With an LLB(Hons) from Otago University and a BA(Hons) from Victoria University of Wellington, Kari Schmidt is based in the Local Government and Environment team at national firm Simpson Grierson’s Auckland office.
Kari says that her role in this team “…enables me to be involved in practical problems that have a real impact on the world – both in terms of private clients and on Auckland City.”
In 2016, Kari spent a month on secondment applying her services at Auckland Transport.
She helped with the City Rail Link and Light Rail Transport projects and was also involved in various aspects of the Unitary Plan.
She also contributed to the Auckland Provisional Local Alcohol Policy Appeal and is currently working on the Far North District Council’s similar Provisional Local Alcohol Policy Appeal.
Is there anything you wish you had learnt that wasn’t covered in law school?
“I loved my legal education at Otago but I think more practical assignments and placements would have been really helpful.”
With a brother studying medicine, Kari compares the two degrees saying “… [the medical students] constantly have doctors, nurses and previous patients coming to talk to them about their experiences. I think that is really valuable in bringing your chosen profession to life and helping you to develop a relationship with it from an early stage.”
“Theory is important, but you also need to see what you've chosen to study plays out in the world, who it affects and why it matters.”
Are there any issues you think face young lawyers today?
Echoing the views of other junior lawyers Kari shares, "…as in any profession, getting a handle on your field and progressing forward is a big challenge – you don't know how much you don't know and you're impatient to progress further.”
“On the one hand, it's important to be proactive and learn as much as you can, but I also think it's important that young lawyers be given a stake in the work they're doing, as well as opportunities to perform and add real value.”
Can you tell me a bit about your work in the museum/arts sector and why you enjoy working in this area?
During her time down south, Kari worked as a Tour Guide and Visitor Host at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
She previously held the position of Editor of the Otago Polytechnic student magazine and her work has also been published in various exhibitions and publications.
“I've gotten a lot of value out of these experiences. For me, art is a material expression of philosophy and enables one to engage in the question of how to live and what life is, via material objects.”
In keeping with her love of the Arts, Kari's LLB(Hons) dissertation looked at Appropriation in the Fine Arts: Fair Use, Fair Dealing and Copyright Law while her history dissertation focused on The Intersection Between Art and Social Change in New Zealand via the strategy of Participation.
“These topics resonated with me because they both had to do with art's value in the world in practical terms."
Who inspires you?
"A Senior Associate I work with once said to me ‘All people are important. All people have equal value’ – that's the kind of attitude that really inspires me.”
What made you choose environmental law and local government as a focus?
Interested in the environment, social issues and the public realm, Kari says that being in Local Government and Environment enables her to engage in this area and to learn about how it operates from a practical and legal perspective.
“Working at a corporate firm adds a whole other layer to this as I'm exposed to really experienced lawyers and get to work with big clients such as the Council, Auckland Transport and Watercare, all of whom are integral to the running of Auckland City and its future.”
Do you have any hobbies or interests?
In her spare time, Kari enjoys attending exhibition openings, reading and writing,
"I'm currently writing art reviews for the Pantograph Punch and Eyecontact…”
Juggling her career and many other hats, Kari is also co-authoring an article for the New Zealand Animal Law Association (where she is also the Publications Officer).
This will be published in the New Zealand Law Journal. She is also writing a separate article for the Resource Management Law Journal.
In 2016 Kari also helped curate an exhibition called Fleshbag at the Skinroom Gallery in Hamilton.
As well as disengaging from her law work mentally, Kari places a similar importance on overall health,
"...I think the physical side of things is really important as well – I run/gym, go for nature walks, I'm doing a free dance class and next week I will go to a morning rave at Whammy Bar before work."