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The long road from Black Stick gold medal-winner to lawyer

29 November 2019 - By Nick Butcher

Pippa Hayward was studying law while juggling a professional sports career as a member of the Black Sticks hockey team.

It took almost 10 years to get her degree because of her commitment to the sport, but determination won in the end.

Pippa Hayward

Pippa was a member of the New Zealand hockey squad which won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. She also competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games but the Sticks agonisingly lost out on a medal to Germany in the medal play-off match.

Pippa, who was admitted in 2018 and is a solicitor at Meredith Connell in Auckland, comes from the deep south. Born in Dunedin, she grew up in Southland where her parents were farmers.

The family moved to Christchurch just before she entered her teenage years and Pippa attended the University of Canterbury. About halfway through her law degree, she transferred to the University of Auckland, a decision that was driven by her ongoing involvement with the Black Sticks.

“The team was unofficially based in Auckland, so it made sense for me to be there and train with the majority of the squad,” she says.

“It was quite difficult at times to manage my sports career with studying law at university. Initially I was studying full-time and I was playing hockey. It became too difficult to do both full-time. After about a year and a half of that, I moved to studying part-time.”

Taking exams while playing overseas

The biggest challenge, like all students, was around exam time. Often the team was overseas playing at an Olympic or World Cup qualifier.

“Our major tournament for the year would often be at the same time as mid-year exams, meaning I would have to do my exams in a hotel room. I remember this one tournament in Barcelona where I only ever saw the hockey turf and the inside of my hotel room.”

Pippa Hayward playing hockey
Pippa Hayward at the World League tournament in 2015 against Japan.


Pippa who played 158 times for the Black Sticks, says she has played just three games of hockey since she retired last year.

“While I don’t play anymore, I do go to the gym regularly and I’m also competing in a six-hour adventure race soon. I’ve done a few of those events. I still like to keep fit but it’s really nice to have weekends free again and be able to go away and see friends and family,” she says.

Pippa Hayward doesn’t come from a bloodline of lawyers. There are no other lawyers in her family circle and at the time the decision to study law wasn’t something she had thought too deeply about. It was a practical decision. Her friends were going to study law and she thought that it would be a degree that could be useful for a range of careers.

“There were times when I questioned why I was doing it (law). I saw it as a degree that would lead to a lot of work opportunities. People would tell me that they had done a law degree, and while some of them were not practising law, they had gone into alternative careers, using that degree and were enjoying it,” she says.

Variety of work

Pippa is a member of the New Zealand Law Society Auckland Young Lawyers Committee and was recently appointed to the New Zealand Sports Tribunal. It’s likely she will be able to practise sports law while involved in the Tribunal.

There’s not really a typical day at Meredith Connell and that’s part of the attraction of working there.

“One day I might be in court, the next day I might be writing submissions and another day I might be meeting with a complainant. I have a pretty remarkable variety of work,” she says.

The majority of her workload is criminal advisory and prosecution work: 20% charges prosecuted by the Crown and the remainder coming from regulatory prosecution, for example prosecutions under the Companies Act, New Zealand Customs Service and the Department of Conservation. She also does work for the Department of Corrections, specifically whether extra conditions need to be put in place when a person is released from prison.

Lawyer retention she says would be one of the biggest issues facing the legal profession.

“Keeping young people in the profession. There’s a big focus on work/life balance and it can be quite difficult at times for lawyers. Mental health would be another big issue. I dealt with anxiety problems when I was playing hockey. It’s really important to talk about it and put plans in place to manage issues so that you can move forward. Lawyers can be very self-critical and always expect even more than the best from themselves. We put a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves,” she says.

Pippa Hayward hasn’t thought about where she might be in her career in 10 years’ time.

“I’m ambitious and do have goals when it comes to my legal career. Mostly I want to continue to live by the values that are important to me. That is doing the right thing and making sure that I am giving something back to society. I want to make sure that I enjoy my work but also push and challenge myself,” she says.

Last updated on the 29th November 2019