Born and raised in Whanganui Jai Stephens grew up in the region with his parents and brother. His mum works for ACC and his father is a logger. He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand in December 2015.
Jai’s brother was granted a sporting and academic scholarship to study and play soccer in the United States.
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
“I love the fact that two people can read exactly the same sentence and often interpret it two completely different ways. That interpretation and attention to detail is what made me want to be a lawyer.”
What university did you go to and what did you study?
Initially starting a degree in engineering at Canterbury University, Jai decided he wanted to change and study law and finance and graduated with a double degree in those subjects.
What was your favourite law subject at university?
“I really liked the papers that went into more detail, and had a clear practical application. I did an advanced land law paper which was great and seemed like a more 'real world' scenario and I enjoyed the complexity of the subject. I also did Sports Law as an interest paper and found that very interesting.”
What was your first legal job?
“Horsley Christie is my first legal job and it’s been a great experience. The people I work with are great, I’m learning a lot across a wide range of areas of the law; something I doubt I’d get to do if I wasn’t in a provincial firm. I’m really enjoying being back in my home town and creating networks and contacts here.”
What area do you work in?
“I work primarily in the conveyancing team, involving property work, but am also doing work in the estate and trust areas.
“I find that working in these areas is surprisingly diverse and I enjoy the cross over between those areas of law. I get some really interesting things coming across my desk.”
What have you learnt since working in the profession vs. studying?
“The transactional side of things has been the biggest thing to learn. Since I didn’t law clerk while I was studying I was literally starting from scratch but with the mentoring I received it is a good way to learn.
“Translating the limited knowledge that you have on leaving university into practical applications is not straightforward and it was surprising how unprepared you are. You come out thinking it’s just a case of getting experience but it’s really not, the theory only just scratches the surface.”
Is there anything you wish you had learnt in law school that wasn’t covered?
“I think it would be nice to have a bit more of a practical side alongside the theoretical. In practice, it never goes quite how they run it by the books and there is some of the transactional side that isn’t covered through university or Professional Studies.”
Are there any issues currently facing young lawyers that you would like to highlight?
“There is always that ever present issue of burn out and stress. The reality is we work in a very high demand, high pressure profession and that is always going to pose issues.”
How do you disengage from a long day at the office?
“Horsley Christie is great for putting emphasis on creating a balance between work and personal life. They encourage me to get involved with things in the community. It’s also been great being home; I’ve been able to play for my old football club and spend time with friends who still live here.”
Occasionally he gets to the movies too, “I saw Spiderman the other day that was alright. I’m a bit of a Marvel movie nerd if I’m honest.”