These two outstanding legal leaders are among others who are reshaping the legal profession. In the past 12 months both have worked to ensure that the Law Society is fit for the future, and that the legal profession is well-placed to better reflect the communities it serves.
Current Law Society Vice-President (Wellington) Ataga’i Esera said she was humbled to feature on the Elite Women list. Ms Esera is only the second Law Society Board member of Samoan heritage, and until recently was a co-President of the Pacific Lawyers Association. Prior to that, she was the Treasurer of the Pacific Lawyers Association in 2020 and 2021.
“At a time when there are growing numbers of women, Māori, Pacific and Asian lawyers, and ethnic minorities entering the profession, I think it’s imperative that the New Zealand legal profession reflects the communities that it serves across the country” she said.
A director in the law firm Family Law Specialists in Porirua - she has been in private practice since 2011. Ms Esera is a highly-respected expert practitioner in the area of Family Law, and is the only Samoan-speaking Lawyer for Child and Lawyer for Subject Person in the Wellington Region. She represents children, elderly people, parents and whānau in proceedings before the Family Court.
The second Law Society name featuring on the 2023 Elite Women list is that of Chief Executive Katie Rusbatch. Ms Rusbatch took over as Law Society Chief Executive in 2022 at a time of considerable modernisation and transformation within both the Law Society and the legal profession.
As Chief Executive, Ms Rusbatch has guided the Law Society through a recent Independent Review of the regulation of lawyers and the Law Society itself. A wide-ranging review, it looked at the entire statutory framework for regulating lawyers. The Independent Review included opportunities for consultation with stakeholders and the legal profession. The resulting recommendations are comprehensive and wide-reaching, and the potential change is significant for both the profession and the Law Society. Ms Rusbatch supported a neutral and thorough process focussed on giving lawyers and the public the chance to have their say to shape the future.
“The Independent Review was a great chance to give people around the motu opportunities to have conversations and provide input into the future of the profession,” Ms Rusbatch said.