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NEW IN THE LAW: Rebecca Garden, Assistant Crown Counsel, Crown Law Office, Wellington

10 March 2016 - By Angharad O'Flynn

After practising for just three years, Rebecca Garden, age 26, has retained her enthusiasm for life as a lawyer, with a keen interest in the legal process.

With her two younger brothers, Rebecca grew up between New Zealand and the United States as her parents moved between Wellington and Boston for work; her father is a doctor and her mother a teacher. However, during her teenage years, she completed most of her high school education at Wellington Girl's College. In her seventh form year Rebecca participated in an overseas exchange to Chile before coming back to Wellington to complete double degrees at Victoria University of Wellington: a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Spanish and Italian, and a law degree. It was a pleasure to talk to Rebecca about how she was finding her legal career so far. Rebecca comes across as a very confident, friendly, eloquent young woman.

photo of Rebecca Garden 
"Practising law is pretty different to studying it..." 

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

"I think that it was a natural progression. So when I left school I thought I would want to do a degree where there was a clear job of what I'd do at the end of it. And I liked English and those sort of subjects so I did a BA and then I did the law degree and decided that I did actually like law so it seemed like an obvious choice."

Initially unsure of what specialty to focus on, Rebecca did "…as broad a law degree as I could".  However, she's always had an interest in Public Law, which is what led her to work for the Crown Law Office, after completing a summer clerking job at the Parliamentary Counsel Office followed by two months at the Treasury. She has been at Crown Law for two and a half years. 

In 2015 Rebecca was the Convenor for the Wellington Young Lawyers' Committee but she has passed the torch in 2016 in order to focus on her job. 

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

"Practising law is pretty different to studying it. You learn the law at law school but you don't learn the practical act of applying it."

Entering the profession, she was a little uncertain about procedure, practical application and processes but that uncertainty soon eased as less than a week after admission Rebecca flew to Auckland as part of a team appearing on a family law case at the High Court, where she worked in a training capacity. 

The support offered during this case seems to be well appreciated as, although she didn't appear, she dealt with submissions and research.

What do enjoy most about being a lawyer? 

Diversity is something Rebecca says she enjoys about her work at Crown Law: "We definitely deal with a range of matters and types of work … with litigation files ranging from immigration issues to MSD and education."

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

She light-heartedly responds: "it's one of those funny things where nothing to do with practising law is covered in law school … but it is also fine because I expected that it would be very different."

Her biggest adjustment was changing from the unaccountability and flexibility that university offered, "…to all of a sudden you have to be in the office working set hours. That was kind of, weirdly, the most challenging."

Are there any issues currently facing the legal profession the you'd like to highlight?

Acknowledging that there are definitely still a lot of people who prefer working with hardcopy files, she understands that there is shift happening toward using more technology in law and in the courts. 

"There are benefits to it … you can work from home and have more flexibility with working arrangements." 

The downside to this is "working out work/life balance when you're accessible all the time."

Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you? 

Rebecca has always looked up to her dance teacher Jean Goodman, who is now 83 and still teaches. She says Goodman "…is a good example of living life to the fullest" which has inspired her to do the same.

What are your favourite books/musicians/movies?  

In her spare time Rebecca likes activities that focus her attention enabling her to decompress from work; like dancing and crafting work. 

She has a an eclectic taste in music and last year, to expand her music range, Rebecca and her flatmates created 'Album of The Week' where a different person introduces new music to the flat, "I've listened to so much new music in the last year!" 

Angharad O'Flynn is a Wellington journalist.

Last updated on the 10th March 2016