Inspired by Springsteen and I, we begin a new series where we ask members of the legal profession 10 questions about their life and career.
My name is Thomas Harré, I graduated from Canterbury University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Science and History. I was admitted to the bar in 2012. I finished a PhD in law at Melbourne Law School in 2018. I live in Tauranga, and work as a barrister at LawAid International Chambers.
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Why did you choose law and the area(s) of law you practise?
Essentially, I’m a bit of a nerd. I left school early to go to university, and thought political science and law would be a good combination (along with a lot of other people, it seems).
I was a delayed convert to legal practice – firmly convinced that I was never going to be a “real lawyer”, at law school I focused on what I found interesting: international law, human rights law, environmental law (and combinations thereof). It was through involvement in drug mule and human trafficking cases in Southeast Asia that I changed my mind about the practice of law, and I made the move from Melbourne to Tauranga to work with LawAid International.
If you were not working in law, what would be your alternative career be and why?
Probably academia – after doing a PhD in law, university feels like a home away from home. If not that, then something hands on – like carpentry – having grown up making various kinds of small wooden boxes in the family business.
What case or proceeding sticks most in your mind?
The first proceeding I was ever involved in related to the human trafficking of Indonesian fishermen in New Zealand. This was a topic which was (and realistically, still is) totally unfamiliar to New Zealanders – and to New Zealand lawyers. Litigation on this issue has gone to the Supreme Court. Despite this, there’s been no legal recognition of the trafficking aspects to this case. This feels like an unresolved issue for me, and I’ve continued to research in this area.
What do you love about your job and why?
I love the challenges of thinking on your feet in Court, and the feeling of getting a good result for a client. I’m fortunate to be able to work on cases around the world, which lets me combine my academic work with legal work.
Is there anything you dislike about your work and why?
The administrative side of things isn’t a highlight, and I suspect my colleagues would agree that it’s not my strong point.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing New Zealand lawyers?
Providing access to justice. Barriers to obtaining legal aid means that people who may have valid claims cannot get access to legal remedies. This is a particularly serious problem for certain groups of people who are slipping through the cracks – such as the New Zealanders who have been deported from Australia.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a lawyer?
Time. There’s just not enough of it.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in relation to practising law?
“You can always appeal.”
Lawyers are often described as workaholics. Is that you? How do you switch off?
No I’m not a workaholic, although I can see how it might look like that sometimes… To relax, I read anything and everything I can get my hands on; I like to cook; I’m an incompetent but enthusiastic surfer, and a much better snowboarder.
Where is the most exotic place you have been to for a holiday? Tell us about it.
I like to travel, and I like to combine travel with work-related projects. A memorable one is when I stayed at a completely empty hotel in the “deep south” of Thailand where me and my Thai colleagues had to get through multiple military checkpoints to get into the town.