, and satisfaction of knowing that you have changed the direction in the life of another. People are guaranteed the right to representation and this is what we provide. We are not the mouthpiece, but the advocate between the individual and the potential coercive power of the state."

Is there anything you wish you learnt in law school that wasn't covered, either in the study or practically?

"Law school teaches you how to think. The practicalities come from experience, and although practicalities could be taught at law school, my view is that law school is about learning moments and occasionally being introduced to new and challenging ideas."

Manaaki was one of the 2014 Co-Presidents of Victoria University's Māori Law Students' Society/Nga Rangahautira, and I asked him to explain a little of what Nga Rangahautira does.

"Our focus was to provide Māori students with social, academic, and cultural support through law school. This was through strong relationships between senior and junior students, and events about engaging at Law School."

He raises the issue of Māori representation rates within the justice system saying, "Law schools have historically had low Māori representation and participation, whilst prisons have had high Māori representation and participation. Nga Rangahautira represents a group of students with the aim of reversing this."

He raises a strong point, as March 2016 prison statistics show that 51% of prisoners in New Zealand are Māori, while data released from the 2013 Census shows that around 7% of practising lawyers in New Zealand are Māori.  

Nga Rangahautira provides support to Māori students studying law at Victoria's Law School by providing support and understanding of the law, which will hopefully help increase the amount of Māori graduates entering the profession in the long term.

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

"I have really enjoyed working at Woodward Chrisp Lawyers. I have been lucky enough to appear in the District and High Courts on a number of occasions and in a range of practice areas." He continues, "Although I am the junior of the litigation team I often feel my opinion is respected and listened to, and we have a strong collaborative environment and my experiences have closely aligned with my expectations."

Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you?

"My mum: the values she encouraged me and my brothers to grow up with and hold dear are invaluable.  The sacrifices she made to ensure her sons had access to every opportunity they could ever want. I really thank her for everything she has done, and I recognise I will probably always be indebted to her."

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

"A constant, ongoing, and persuasive issue within criminal practice is the over-representation of Māori. I recall the very first occasion I went to a criminal Court, standard day, standard judges and registrar's list, and practically every defendant being Māori. It is sad what large segments of a once proud people have become. The challenge to the system is how to remedy this.

"Although my predominate practice is in the criminal realm, there are access to justice issues in the civil jurisdiction. The limitation on civil legal aid and the expenses of engaging a lawyer and Court fees are inhibitive to many people enjoying the protections civil law potentially offers."

What are your favourite books/musicians/movies?

"Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a great movie (like it is excellent), and in parts represents the reality for a lot of people. It has feels, comedic elements and a good narrative. 10/10 - would recommend."

Any hobbies in your down time and what do you like doing to decompress after work?

"In my down time I enjoy going to the gym, ear buds in and a chance to get away from the stressors of people going to prison."

Angharad is a Wellington journalist.

Last updated on the 4th May 2016