New Zealand Law Society - New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck

New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck

New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck
Kathryn Beck

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Kathryn Beck became the 30th President of the New Zealand Law Society in April 2016.

One of the youngest Presidents to hold this office, Kathryn is also the third woman in the role since the organisation was established in 1869.

After completing a BCom (Labour Relations) and LLB from Auckland University, Kathryn was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in Auckland on 1 May 1991. She joined the Auckland law firm Haigh Lyon in 1994 and, after becoming a partner, led the firm's employment law team and became head of litigation. An accomplished lawyer, she now has over 25 years of practical legal experience.

Kathryn left Haigh Lyon in 2005 to establish Swarbrick Beck with fellow employment lawyer Penny Swarbrick. They were joined a few years later by Don Mackinnon and then Bridget Smith, renaming as SBM Legal in 2014.

In her time at SBM Legal, Kathryn has acted in multiple leading cases and is a key adviser and facilitator in several high-level union-employer relationships. She has established herself as a top lawyer in the employment law field, while also expanding her skill set to include health and education law.

With considerable experience in alternative dispute resolution, Kathryn also acts as a mediator and facilitator. She has conducted independent investigations for several large companies, charitable institutions, trust boards, tertiary institutions, and government departments.

Kathryn is an active participant in matters involving the representation and regulation of the legal profession and, in her former position as convenor of the Law Society's Employment Law Committee, she was active in the field of law reform speaking and presenting at several national and international lawyers' educational events on the subject.

While chairing the New Zealand Law Society Board, Kathryn has also represented the Law Society at overseas conferences.

Since becoming Law Society President, one of Kathryn's main passions has been supporting the retention and promotion of women in the legal profession.

In 2016/2017, Kathryn championed the work of the Law Society’s Women’s Advisory Panel to introduce the Gender Equality Charter saying in a September 2017 article, "we need to see greater progress in terms of the advancement of women to the higher ranks of the legal profession.

"The charter is about the profession committing to concerted action to address this visible and longstanding problem."

In April 2018 the Gender Diversity Charter was launched at Parliament. Since then, a number of law firms have signed on in support of gender equity.

Kathryn is also a leading voice on anti-harassment and discrimination initiatives in the legal profession.

She chaired NZ Rugby's Respect and Responsibility review panel, evaluating how NZR addresses player culture within the sport, focusing on harassment and discrimination. She now chairs NZR's Advisory Panel and has played an integral part in the introduction of initiatives to improve its approach to this issue.

Kathryn sits on the board of the Auckland Community Law Centre and is an ongoing voice for improved access to justice, using her position to encourage other lawyers to get involved. She also places great importance on supporting and improving the well-being of practising lawyers under her leadership by encouraging the legal profession’s implementation of mental and physical health initiatives.

Law Society presidents are elected yearly for up to three years. Kathryn was re-elected for a third year and will finish her time in this role in April of 2019.

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