With a passion for helping others, Wellingtonian Luke Humphries followed the path of his late grandfather, James Cornish into the legal profession.
A multi-faceted public defender, arbitrator, and engineer, Mr Cornish defended clients in the District Courts, showing Luke that law was an avenue he could pursue if he wanted to help those who need it.
Luke attended St Patricks College in Kilbirnie and studied at Victoria University, before joining Auckland law firm Fee Langstone.
As a high school student, Luke favoured subjects that focused on writing and analysing written information and was drawn to study law after finishing shool.
Any particular reason you chose Victoria University over the other universities?
“I chose Victoria University as it enabled me to live at home while I studied, keeping my student loan as low as possible while also getting a high-quality legal education. I was also interested in the Socratic method of teaching, which is a feature of the programme at Victoria. The real-time questioning was a strong motivator to keep up-to-date with the reading to avoid being caught out in front of the entire lecture hall.”
You also have a BA majoring in Psychology and English Literature. How does this help your day-to-day practise?
“Unfortunately, there is not much scope in my work for thematic analysis of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. In saying that, I am sure that subconsciously I am drawing from the critical analysis skills that I developed through my BA without realising it.”
What drew you to work in civil litigation?
“I work in a range of different areas under the umbrella of civil litigation.
“The benefit of working at Fee Langstone is the wide range of factual scenarios with wide reaching areas of law which helps to very quickly give you an appreciation of the diversity of practice that the law can offer.
“As a specialist insurance litigation firm, there is always a second layer of interaction with the insurance policy which provides its own challenges. Personally, I am drawn towards the areas of defamation, privacy and cyber insurance which crop up from time-to-time at Fee Langstone.”
What’s your favourite part of working as a lawyer?
“I have really enjoyed working in a team, solving problems and learning from the partners and senior associates at Fee Langstone. The environment here is very welcoming and supportive.
“Leaving university you quickly realise you don’t know much about what the law looks like in practice. I have quickly learnt the importance of managing people and their expectations. In saying that it is still satisfying to find the answer to a tough research question after a long research session. Ultimately, I know that it has been a successful day when I can go home knowing that I have solved a problem or been able to help someone.”
Are there any issues in the legal profession you feel need addressing?
“It seems to me that there are two major areas that need addressing, which have been highlighted by working from home during COVID-19; the first is mental health and the second is the relationship between technology and the law.
“There is a steep learning curve coming out of university which is intimidating. It can be tough to learn through constructive criticism. In particular, I have found working from home has presented its own range of challenges. Not being able to discuss issues with your colleagues in person has taken more of a toll than I expected. I have found the most useful tool to manage that is creating a support structure at work as well as in my personal life.
“The law struggles to keep up with the pace of technology. We are only now seeing a substantial update to New Zealand’s privacy legislation which was first enacted in 1993, predating Facebook by over 10 years.
“While change in this area is the domain of legislators and judges, I believe that as a profession we should ensure we are up-to-date on the legal issues raised by technology. With the prevalence of social media, there are an increasing number of issues in the areas of privacy, defamation and employment law.
“Further, I believe there is space for technology-based solutions to reduce cost and increase the value of the service we provide to clients.
“I am also encouraged to see that the cyber insurance market is starting to grow as businesses realise the need to protect their digital presence from fraudsters and hackers. Working on some files with the cyber insurance team at Fee Langstone has been an interesting and rewarding experience.”
Did you find the profession has matched the expectations you had at law school?
“I’m not sure exactly what I expected the profession to be like. I had vague notions that it would be a world filled with suits, long hours and endless cups of coffee. In reality I have found the profession to be filled with hard workers who want to achieve the best outcomes for their clients. There is a lot to be said of the idea that the law is, at its core, a service industry.
“I have very quickly learnt that it is just as important to be able to communicate to your client in a clear way as it is to have creative legal solutions to their problems.
“The ability to reduce complex ideas to a straightforward message is a skill that I am still working on and imagine I will be for years to come. Not everything about the profession is unexpected though, my caffeine intake is probably not the healthiest.”
How are you finding working from home during the lockdown and are you keeping a healthy work/life balance?
“Working from home has presented new challenges and opportunities. I am definitely a big fan of the reduced commute to and from the office.
“The biggest challenge for me has been maintaining focus throughout the day, as there are so many more distractions at home, read: the fridge is so close.
“Making time to get out and exercise has been very important for my mental wellbeing. One of the major personal casualties of the lockdown has been the inability to play my favourite sport, ultimate frisbee.”
What’s the best piece of advice you have received?
“It sounds corny, but the best piece of advice I have ever got was to take every opportunity that presents itself and giving it 100% because you never know where it may lead.”