Alison Souness was elected President of the New Zealand Law Society Hawke’s Bay branch at the branch’s annual meeting on 19 May 2015. She succeeds Carol Hall, who became branch President in 2013.
Ms Souness is a partner of the Hastings firm Souness Stone Law Partnership, which she established with her husband Richard Stone around 20 years ago – just one week after their first child was born.
After graduating from Otago University with an LLB and a BA in English Literature, Ms Souness joined the firm then known as Cameron Ross in Wanganui. She mainly worked in resource management, planning law and family law, as well as doing some District Court work with the firm, which was the Crown Solicitor’s office.
She then moved to the Hawke’s Bay, joining the firm then known as Callinicos McDowell before setting up on her own account. After working in sole practice for a year, she and her husband formed Souness Stone Law Partnership.
When asked how she became interested in the law, Ms Souness said: “I have always been interested in language and people so it was quite a natural fit for me.
“My interest was galvanised at an early stage by my school careers programme. I grew up in Balclutha. As part of our careers programme I was scheduled to spend an afternoon at a local law firm.
“First, I was ushered into the office of their most junior lawyer. He told me to shut the door and then said law was a terrible career choice. ‘Don’t do it’.
“I then went to speak to the senior partner. He told me that he had never met a good woman lawyer, although (he mused rather doubtfully) he supposed there might be one or two.
“I left my careers experience day early and went home very cross and quite determined that I would be a lawyer after all.
“I often think of that old gentleman and wonder what he makes of some of the wonderfully talented women we have on the bench and in practice today.
“He did me a favour of course. Nothing like a telling a 16-year-old they won’t be good at something to make them work hard to prove you wrong!”
More than 25 years later, Ms Souness finds that practising law continues to be fascinating. She has practised over a wide range, including the District Court, Environment Court, Coroner’s Court and family mediation.
She specialises in Family Court – where she is regularly appointed lawyer for the child and lawyer to assist the Court – and property work.
“I have a very busy property practice, and I’m particularly interested in the interface between family disputes and property acquisition and division.
“I am a member of the Family Law Section and the Property Law Section, which I find really valuable.”
Ms Souness has lived in the Hawke’s Bay for some 25 years and loves living in the province.
“We have a hugely collegial bar and a bar of a very high standard,” she says.
As well as lawyering, Ms Souness has served in a variety of governance positions in the Hawke’s Bay. The organisations she has served include Dove Hawke’s Bay, a domestic violence intervention programme; the Women’s Refuge; Playcentre; Family Start, a child-centred family support programme; and is currently a trustee on the Board of Trustees of Woodford House, an integrated girls’ school in Havelock North.
Outside the law, she is part of a “busy household that Richard and I share with our three teenagers. I seem to spend a lot of my time outside of the law supporting teenagers rowing, football, speech and drama and chamber music – all great fun.”
Maria Hamilton was elected the branch’s Vice-President at the annual meeting, and the following were elected to the branch Council: Jol Bates, Matthew Dixon, Satchie Govender, Nigel Loughnan, Robyn Matthew, Bodee Oliver and William Story.