New Zealand Law Society - Not just a profession, but a business: Katie Lane

Not just a profession, but a business: Katie Lane

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By Sasha Borissenko 

While most 16-year-olds are engrossed in the trials and tribulations of high school, Katie Lane was instead starting her first year at Otago University.

At 22, she had been admitted to the bar, and had a law and English degree under her belt. It is no surprise, therefore, that after four years in the industry, at 26 she decided to become a sole practitioner.

Although going out on her own at just 26 was a bit of a worry, she says, Katie, now 33, is glad she decided to make the leap and moved to Gore with her farmer husband and their three children.

After working in Dunedin firm Lucas and Lucas for four years, Katie decided to make the change because she did not see law just as a profession, but as a business.

Perhaps it was because she had grown up while the family business, Night ‘n Day Foodstores, was getting off the ground that she could see the value in creating your own work, your lifestyle, and taking command over the process, she says. Seeing her parents go from owning four dairies around Dunedin to creating the nationwide franchise was inspiring, she says.

“Being a sole practitioner means you can have a really good work-life balance – which is so important when you have children.” Specialising predominantly in family law, mental health law and liquor licensing, Katie advocates appealing to wider audiences. “It’s no good being a one-trick pony,” she says.

Katie has always had a diverse range of interests, including volunteering at the Dunedin and Gore Community Law Centre for over 11 years.

She was on the Council of the Otago branch of the Law Society, she is a past convenor of the Otago branch Employment Committee, and she served on the Dunedin Family Court Liaison Committee, the Family Law Section’s Legal Aid Committee and the national Continuing Legal Education Committee.

“I think it’s important not to limit yourself in the areas of law you perform. It’s about finding your balance with your work and serving the community.”

Katie’s greatest achievement to date, she says, was when she was appointed as “Lawyer for Child” over a year ago by the Invercargill Family Court.

“That’s been a real highlight and something I’ve always wanted to do since I was at law school.

“With children being often the subject of Family Court proceedings, the outcomes directly affect their life. This being the case, it is important that they not only have a voice in such proceedings, but that they are heard.”

Being a lawyer for child places you in a privileged position to ensure that voice is put forward and other matters affecting their welfare are before the court, she says.

This was first published in LawTalk 852, 10 October 2014, page 6.

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