New Zealand Law Society - NEW IN THE LAW: Natalie Town, Solicitor, WRMK Lawyers, Whangarei

NEW IN THE LAW: Natalie Town, Solicitor, WRMK Lawyers, Whangarei

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Natalie Town
Natalie Town

Natalie Town is a Solicitor with Whangarei law firm WRMK Lawyers. She was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court in April 2014.

Tell me a bit about yourself

"I am an Aucklander through and through and consider myself lucky to have grown up in such a diverse environment. I graduated from the University of Auckland in 2012 with an LLB and a BA in History and Spanish. 

"I enjoy the intellectual challenge of being a lawyer..." 

"I worked for two years as Research Counsel at the Manukau District Court. After that, I moved to Whangarei to work in a disputes resolution team, with a particular focus on criminal law."

When did you realise that you wanted to be a lawyer?

Initially wanting to become a nurse, Natalie says, "I am not one of those people who had their heart set on being a lawyer from a young age." 

Persuaded by her parents to look at studying the law instead, she says "I really enjoyed studying law, but I didn't know if that would necessarily translate into enjoying practice." 

She continues,  "However, working at the Court showed me how rewarding it was to be involved in the criminal justice system and that I would be opening myself up to great opportunities if I committed to a career in law."

What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer? And what made you want to specialize in criminal law?   

"I enjoy the intellectual challenge of being a lawyer and having a different legal puzzle put in front of me every day. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with the work and I am in a position where I am helping others."

While studying, Natalie developed an interest in criminal law, "so it was natural for me to want to specialize in that area. I loved the idea of the state being held accountable and the complexities and creative challenges involved in determining guilt."  

She has a very unique and empathetic take on practising and explains, "It is a special and humbling experience to work with people from vastly different backgrounds to your own, and it gives you a perspective on life in New Zealand that few people would ever encounter.

Is there anything you wish you learnt in law school that wasn't covered, either in study or practically? 

"I think university prepares you quite well for litigation work because there is a big emphasis on legal research and writing which are skills I use every day. Obviously there are things I have had to learn on the job, but that is natural given how specific the skillset required for each practice area is."

Can you tell me how working as a Judges' Research Counsel prepared you for the work force?

"I found working as a Research Counsel was really helpful preparation for going into practice. It gives you a solid understanding of the basics of criminal law and how the courts operate, and introduces you to a lot of like-minded individuals, who can be a great source of support as you transition into practice."

After finishing study, did you find the job matched the expectations you had in school?

"I don't know what exactly I expected coming out of law school, but I would have hoped to be doing work that I find genuinely interesting and I am happy that I found that."

Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you?

"I am still in my infancy as an advocate, so I would I say I draw inspiration from seeing experienced lawyers in Court.  I never appreciated the art of advocacy till I was the one tasked with delivering convincing submissions." Again showing appreciation for her senior peers talent and experience Natalie says, "…it gives me hope that one day I might be able to reach that level."

Are there any issues currently facing young lawyers and/or the legal system as a whole that you'd like to highlight?

"It is hard for any young lawyer to get their foot in the door, but I think it is particularly hard for junior criminal lawyers to find experience and training. Obviously this is a reflection of the financial viability of a criminal law practice, but it is a concern that potential talent may be lost to another area of law simply because that's where the opportunities are."

Angharad O'Flynn is a Wellington journalist.

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