Growing up in Rangiora, North Canterbury with her younger brother, Hannah Reuben attended Southbrook Primary School and went on to Rangiora High School.
“My mother worked at the Waimakariri District Council for 19 years, based mainly in the Community Team, and has always had a strong passion for people in the community…my father is a fitter/welder. My brother is currently completing an apprenticeship as a car painter, although I am trying to encourage him to travel!
“I enjoyed most of the subjects that I took in high school, but I had a particular passion for Te Reo Māori me ōna tikanga.
“I had spent a lot of time as a child around Tuahiwi where my family are from, but did not learn much of the language until I started to learn at high school and I found that my identity strengthened as I learned more.”
Hannah also took English-based subjects like history and classics and says of her time at high school, “I had some fantastic teachers and friends there.”
After high school, she studied at the University of Otago in 2008 for the first two years of her Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts. She then took a gap year travelling around Europe and returned to the University of Canterbury to finish her degrees.
“I really enjoyed my time at the University of Canterbury as I was very involved in Te Pūtairiki, the University of Canterbury Māori Law Students’ society, and also Te Akatoki, which is the Māori Students’ Association.
“I have friends for life from these societies, some of who I speak with daily. I would really encourage students to get actively involved in a society that they are interested in.”
When and why did you decide to work in the legal profession?
“I used to spend a lot of time with my uncle and aunty, Michael and Erihana Ryan. Michael was a lawyer and I can remember that when I was around the age of 10 that I spent some time with him at his office, and I went along to Court with him. I was enchanted by the experience- the excitement of the office, sitting in the courtroom and watching the people, and I decided to become a lawyer at that age.
“It helped that when I attended high school, my strengths were the English-based subjects, and subjects like maths and science were major weaknesses. From there, I decided to continue to pursue studying law.”
Why Family Law?
“When I left university, I had no idea what area of law I would like to practice in, or whether I would practice at all. In fact, the one area that I had decided that I did not want to practice in was Family Law as I thought it would be too emotionally challenging given that I had come from a background of having my parents separate when I was 7 years old.”
Around three months after she finished university, Hannah was hired by Craig Paddon Law in March 2015, where she initially did general practice work.
At the same time that Hannah came on board, a passionate family lawyer - Saima Zafar - was also employed to do family law work.
“I worked very closely with her over the next year and came to realise that family law work can be incredibly rewarding on many levels and that one of the best parts of the job was meeting the clients and being able to use your knowledge to help them in what can be one of the most difficult times of their lives.
“I have found that because I come from a background of parents who have separated, that this has actually helped me empathise with my clients. Family law work is also incredibly varied because each time you meet a client you work with their unique circumstances.”
Hannah has been based in Marlborough at McCarthy Law since March 2016.
After finishing your studies, how did you find the transition from education to practice?
“I really enjoyed moving from university to a full-time job. For the most part I love having weekends and evenings without having to think about essays or part-time jobs.
“It was hard beginning in a firm because you have no idea what to expect. At university, you were taught how to discuss the law in these humongous essays that were really wordy and complicated. I now spend most of my time trying to word things in plain English!
“There are also lots of things that I do daily that I never learned in university- such as how to deal with clients and other lawyers, how to draft documents for the Court. These are things that you learn over time and people expect that you will be a blank canvas when you leave university.”
Are there any issues facing young New Zealand lawyers, or our legal profession in general, that you would like to highlight?
“I think it is important to enter into the legal profession expecting that it will be stressful whatever field you practice in, and [to] have mechanisms in place to ensure that you can have a good work-life balance.
"It is important to know your limits and make sure you ask for help when you need it. I am lucky enough to work with supportive people in my firm, as well as colleagues.
“I know in Marlborough, and in many other centres around New Zealand, there is a massive issue with access to Family Law Legal Aid services for people who need it. There are firms in Nelson and even as far away as Christchurch that are having to pick up some of the Family Legal aid files (and they do a fantastic job given the geographical limitations!).”
Family law can be quite intense; how do you disengage from a rough day at work?
“Sometimes, it is simply impossible to disengage from work.
“I am dealing with such personal and heartbreaking moments in my clients' lives and it can be hard to stop thinking about ways that I can help them or worrying about them.
“For the most part, I try to switch my 'lawyer' brain off when I step outside of my office door at night. I have some amazing friends and a very large family who I love to spend time with or speak to.
“There are a very collegial group of lawyers who are based in Blenheim and we try to catch up for lunch or dinner now and then and there are also some of us who go to a quiz weekly.
“I am also partial to reality television and rom-com movies and books. I am also a fourth generation Coronation Street fan!”
“I have found that most of my hobbies have taken a back seat since high school as I did not have the time or money when I was at university and now that I have finished university I do not know what to do!"
Hannah has started to take Te Reo Māori classes again through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and she is hoping she will eventually find another hobby or two as well.