Anna Jackman grew up in Rotorua on a sheep and beef farm, with her dad, mum and three sisters.
Alongside working as a sheep and beef farmer, Anna’s father diversified into several areas, including farming deer during the 1980s. “…which was exciting for us kids but really challenging for Dad. Mum was a teacher at the high school we all attended, which made for some interesting teacher/student meetings.”
Anna is not the first lawyer in her family, “My grandfather studied law at Canterbury, but only practised for a very short time. He chose to pursue a career as an accountant, and was a trust account auditor for the Law Society at one stage.”
“I was very influenced by my grandfather’s intellect, compassion and generosity – and his slight of hand with a pack of cards!”
Anna says she had always wanted to be a lawyer, but decided that she wasn’t ready to study the subject when she first went to University – aged 17. Instead, Anna turned her sights to politics and then into insurance after graduating from Auckland university.
“When I left [high] school, I moved to Grafton Hall, Auckland to study a BA at Auckland University. I was surrounded by med, engineering and law students, with a few of us generalists.”
You worked in administration, business design and customer service prior to becoming a lawyer. Why the change to law?
“I had an interesting career mainly within the insurance industry, which in some ways is not too dissimilar to the law, but [I] was always looking for the next challenge.”
After a career break to spend time with her children, Anna decided that it was the right time to undertake a law degree. “So, that’s what I did, with three young kids in tow (who were aged 18 months, 5 and 7 when I started my law degree).
“I joked to one of my colleagues when I started with Blair Edwards that I did it to hide from my children – to which she replied ‘surely there were easier options!’. This is true, but I am very glad that I made the decision to pursue a law degree during that time.”
You worked in Bangalore in one of your previous job roles at an insurance company; can you tell me a bit about your time working and living in India?
“The project that I was involved in was a joint IT/business process project between Tower Insurance and Tata Consultancy in India.
“I only spent about ten days in India working alongside the offshore development team. As I was there as a guest, my experience of India was somewhat surreal, and very sheltered…
“I enjoyed spending time with the team that I had spent a lot of time communicating with via email and telephone. I moved on from this project prior to its completion when Tower restructured and I was offered the position of team leader in Hamilton.
“…the move to Hamilton turned out really well for us (me and my partner - one of those engineering students from Grafton).
“We have not looked back since, and despite all the bad press Hamilton gets, it’s a pretty good (and easy) place to be with a young family. We also have amazing coffee and *good* craft beer.”
Have you found that your commercial background has helped in your position as an employment lawyer?
“Absolutely! I have a breadth and depth of experience from my time in the commercial world that I bring to my position as an employment lawyer.
“In my roles at Tower I was involved in a raft of employment related issues including restructures, and people management too, so that all helps when you are looking at either an employer’s or an employee’s matter – be it contentious or non-contentious…
“The skills I learnt and experiences I had in those roles have developed my relationship focused, pragmatic approach to my role as an employment lawyer.”
As a ‘mature’ student, how did you find studying?
“Ha! ‘mature’ in inverted commas for a reason, right? I studied law at Waikato, which is well known for its diverse and inclusive student body.
“I don’t actually think it was any different to the first time I studied. Well, apart from the fact that I was quite disciplined about my time (considering my family commitments) and tried to treat my time at uni like I would a part-time job.
“For the most part this meant that I was able to fit all my study into the hours that I spent at uni and kept from 3pm onwards free for the family and weekends too. Of course, that all went out the window during exams and the times I was enthusiastic (mad?) enough to enter the negotiation competitions!”
After finishing at Waikato, did you find the job matched the expectations you had in law school?
“I can honestly say that my job has exceeded my expectations that I had in law school.
“Working for a smaller firm, for me, has definitely had its advantages in this respect. I have been given opportunities to be involved, learn and develop from the get go.”
Is there anything you wish you had learnt in law school that wasn’t covered?
“Not specifically; that’s the beauty of law though, you can and will just keep learning.
“Waikato had a number of practical papers, which I took advantage of, and in fourth year electives, our assignments became more focused on what, say, a partner in a law firm would want as an opinion, or drafting affidavits and various other client documents, which I found really transferable into the workplace.”
What do you like to do to disengage from a long day at work?
“I walk in the door to my busy, noisy, messy, sometimes completely mad family and talk to them, usually with a glass of Sav in my hand.”
During winter, Anna prefers to hibernate in a quiet place where she can read or watch TV, while in the warmer months she has more outside-based activities.
“I am more inclined towards some form of exercise, I particularly like Boxfit to disengage and walking/running the dog.
“In the weekends, we like to mountain bike, and have spent years cajoling the kids into thinking it’s awesome, which they now mostly do (with the hometown Whaka forest being the top of the list for best places to forget that anything else exists).”