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Ukelele lady ready to make her mark as new Crown Solicitor

21 May 2015 - By Jock Anderson

Natalie Emma (Natalie) Walker

Born Auckland.
Age 40.
Entry to law Graduated LLB/BA (French, Spanish and Italian) from Auckland University in 1998 and LLM from University College, London in 2000. Admitted 1999.
Workplace Crown Solicitor in Manukau, partner in Kayes Fletcher Walker, Auckland.
Specialist area Criminal litigation, appeals, extradition and regulatory matters. 

Photo of Natalie Walker
New Crown Solicitor at Manukau Natalie Walker has put her 40th birthday ukelele aside as she spends her nights ploughing through six to 12 job applications a day.

In partnership with her husband Ned Fletcher (Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias’ son) and good friend Gareth Kayes, Natalie is building the firm up from three partners and an office manager to a staff of 28 in readiness for “opening shop” in Manukau in August.

“It’s going to be busy and there are two daughters and a son at home, aged ten, eight and five, who need some attention. Fortunately they are all now at school so we have a better routine,” Natalie says.

“Our mornings, evenings and weekends are with the children. They are into soccer, hockey, rugby netball, flipper ball so it is interesting being sideline parents.

“I used to play a lot of summer hockey, played for years with the south Auckland police social touch rugby team and indoor netball with Meredith Connell.”

Music is a big part of Natalie and Ned’s life and they take in as many local and international acts as they can. Favourites include indie band Colexico, The Veils, New Zealand singer/songwriter Andrew Keoghan and local band Five Mile Town.

“Mum and Dad gave me a ukelele for my 40th birthday and I’m teaching myself new songs. My Dad is very musical and plays the piano, guitar and drums.

“I play the acoustic guitar really badly but friends tolerate me following them a bit clumsily. I like the thrill of starting a tune then it peters out a bit…

“We have Apple TV and watch a fair amount of movies … I like good foreign films such as the French comedy-drama The Intouchables, Lost in Translation, Ben Stiller’s 2013 version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and art house films.

“I liked The Wire, and the American House of Cards on TV but haven’t seen the British original.

“I read inspirational legal biographies such as My Beloved World, the memoir of Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latino woman appointed to the US Supreme Court. Lord Justice Stephen Sedley’s Ashes and Sparks, and Anthony Lewis’s Gideon’s Trumpet, the story of Clarence Earl Gideon.”

Mr Gideon was the plaintiff in a 1963 case in which the US Supreme Court held that states were required to provide counsel for indigent defendants charged with serious crimes.

“We always have time off for holidays over summer. The family have a little Kiwi bach at Buckleton, near Matakana, north of Auckland, and the kids love swimming there.

“Every second year we drive down the east coast to stay with friends on Te Aowera marae, near Mt Hikurangi. That’s an amazing contrast for us and our children to understand what life on the marae is like.

“We like to have time with the children and do things that are different and interesting.

“It’s a huge honour to be appointed Crown Solicitor and it’s been an exciting couple of weeks.

“There’s a transition to August when we take over Manukau from Meredith Connell and our Manukau offices should be ready by the end of August.

“We want to build an office that reflects the Manukau community…

“This is a great opportunity to create a firm in south Auckland to give young staff, particularly Māori and Pacific Island graduates, the opportunity to get that great Crown training. We committed to doing that.

“There is an incredible response from New Zealand and overseas and it is encouraging that so many people want to work in south Auckland.

“With each decision we have to keep assessing what the dynamic in the office is and keeping the balance right. We are committed to having equal numbers of men and women and bringing through young Māori and Pasifika lawyers.”

Born on the North Shore, Natalie grew up on a west Auckland farm, near Waimaukau before it became fashionable, and attended Kaipara College as her mother and grandfather before her did.

She lived in the north of France for a year as an exchange student instead of doing seventh form, learning to speak fluent French. When she came home she got into Auckland University on an admission programme at a time when sixth form marks and being an exchange student opened the door.

After graduation she worked at Chapman Tripp in Auckland, Ned was accepted at Oxford University, they became engaged and Natalie did her masters degree at University College, London, studying constitutional issues.

“When we came back, I interviewed for a job at Meredith Connell and was offered a job but Simon Moore suggested I go to John Haigh QC for a while.

“I had six months with John Haigh until an opening came up at Meredith Connell and I jumped ship and went to the Crown in July 2001.

“It was the beginning of 13 fantastic years learning how to be a Crown prosecutor.”

Chasing her dream to have her own law firm, Natalie left her Meredith Connell partnership a year ago to set up in partnership with husband Ned and Gareth Kayes.

“When we did it we knew we would be a defence firm and we had ten fantastic months of doing defence work which was really humbling, rewarding and very hard work…

“When this opportunity came up, when Crown Law announced in October it would split the warrants and put them out for tender, the three of us thought it was too good an opportunity not to have a go.

“Both of our families are incredibly excited about this opportunity. Ned and I know how fortunate we are and that we don’t represent most of the community we will be prosecuting.

“We know how privileged we are and what responsibility comes with that and we feel very lucky to have that family support…

“It is such important work prosecuting crime and it’s a huge privilege to represent the Crown both in and out of court.

“We thought the new Manukau warrant was a great opportunity to create a firm based in south Auckland with a strong Crown identity.” 

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for several decades. He also writes the weekly Caseload column for the New Zealand Herald. Contact Jock at jockanderson123@gmail.com. 

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Last updated on the 17th August 2015