New Zealand Law Society - Grassroots law Opera-loving Tom Cruise fan

Grassroots law Opera-loving Tom Cruise fan

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Katerina Hatzidakis
Katerina Hatzidakis

Away from work Whangarei sole practitioner and research lawyer Kat Hatzidakis's passions swing from opera to Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible film series – and surfing.

"I love opera and classical music, particularly the classical guitar … And I sing, but not where anyone can hear me," says Kat.

"I often come to Auckland for the ballet and opera and could see Madame Butterfly over and over again.

"I like action movies and am going through a Mission Impossible Tom Cruise phase at the moment … Tom Cruise is not always my favourite person because he does seem a little bit odd at times as a human being, but he's very good in Mission Impossible stuff…"

Katerina (Kat) Hatzidakis
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Otago University in 1990. Admitted 1990. 
Principle of Accessible Law, Whangarei. 
Speciality area
Commercial law, legal research, analysis, dispute resolution.

Kat also rates actors Denzil Washington, Hugh Jackman and Matthew McConaughey, especially for his role in The Lincoln Lawyer.

Born in Wellington of Greek parents from Crete, Kat grew up amongst Greek culture.

She went to Otago University in 1985 after a friend – who was going there – asked her to come too.

"I had been to the South Island once on a sixth form trip so I said yes … Dunedin was a great place to go to university, the city is welcoming and I liked the clear distinctions between the seasons."

Her first law jobs were in Dunedin - where one of her former employers was Colin Doherty, now a District Court judge - and Oamaru.

"I was lucky in the people I worked with and learned from but after a while I decided the law was not for me."

Kat then worked for Youthline, Māori Women's Refuge and for Inland Revenue as a child support review officer.

"It was hard and painful watching people wanting to avoid paying for their children…"

She also taught assertiveness skills with Presbyterian Support Services and worked as a solicitor for Trustees Executors.

"I was trying to find my way just in case I wasn't really a lawyer but in the end I could not let the law go, it was in my blood…"

She packed her bags in Oamaru and made a "random" move to Whangarei when a job came up there 11 years ago, initially working as research counsel for District Court judges and occasionally for visiting High Court judges.

"It was a wonderful job and the judges were fabulous to work with…"

The opportunity came six years ago to start her own practice in Whangarei.

"I don't do criminal law. I describe my practice as basically being a GP… I do family law, wills, estates, contracts, some employment, some insurance – it's a real varied and interesting mixture…"

While most of her practice is "grassroots law," Kat's speciality is doing research for other lawyers, something she says she is suited to and enjoys.

"When I began my own practice I felt the law belonged to everybody but it is sometimes difficult for various reasons for people to access the law…

"I intended to have a practice where going to a lawyer was an ordinary thing, like going to the hairdresser or the grocer…

"I decided early – in the fifth form - to be a lawyer and with no other lawyers in the family I was also the first family member in my generation to attend university.

"I have always felt a need to protect people and serve the community and law lets me do that … It is not easy being a lawyer, it is not an easy balance and I am lucky I have kept my enthusiasm after 20 years…

"I feel good about that. I wanted to give a voice to those people who didn't have a voice … I enjoy the law and believe it can work if done properly and genuinely…

"But sometimes the law can't help and I am straight with people … I tell them from the beginning that if they have no case, this is where it ends … It is not a good idea to give people hope when there is none…"

During her time in Whangarei Kat spent three years doing free legal clinics funded by the Ministry of Social Development – "but I needed to find a happy family who loved their children…"

"I've been learning to surf for a couple of years … It is super cool and takes a sh*t load of practice … I surf at Sandy Bay on the Tutukaka coast, which is gorgeous fun with not too serious waves…

"I do yoga, meditation, pilates, paint abstracts in acrylics and water colours and visit the Auckland Art Gallery whenever I can."

She describes favourite television shows such as CSI as "an emotional release, like a religious experience…"

"I love pancakes, love cooking, and I'm into organic foods, clean food, and try to eat healthily…

"l was going to learn the cello as a kid but never got round to it … maybe when I retire…

"It would be fun to learn how to play African drums … I love to dance and African dance is cool…

"When I break from law stuff I read Harper Lee … her new book Go Set A Watchman is fine … I haven't read To Kill A Mockingbird yet…"

"I like romantic thriller writer Georgette Heyer because of her light and beautiful way of looking at humanity … She is accurate and kindly … She gets how men and women work, and puts it down accurately but not in a mean way…"

If not a lawyer Kat says she would probably have been an occupational therapist.

"It sounds a bit odd, but one of the things that interests me about how I do law is walking with someone through a process…

"Without sounding too new age, basically it's the client's journey and they have asked you to walk with them to provide the information and assistance to help them in this part of their journey…

"It's pretty cool to be able to assist somebody in that process…and as an occupational therapist it's kind of the same thing … a cool job…"

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for most of his career in journalism. Contact Jock at

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