New Zealand Law Society - Japanese scholar with an eye for a challenge

Japanese scholar with an eye for a challenge

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With a BA majoring in Japanese, lawyer’s daughter Claire Tyler chose a legal career ahead of medicine because blood was “not my thing.”

Made a partner this year at Rainey Collins in Wellington, where she has worked for more than 10 years since not long after her admission, Claire says that at school in Whanganui with a maths and science leaning, medicine or law were the traditional paths to follow.

Claire Barbara (Claire) Tyler 
Entry to law
Graduated LLB, BA (majoring in Japanese) from Victoria University in 2006. Admitted in 2006.
Partner at Rainey Collins, Wellington. 
Speciality area
Business and personal legal services, commercial and property law.
Claire Tyler
Claire Tyler

The former college dux was also keen on English and getting her point across.

“I wouldn’t use the word argue but a lot of my friends would. I would push a point until I was right, but not argumentative. And I like people to agree with my points.”

During school holidays Claire was influenced by working in her father Paul Coe’s law office. Mr Coe, now retired, was a partner in Armstrong and Barton.

“I was delivering settlements by hand, doing banking, filing and picking up cheques. I had no idea what I was actually doing but it gave me a vague idea of what working in a legal office is like. And I saw that Dad had a nice balanced approach to life.”

Her mother worked at Whanganui courthouse as a stenographer for many years.

“So I thought law was an okay thing to do.”

It was a proud moment when her father proposed her admission to the Bar in 2006.

Claire’s alternative career to lawyering would be optometry. “I like to see a problem I could fix. With eyes I think I could fix a problem – not surgery or blood – but working with glasses.”

Before joining Rainey Collins, Claire worked with the legal team at Child Youth and Family in Wellington.

Work/ life balance

Both she and her husband work four days a week, “which is a good arrangement and life balances well,”.

“A lot of workplaces realise that if you don’t offer time flexibility - and Rainey Collins have been doing it for quite a while – then good people don’t stay. The idea of everyone sitting in the office five days a week is changing.

“Juggling a young child and taking on a partnership is a big challenge. I’m working part-time but this is not a part-time job.

“There are significant additional duties and responsibilities, doing the things that come with being an owner and manager at the same time.

“It’s busier, and I have to learn to manage my time a lot better. The expectations have not changed in terms of the work. There are additional hours, outside events, and networking required. And financial advantages.

“I weighed up ‘if this is the right fit and for me and it obviously is because I have been here a long time and they have been really good to me’.

“I would recommend becoming a partner if the opportunity arises. I am very interested in everything, how the firm runs, where we invest in advertising, etc. And it’s good for firms to have fresh blood to help invigorate existing partners.

“A lot of it is the stress levels and additional responsibilities and not everyone wants that. But that’s what I want.”

Fascination with Japanese lettering

It was at school she developed her long-standing interest in Japanese, going on to major in the language for her BA.

“I’ve always had an interest in what the characters they used were and wanted to be able to read them and understand them. I kept it going through school and university.”

She has travelled to Japan three times, the longest based in Saitama, a close train ride to Tokyo, to teach English for a few months over university summer holidays.

“I’ve kept up my Japanese interests. My comprehension is still okay but the skills have dropped dramatically because I have not been using the language. It’s six years since I was last in Japan. I could get by but can’t speak to the levels I used to.”

She is keen to go back with husband Sam, a GNS Science earthquake monitor, and two-year-old daughter Cassie.

“The firm has no Japanese clients, but people have come to us because they know of my interest. We have talked about getting Japanese clients but I don’t think I’m up to that skill level at the moment. I don’t have the legal jargon.”

Love of old school rock

Before daughter Cassie was born Claire was involved for a few years with the Wellington young professionals group and served on its standing committee. “A good learning experience.”

“I like music. I’m pretty mainstream and just listen to what is there. I sang in school productions and should have played an instrument but didn’t. If starting now it would probably be the acoustic guitar, and I would try to teach myself.

“Sam went to the Guns N’ Roses gig (in early February) and I wish I had gone because I like that old school stuff.

“I’m in a book club that meets once a month – it started as a group of friends who came through law school but a whole mix of people have become part of it.

“We are not the best at reading the books and we just have a glass of wine and a catchup. Our current book is Alice Steinbach’s Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman – I have not read it yet, but it’s on kindle to read by March the 8th.

“We watch a bit of downloaded TV and I am obsessed with US legal drama Suits. Sam thinks that’s what life in the law is like, exciting and cutting deals all the time. But it’s no relation to reality. We like Game of Thrones and US comedy New Girl.

“I would have Barack Obama round for dinner because I love listening to him speak and it would be interesting to hear his take on the current situation in America. Sam would be cooking a really good lasagne, with rosé wines.

“Before Cassie was born we had holidays in lots of places in Asia and the Islands – I love Rarotonga – and on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast where my brother lives.

“Taupo is my favourite New Zealand holiday spot, I like the feel and we go there quite often.”

Claire admits that she has no sporting interests. She did enjoy some tramping when she was younger. “But nothing very strenuous. If I can’t do it well I’d rather not do it.”

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