New Zealand Law Society - NEW IN THE LAW: Zac Fargher, Solicitor, Simpson Grierson Auckland

NEW IN THE LAW: Zac Fargher, Solicitor, Simpson Grierson Auckland

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Zac Fargher
Zac Fargher

Tell me a bit about yourself

Admitted as a barrister and solicitor in December 2015, Zac Fargher grew up in Auckland and attended Selwyn College before attending the University of Auckland.

“I loved my years at Selwyn, it was a diverse and liberal school, with a strong emphasis on wairua [spirit].”

Zac explains that his exposure to this wide range of perspectives and backgrounds “…made for a rich and interesting school experience – I even spoke passable Albanian for a bit.”

The first lawyer in his family, Zac was already well into his degree when he decided he wanted to practise law.

“I didn't know what a summer clerkship was until most of my friends had them. I didn't have a lot of exposure to what being a lawyer actually entailed. The upshot of which is that I wanted to give it a go. Happily, it has all worked out for the best, and I genuinely like my job.”

He also has a Bachelor of Arts in History.  

Any particular reason you gravitated toward environmental and human rights law?

“My first law rotation was in corporate actually, and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it – I liked the pace.”

“In the end, I think I've always had a more inherent interest in public law, though. In particular, a curiosity about how the law operates to balance competing human rights and interests.”

At university, Zac wrote his dissertation on infant male circumcision and human rights law.

Later in 2017, Zac is moving to London to complete an LLM [Masters equivalent] degree in international public law at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Is there anything that wasn’t included in the New Zealand law school curriculum that you think would benefit students?

“It might be included in there already, and I just missed it, but I think for students intending to work as lawyers, it would be helpful to have some practice-specific practical skills papers, like a case management paper for students intending to work in litigation.”

After finishing your studies, how did you find the transition from education to practice?

Zac shares that there were aspects he really enjoyed and, in a way, felt it gave him some independence, “There were definitely stresses and pressures, though, lots of which were self-imposed.”

Are there any issues facing young lawyers in New Zealand and/or the New Zealand legal profession in general that you think need to be addressed?

“Mental health."  

It is acknowledged, globally, that the legal profession is considered a stressful profession and mental health issues are common but rarely acknowledged.

"Mental health issues in the legal profession [in New Zealand] are still addressed in general terms. People are aware that mental health amongst lawyers is poorer than in most other professions and there are a number of great programmes and employer initiatives in place, but it is all still relatively faceless.

“It would be great to see more senior practitioners sharing their experiences of mental health struggles; there are examples of this happening in Australia.”

One such example is the the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, which was established after the suicide of Australian lawyer and television writer Tristan Jepson.

The Foundation focuses on “supporting a safe and healthy legal workplace” and provides resources for lawyers who want help, but perhaps aren’t ready to vocalise it; including a resource titled Lived Experiences.

This is a place on the website where lawyers can read and share their experiences with mental health diseases and support one another.

“In the absence of this kind of visibility, even with increased awareness of the problem at large, I think it is still quite easy for young lawyers in particular, who are struggling, to feel like they're on their own.

“I hope that this is the next stage of the conversation, it just takes people starting it. I try to, having gone through periods of anxiety myself.”

{The New Zealand Law Society's Practising Well initiative last year released a video focusing on how asking for health is a sign of strength].

Certified marriage celebrant

Ending on a lighter note, Zac is also a certified marriage/civil union celebrant and shares the story behind this:

“Two friends that I had introduced asked me to become a celebrant in order to marry them, which had a beautiful circularity to it.”

Since the first ceremony, Zac has officiated at six weddings and before he leaves for London, he will officiate a special ceremony between two of his friends from law school which he says “will be special.”

He follows up with “…Alas, always the celebrant never the groom.”

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