New Zealand Law Society - Tiana Epati becomes President of the New Zealand Law Society

Tiana Epati becomes President of the New Zealand Law Society

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Gisborne criminal defence lawyer Tiana Epati has taken over as President of the New Zealand Law Society.

At 43 years old, Tiana Epati is the second-youngest President elected. She is also the fourth woman to have been elected since the first President in 1897.

Tiana Epati

She is a partner with Gisborne law firm Rishworth Wall & Mathieson. Ms Epati was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in September 2000 after graduating from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and history and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB).

Ms Epati is the 31st elected President and replaces Kathryn Beck, who has completed her three-year term.

“Kathryn did an incredible job, leading the Law Society through what has been a challenging time - particularly last year which was largely consumed by disturbing allegations of inappropriate behaviour by some members of the legal community. She drove and fronted the Law Society’s work in addressing these issues – sexual harassment and bullying. She has been a truly inspirational leader,” she says.

As new President Ms Epati says 2019 is the year of delivery of several workstreams already underway.

“We’ll be working on how to implement the recommendations of the Working Group led by Dame Silvia Cartwright on our regulatory system, to ensure we have an effective complaints regime to deal with, and deter, unacceptable behaviour,” she says.

Another key priority is the delivery of an action plan by the Law Society’s Culture Change Taskforce in November.

“This will be a blueprint for long term culture change within the legal community. The taskforce is a key player in developing a strategic framework and action plan that will support the creation and maintenance of healthy, safe, respectful, and inclusive legal workplaces,” Ms Epati says.

Kathryn Beck is the chair of the Taskforce.

Other priority areas for Ms Epati include progressing the conversation around access to justice.

“I want to see the Law Society driving initiatives which support changes to our justice system to ensure people who are affected by legal problems can access legal assistance.

“Most, if not all, of us became lawyers to be of service to the community, to do something good and to make a positive impact. It’s a privilege to be a lawyer and with that comes obligations and responsibilities. We take an oath to be admitted into practice and we need to remember that.”