Kate Tarawhiti (Waikato-Tainui), grew up in Christchurch with her parents and two older sisters.
While attending Christchurch Girls’ High School, Kate studied a range of subjects.
“I wanted to keep my options open and enjoyed both history and biology. In my final year at High School, I was Head Girl and had to balance a range of responsibilities.
“The skills I developed that year have helped me through University. Now, as a lawyer, you have to juggle different matters and responsibilities daily.”
Upon making the move further south to attend Otago University, Kate was initially undecided on whether to enrol in law or health sciences.
"I ended up actually taking health science, but realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t right for me.
“I made the change to a Bachelor of Science in psychology in my second semester and picked up law in my second year.”
Kate graduated in 2014 with a double degree: a BSc (Psychology) and an LLB. She then went on to complete her professionals and was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court in Wellington in September 2015.
When did you realise that you wanted to be a lawyer?
‘I don’t think it was ever an active realisation or an ‘ah-ha' moment that happened for me. Instead, I think my interests in advocacy and indigenous rights naturally aligned with being a lawyer.
“From a young age, I enjoyed debating topical issues so my whanau thought that law could be a good career choice.
“I also grew up around the justice system with my Dad being a Police Officer and I was always interested in what he did and how the criminal justice system could be reformed.”
What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?
“I enjoy the creativity of developing an argument or a particular structure in order to realise our clients’ goals, whether that be for an individual trust or a larger entity.
“It is rewarding to see the impact that your work can have. I also enjoy dissecting arguments and have come to enjoy litigation files for this reason.”
You have a double degree in Law and Science (Psychology). Do you find the Psychology education influences the way you work with people?
“I wouldn’t say my psychology degree influences how I work with people, but it does help me to understand the psychology of prejudice. Unfortunately, I can’t psychoanalyse anyone with my degree.”
Is there anything you wish you had been taught in law school that wasn't covered?
“A common critique of law school is the need for more practical experience to assist in the transition from law student to lawyer. I also think law schools need to take greater responsibility in creating space for Maori voices in the core curriculum.
“Too often this responsibility is on the shoulders of Maori academics and I think law schools need to take more of an active role to support their Maori academics and do some of the mahi (work) themselves.
“This would lead to a more diverse legal education which would only benefit the legal profession as a whole.”
Can you tell me about any issues you think young/new lawyers are currently facing?
“There is a massive leap from law school to being a lawyer and unfortunately the adage of ‘sink or swim’ is still prevalent.
“Striving to obtain a work-life balance is an ongoing issue for many young lawyers, which can contribute to burn-out.
“In my experience, having a mentor and open dialogue with your supervisors helps with managing stress in the workplace.”
Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you?
“I am honestly inspired by people that advocate for marginalised voices in our society and work to dismantle institutional prejudice.
“That work doesn’t have to be on a large scale either. Those that inspire me most actually do a lot of work at the grassroots level and effect change through their daily interactions with people and through education.”
Do you have any hobbies or interests?
“Whenever I can, I try to get back to Christchurch and spend time with my whanau and close friends. However, the struggle for work-life balance is a continuing battle! ”