New Zealand Law Society - Meet the Candidates: Jacque Lethbridge

Meet the Candidates: Jacque Lethbridge

Meet the Candidates: Jacque Lethbridge

The election took place on Friday the 15th of October 2021. Jacque Lethbridge was elected as the next President. She will officially take over in April 2022.

See more information here.

Jacque Lethbridge is one of four candidates running to be the next President-Elect of the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa. The other three are Frazer Barton, Arti Chand and Duncan Terris.

While I have practiced in Auckland for the last 17 years, I proudly hail from Feilding. I graduated with a BA in History and Political Science (2001) and an LLB (2003) from Victoria University of Wellington and undertook an LLM Hons (2011) at Auckland University while practicing.

My varied career spans 20 years from working at the Waitangi Tribunal in Wellington in 2001 to being a litigation partner at Martelli McKegg in Auckland in 2021.

After being admitted to the bar in May 2004, I moved from the Waitangi Tribunal to begin practice as an in-house lawyer in criminal law in June 2004 first as a Prosecutor for the Ministry of Social Development and then as a Defence Lawyer for the Public Defence Service (Pilot) from June 2005 based in the Manukau and Auckland offices.

In 2008, I moved to Grove Darlow & Partners where I continued a broad range of litigation including civil and commercial litigation. I was made the firm’s first female Partner in 2012 at age 32 and then moved to Lowndes as a Partner in 2016 where I developed a growing practice in restructuring and insolvency litigation finally moving to Martelli McKegg in 2019.

I’ve been volunteering my time since I began practice including as Chair of the Auckland Community Law Centre Board, co-founding Chair of Women in Restructuring and Insolvency, Council member of ADLS, Board of RITANZ, teaching for College of Law, Faculty Member of NZLS Litigation Skills and Vice-President (Auckland) on NZLS Board. I was recognised in the NZ Lawyer 25 Most Influential Lawyers 2021 in the Changemaker category.

Why are you running for New Zealand Law Society President?

I am deeply passionate about the role of law in our society and the role of lawyers and I want to see the law profession as a safe and inclusive one. As with anyone my background informs how I will lead.

I grew up in heartland New Zealand, was raised by a disabled parent and have been a mother throughout my journey as a lawyer – all of these experiences have shaped me to have a deep understanding of the varied and diverse needs and voices in our profession.

From my own experience in practice, collegiality is the beating heart of what weaves us together as a profession and it is this that I see as centrally important to the role of President – as connector, as leader and voice for our modern and diverse profession. 

I am standing to be President of the New Zealand Law Society because I believe the profession needs strong, supportive, collaborative and experienced leadership over the next three years during which the Independent Review will take place and important structural changes are made to the judicial system.

I would like to see NZLS internally well connected with every branch and section to ensure all the voices in our profession are heard and represented and to have a consistent level of experience. Externally I would like to continue the collaborative work with other stakeholders within the profession, the judiciary and the government.

I would like to see an inclusive NZLS representing all those lawyers who make up our profession and I have a particular focus on continuing the journey started for achieving equitable diversity.

I want to help lead the NZLS in creating a welcoming, supportive and safe place for new members of the law profession and an organisation that promotes their thinking by including them. I want to imbed wellbeing initiatives designed to support all lawyers to practice well for them, for their colleagues and for their clients particularly tackling the demands on lawyers and their families.

What would you bring to the role of President?

I will bring experience and leadership. My broad experience in the law profession from working in-house, undertaking criminal legal aid work, being a Partner in a small firm, appearing in all levels of the courts throughout our country, volunteering on boards within the law profession and in the community and being a partner in a mid-tier firm puts me in a unique position to lead NZLS.

I have proactively been part of changing the status quo when it comes to diversity becoming a Partner at a young age and helping bring others through into senior positions and partnership. I have also proactively been involved in making material changes to access to justice through initiatives led by the community law movement in developing the pro bono clearing house project.

I will bring advocacy. I would like to take what I have learnt in practice and life to promote and advocate for lawyers and their essential role in achieving equitable access to justice and upholding the rule of law in our society.

I want to promote the great work by lawyers from all over New Zealand in all different practice areas and in all sorts of endeavours. Lawyers are not only leaders within the profession but often outside it within the wider community and as President I would like to provide a platform for celebrating that diversity of contribution.

I will bring empathy and understanding. I understand the human side of what we do, for those most vulnerable in our society that we represent and those most vulnerable in our profession. I understand what it is like to be the only woman in a room, what it is like to juggle parenting with practice, the many challenges that lawyers face both at the beginning of their careers and as they travel through to the end of their careers. Leading with empathy is critical to the role of President.

If elected President, what are the three things you would like to achieve?

The NZLS is a law society of two halves. It is both a regulator and a representative. I want to provide assured leadership overseeing the Independent Review but while also ensuring the regulatory arm of the Law Society is properly structured and resourced to carry out its role as an effective, modern regulator while that takes place.

Investment in and growth of the representative arm of the law society in order to promote collegiality initiatives right across the branch and section network that are delivered in a modern way and with an eye to future delivery. This will require a strategic focus and leadership that encourages cohesion while ensuring those areas of the Law Society that need greater investment receive it.

It is through representative services that major changes can be made to diversity within the profession, building a pipeline of potential lawyers from all backgrounds and helping those lawyers within our profession to practice as well as possible. It is also in the representative arm that we can see a generational change in participation in leadership roles and greater diversity that is more representative of our society.

Changes to access to justice and in particular the way legal aid is structured and delivered, the rates that are paid especially in high demand areas such as Family and Criminal and how legal aid services can be accessed by clients.

I would like to see greater availability of legal aid in the civil area and more lawyers contributing to the delivery of those services. This will take structural change and require careful and considered work with external stakeholders, particularly the government.

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