New Zealand Law Society - Growing family came first for teacher turned lawyer

Growing family came first for teacher turned lawyer

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By coming to law later in life Marie Callander put her high school fascination with law on hold and avoided juggling a young family with a demanding career.

"I became a lawyer after my children were well and truly grown up and did not have to deal with the work/life balance that faces other lawyers," says Marie, who recently was made partner at New Plymouth firm Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen.

Evelyn Marie (Marie) Callander
Lawrence, Otago. 
Entry to law
Graduated BA from Otago University in 1977, MComLaw (First Class Honours) from Auckland University in 2005 then LLB(Hons) (first class) from Otago University in 2008. Admitted in 2008. 
Partner at Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen, New Plymouth. 
Speciality area
Governance, commercial contracts, property law and iwi work.
Marie Callander
Marie Callander

"If I had gone and studied law earlier, as I wanted to do and most people do, I don't think I would have been happy…

"The law and its logic has always fascinated me..."

"Juggling the children and the law role would have been too great a sacrifice for me family-wise…"

Instead, Marie took up teaching and taught mostly in high school and at the Southern Institute of Technology in Invercargill.

Married to Andrew - and now with three grown up sons in their 30s, including Cromwell lawyer Jeremy - the couple moved from Dunedin to New Plymouth in 2010, where Andrew is minister of St James Presbyterian Church.

Marie joined the Wellington-based board of Presbyterian Support a year ago.

Although not born there himself, Andrew Callander's family have deep roots in Taranaki.

"We came from Otago where Treaty issues and the grief that Maori felt as a result of land confiscation historically was not very apparent, but was certainly very apparent here in Taranaki…

"When we arrived it hit us in the face … On one side we saw a tremendous amount of grief and aspirations for better things and on the other a lot of really redneck pakeha, not all, but many…

"That really hit us as new people to Taranaki…"

The couple took up the opportunity a couple of years ago to study te reo and while Marie can't converse in Maori she can prepare and deliver a speech in te reo.

"I couldn't really pronounce names very well so I thought it would be more respectful to our clients if I could … To converse you need to be immersed in it a whole lot more, but I certainly can use te reo and have learned a great deal in that process…

"Away from work I enjoy my vege and flower garden and we are close enough to being self-sufficient with our veges…

"We prefer luxurious glamping these days and a bit of off-road cycling … We biked the 150 kms Central Otago rail trail in three days and spent a lot of time on southern lakes in a trailer-sailer yacht…

"There's lots of things to look at on the rail trail but you have to practice sitting on a bike, it's not just about pedalling…"

A fan of the Brontes, Marie enjoys historical novels, along with Colleen McCullough for summer reading. "It's about the only chance I get read because there's plenty of work to be done the rest of the year…"

"We don't watch much television other than historical dramas without too much violence … So, no Game of Thrones…"

With one son working in Sweden – where he has recently bought a sail boat - holidays have revolved around the family getting together, including Marie and Andrew having two trips to Sweden.

"I drive a Hyundai i30 and would like to have Dame Tariana Turia as a dinner guest … I've had a couple of conversations with her, she is very interesting and I would like to get to know her better…

"I not sure what I would do if I was not a lawyer … I enjoyed teaching when I did it but I really love the law…

"I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was a school leaver in the 1970s but was told I was a girl so it was a waste of time and too expensive…

"The law and its logic has always fascinated me … It is always changing and you are always learning … Because the nature of the work we do in our firm is bespoke it is always challenging and interesting…"

Coming from Dunedin's strong women's legal and professional environment – particularly around the law school - and after discovering an opening, Marie quickly established a women's leadership group in New Plymouth.

"We get together four or five times a year and I select speakers I think will be inspirational … They talk about their experience of leadership, people are enjoying it and it's been running for six years…

"It's a way of getting to know people because I had never been to Taranaki in my life and knew no one…

"It's a lot of fun, we laugh a lot and share some interesting stories…"

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for most of his career in journalism. Contact Jock at

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