New Zealand Law Society - New to the profession: Ashleigh Parker, Junior Barrister

New to the profession: Ashleigh Parker, Junior Barrister

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Born and raised in Tauranga, Ashleigh Parker looked up to her mother and grandmother during her childhood, and credits them for the role they played in shaping her approach to life and how she practises law.

After finishing at Mount Maunganui College, Ashleigh initially studied remotely for the first two years of her degree via the Tauranga campus of Waikato University; a very different approach to the usual on-campus study.

In 2016 she made the move to Hamilton to complete her tertiary studies, graduating in 2018. Ashleigh stayed in the city and now enjoys a settled family life in the city with her husband and six-year-old daughter.

She is a junior barrister to Philip Morgan QC based at Thackeray Chambers.

You’ve been practising for nearly a year now working as a junior barrister for Philip Morgan. What have you learned in that time?

“Being able to work alongside Philip Morgan QC has been an invaluable experience.

“I have been able to see how a barrister chambers runs, learn to draft civil and criminal documents, become familiar with criminal procedure and its practical application, get hands-on court experience, observe and assist in jury trials, and everything in between. There is always something to learn.”

The cases you work on are primarily dishonesty, drug offending, sexual misconduct, violence and murder/manslaughter. How do you disengage from this type of intense work? 

“I think you have to learn to leave your work at the door when you leave for the day.

“In cases that I find particularly confronting it is important to me to have a clean break for the evening and go back in fresh the next day. Obviously, this is not always possible, but it is something I consciously try to do to.

“In a more general sense, having a realistic expectation of the nature of the work I was getting myself into has certainly helped me.”

Does your Bachelor of Social Science assist you in your practice? And how?

“Absolutely. I am glad I studied both social science and law together.

“My social science background has given me a deeper understanding of our communities from a micro to a macro level, and importantly includes understanding the challenges individual people in our communities’ experience. I’ve been able to develop a valuable perspective that helps me work effectively with a diverse range of people.”

Is there anything you wish you had been taught in law school that wasn't covered?

“I wish I had been taught a more practical approach to subjects. Obviously learning theory is fundamental but taking it a step further and showing what that looks like in an everyday setting would have been useful.

“Like plenty of others, I’ve found there is a large gap between knowing the law and using the law and this was the biggest shock for me coming into the workforce.”

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

“It goes without saying that there is always room for improvement in a system that needs to cater for such a diverse range of users.

“I think there is a lot of pressure on wrap-around services, ie, drug and alcohol support, cultural support, mental health support, accessibility to courses and counselling and the like, as well as significant time delays in the criminal system. However, I do recognise the limitations faced by such a system and that for change to work it needs to be fundamental.”

How have you found working through the lockdown?

“I have been both mum and lawyer during lockdown which has certainly been challenging. We’ve tried to keep a relatively ‘normal’ routine to maintain some structure to our days. I’ve found it helpful to utilise the weekends to prepare for the week, and otherwise hope for the best!”

“When I am not at work, you’ll find me cooking, looking after all my houseplants or gardens, on a bush walk or spending time with family.”

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