After graduating from the University of Canterbury with an LLB Hons and a BA, Rebecca Ardagh was admitted to the bar in 2013.
She is a young solicitor working at Lane Neave's Christchurch office on the Disputes Resolution team. She also has experience in insurance law, insolvency, contractual, tortious and property law and, in her spare time, is a member of the Young Lawyers' Committee.
Tell me a bit about yourself
"My family consists of my Mum, Dad and younger brother. They are all in Christchurch at the moment, which is really great."
When did you realise that you wanted to be a lawyer?
Originally wanting to train as a doctor, Rebecca studied sciences in high school but also enjoyed studying English and participated in debating, "…ultimately it was a natural progression into law from these interests. It did take me until the time I was sending in applications for first year university to realise that law was the way that I wanted to go, though."
What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?
"I love the firm that I am at and the people that I work with. Everyone is extremely supportive and encouraging and we all get on really well, which makes it easy to come to work every day.
"In terms of the work itself, I enjoy the challenge of it, mostly, being confronted by a number of often complicated problems and trying to find straightforward solutions for people."
Is there anything you wish you learnt in law school that wasn't covered, either in study or practically?
"Law school was extremely different to working, but that was definitely to be expected … the skills that you learn at law school, particularly how to approach issues conceptually, are very useful. Skills such as file management and so on are not learned at all through law school and are very important in practice, so initially I focused on those when I hit the shop floor and hoped for the best."
After finishing study, did you find the job matched the expectations you had in school?
"I am doing the sort of work that I had hoped that I would be doing, and continuously feel like I am learning and growing, so any expectations I did have, have definitely been exceeded. As clichéd as it is, I also feel like we are helping people with the work that we get to do, particularly being able to help with people's insurance issues following the earthquakes, and you can't ask for much more than that really."
Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you?
"A lot of people inspire me on the day to day but my family tends to be my main inspiration, particularly my parents … If I end up being anything like either of them then I will be extremely happy."
Rebecca says she also draws inspiration from her supervisors at Lane Neave "…who have shaped incredible careers for themselves and take time to encourage me to do the same on a personal and professional level."
Are there any issues currently facing young lawyers that you'd like to highlight?
"I think that young lawyers put a lot of pressure on themselves to meet quite high expectations in their professional lives, and in relation to the amount of hours they put in. A lot of this may be technology based, and the fact that everyone can be connected and contacted pretty much all of the time, which makes it difficult to have distinct lines between private and professional time."
Rebecca also raises a subject I have not heard discussed before, about electronic communications that are reducing in-person contact. She says: "I have also been told that young lawyers are not mingling as much as they used to do when more transactions and court appearances were carried out in person than they are now. It is important for young lawyers to get to know each other across firms so that they can learn from and support each other. It may be that this is something that we have to more consciously work towards than young lawyers may have previously had to."
It seems to be commonly acknowledged that email has definitely impacted on social interaction in most day-to-day communications, and the point can be made that although sending an email is generally easier than phoning a person, it does sever the small social interactions we have with colleagues, that impact on networking and physical participation.
What do you find the most interesting about being part of the Young Lawyers' Committee?
"I enjoy being able to work with a number of different young lawyers across the region and find it particularly rewarding being able to see a community of people grow. The majority of our activities are social for this reason; an attempt to allow people to get to know each other outside of what might otherwise be isolated firm groupings. We are also introducing more educational activities that are focused towards issues that affect or may interest junior practitioners."
What are your favourite books/musicians/movies?
"I have a love for a wide range of books, musicians and movies but have definitely been told that I sit at the geekier end of the spectrum. I have also recently discovered Netflix, so have been binge watching different TV shows as a new hobby … I am also trying really hard to take up knitting but am pretty average at it so far. At this point I have perfected scarves and long, skinny blankets."
Angharad O'Flynn is a Wellington journalist who is finding some common themes and aspirations among the new lawyers she has spoken to around New Zealand.