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Scuba-diving lobster-potter fancied life as a female Indiana Jones

03 October 2019 - By Jock Anderson

Law Society regulatory solicitor Charlotte Walker wanted to be an archaeologist until law offered a more practical career pathway.

“I have always been interested in history and classics and my ideal job would have been an archaeologist – a female Indiana Jones,” says Charlotte, who has worked for the Law Society since 2011.

“But I did not see there was a career pathway in that. I had to get a bit more practical and decided that the law was something I would have a go at.”

NameCharlotte Lucy (Charlotte) Walker
BornChristchurch
Age42
Entry to lawGraduated BA (Classical History and History) and LLB from Canterbury University and LLM from Victoria University. Admitted in 2001.
WorkplaceSenior in-house solicitor with the New Zealand Law Society, Wellington.
Specialty areaRegulatory

Charlotte is a senior solicitor, regulatory, with the Law Society. She recently won the Greenwood Roche Private Sector In-house Lawyer of the Year award, announced at the 2019 ILANZ conference in Dunedin in May.

Charlotte Walker

She’s worked for the past year in a key advisory role for the working group led by Dame Silvia Cartwright which produced a landmark independent review into the Law Society’s regulatory functions.

She also played a key part in the Law Society’s response to the working group report and her work is identified as playing an important role in changing the culture of the legal profession for the better.

Her mother Suzie is a former teacher, Dad Maurice is a partner at Trollope and Co, brother Ben is a barrister in Canterbury Chambers, Christchurch, and another brother is not a lawyer.

Charlotte worked at a couple of law firms in Christchurch before taking a break from law.

“My first two years in law were really tough. I had two jobs in my first two years and I had some difficult experiences. At times I felt out of my depth and felt responsible for things that were beyond my experience.

“I was close to burnout and I took that year off, travelled, did my LLM, then I decided law was important to me and gave it another go.

“I wanted to do law because I wanted to help people. I was lucky that when I gave it another go I had a positive experience.”

Charlotte then spent six-and-a-half years at Morrison Kent, where civil litigation was her main area of practice.

The Irish connection

“I am married to a wonderful Irishman, Nevil Pierse, who is an academic researcher who looks at housing, health and homelessness, based at Otago University in Wellington.

“My family originally came from Northern Ireland.

“I met Nevil when I signed up for a scuba diving course in Wellington and lo and behold there was a whole group of Irish people who were on working holidays and had decided to do the course at same time.

“Nevil was one of those. He picked me up when I fell over and gave me my flipper back when it came off. He decided to stay in New Zealand, although we spent a lot of time in Ireland.

“I took a break when I was at Morrison Kent for four to five months, and we based ourselves in Kerry, in the southwest of Ireland.

“That’s where we did lobster fishing, travelling around and supporting ourselves by catching lobsters.

“We went out in old aluminium dinghies, which replaced the traditional hide currachs, putting out pots and pulling them up the next day.

“I can pull four pots. Lobster and mackerel are easy to catch and we did a lot of mackerel fishing when we there recently.

“We took our kids Tadhg (6) and Niamh (4) last time, to see all the family. The kids loved it. With my husband living so far away it’s important for him and the kids to keep the links.

“There are heaps of cousins and they live a very rural life. The landscape is very much like on Father Ted - isolated and rural. The cousins all run around on their farm, which is down on the water on the coast.

“I became a fan of hurling in Ireland and we watched some of the all-Ireland championships while we were there. Hurling is like a full-on version of hockey. We brought some hurleys back with us and had to explain them at customs because they look like weapons and also are made of wood.”

Swapping Christchurch for Thailand  

“For some years I was involved in a community law centre, which is one of the things that got me going into practice. I liked helping people with their legal problems and would like to get back into that at some stage, but not while the kids are little.

“After my first two years in Christchurch I decided law wasn’t for me and I quit to do a bit of travelling. One of my brothers was living in Thailand at the time and when I visited him his Thai friends took me under their wing.

“I ate cobra in Hong Kong. In the Philippines one of the uncles in my husband’s family was a priest connected to nuns there who do a lot of work with people in real need. We saw the communities they help in Cebu, which was a humbling experience.

“I’ve also travelled a little bit round Europe, in France and Italy.

Charlotte Walker 2

“I don’t have a musical bone in my body, but I like U2, and am looking forward to their concert in November. I like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan - that sort of thing.

“Biographies and autobiographies are my favourite reading. Michelle Obama’s Becoming, Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, his biography.

“I’m part way through Michael King’s History of New Zealand. I took it to Ireland and made good progress on that.

“My husband’s family is related to Michael Collins, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, so I have read a few books about him. He is my husband’s grandmother’s uncle - so by extension my kids' great grand uncle and tipuna.

[Charlotte (third right), with colleagues Gareth Smith, Sarah Inder and Paul Woolhouse, at the High Court in Wellington sitting for the 150th New Zealand Law Society anniversary.]

“Two books I found very moving and would recommend are Mahtob by Mahtob Mamoody and Driving to Treblinka by Diana Wichtel.

“I like gritty stuff in films and television but not scary murders. I liked the British drama series The Bodyguard, a good period drama and a bit of a comedy. Derry Girls is a good Irish sitcom.

“I like British actresses Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter - I have crazy curly hair like her. I like people who are a bit quirky. And I love watching The Great British Bake Off.

“We have no pets because we have no garden.

“We drove an old faithful 1998 Mitsubishi Lancer for years until finally we said goodbye and got a 2014 Toyota Corolla. I feel very fancy driving around in a car that’s only five years old. But we try not to drive too much in Wellington and walk when we can.

“My dinner guests would be people with good senses of humour. My late grandmother Lillian, who was special to me, Nelson Mandela would be lovely, Leonard Cohen may give us a song.

“I like other people to cook for me. A brother-in-law is Italian and eating his cooking is amazing so the meal would be Italian. I like to do a little bit of baking and like making blueberry muffins, chocolate cake and chocolate brownies.

“I don’t have a lot of time between work and family at the moment, but I like to get out and do running, yoga and swimming.”

Lucky opportunity  

“Last year I was lucky to be given the opportunity to work with the Law Society’s independent working group chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright looking at regulatory ways to address bullying and discrimination.

“I was seconded to assist the working group and it was an amazing opportunity to meet all the working group members, and Dame Silvia, and to be involved in something so important and meaningful.

“Looking at ways to change the culture and some of the behaviours we have seen in the profession, to make it a more inclusive, safer and open place for everybody.

“I hope now that people are talking about that we will see a change and there will be a community where everyone from all different walks of life are welcome, included and lots of different voices are heard.

“A senior lawyer helped me when I didn’t know what to do and that person really helped me. I’m hoping I get the opportunity to do something similar for young lawyers.

“Maybe it is encouraging other lawyers at my stage and experience to do the same and show some encouragement and kindness to someone who is starting out. It can make all the world of difference.

“Talking to young lawyers and encouraging them to ask for help if they need to really does help. People will help and they are happy to help.

“As an alternative career maybe I would have enjoyed being in one of the caring professions - social work or counselling. Maybe a teacher.

“Both my parents came from backgrounds where they didn’t have the resources and didn’t have the opportunities, so they impressed on us to be grateful for opportunities and take them and work hard. I am grateful to them that they shared that with us.”

Over a long career in journalism Jock Anderson has spent many hours in courtrooms and talking to members of the legal profession. He can be contacted at jockanderson123@gmail.com

Last updated on the 3rd October 2019