New Zealand Law Society - Ben Kirkpatrick, new NZLS AYL committee member

Ben Kirkpatrick, new NZLS AYL committee member

Tell us a bit about your background?

I was born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau. I spent most of my childhood in Papatoetoe and was home schooled with my three brothers before moving to the North Shore and attending Rangitoto College. Our family was always involved in the community and loved sport. I enjoyed athletics and had the opportunity to represent New Zealand overseas numerous times. After some volunteer and community work mixed with travel, I finally took up studying at the University of Auckland. After completing my studies, I jumped straight into criminal law and worked for Ron Mansfield for the last 3 years. I have recently transitioned into the crown specialist team at Meredith Connell.

What made you want to become a lawyer?

I knew that I wanted to work directly with people and initially thought that I was most suited to being a teacher or police officer. I had grown up with lots of community involvement and wanted to work with young people. When I looked at joining the police, they were diversifying and wanted people with more life experience. I ended up studying criminology at the University of Auckland and was inspired by people like Khylee Quince and Tracey McIntosh to take up law. I quickly realised that criminal law would enable me to work with young people. Fresh out of law school, I was privileged to work with Ron Mansfield on many youth court matters and in jury trials involving young people.

What challenges do you see confronting the legal profession in the next five years?

There are some big access to justice issues within criminal law which have been heightened by the Covid-19 lockdowns and numerous jury trials being pushed out. There are serious systemic issues within the criminal justice system that demand change. I am also interested in seeing the legal profession and wider society pick up and engage in korero and issues like those raised in the Matike Mai Report.

What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the law?

Firstly, to talk to a diverse range of people in the legal sector. From my experience, even the busiest lawyers will make time for a coffee with an aspiring student and have good insights to share. Secondly, I would tell them to consider their passions and whether law ties into that. A career in law holds lots of exciting possibilities and diverse opportunities both in Aotearoa and overseas. From my experience, obtaining a law degree provides you with a powerful tool that you can use to help marginalised people and communities in meaningful ways. It also teaches you lots of valuable life skills how to approach problems critically, how to communicate effectively and how to present arguments persuasively.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?

Most likely a teacher.  However, I did a bricklaying apprenticeship over a summer and sometimes (often while stuck in court on a sunny day) dream of working with my hands outside in the sun.

Favourite coffee shop in the CBD? 

Chuffed and Hugo’s are favourites. Little Albert Coffee would be the one I visit the most.

We would like to thank Ben for providing this article.

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