New Zealand Law Society - NEW IN THE LAW: Samantha Hepburn, Solicitor, Cullinane Steele Lawyers, Levin

NEW IN THE LAW: Samantha Hepburn, Solicitor, Cullinane Steele Lawyers, Levin

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Samantha Hepburn
Samantha Hepburn

Samantha Hepburn grew up in Bunnythorpe, located around ten minutes away from Palmerston North.

After high school, Samantha attended Victoria University graduating with an LLB in 2013. She then went on to work for the Palmerston North City Council and the Ministry of Justice before joining Cullinane Steele Law in September 2014. 

"As cheesy as it sounds, I really enjoy being able to help people." 

She was admitted to the bar a few months later in December. Her specialities are family law, conveyancing, and property law.

When did you realise that you wanted to be a lawyer?

An athlete in high school, and originally thinking about a career path in the sporting area, Samantha changed her direction in high school. She recalls the deciding moment: "I remember reading an article about an injustice in our criminal justice system and right then and there I decided I'd like to help mitigate these types of events from occurring in our society, so I decided law would be a good place to start."

What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?

"As cheesy as it sounds, I really enjoy being able to help people. It's rewarding and meaningful work. I like the variety of work and the fact I get to learn new things every day.  I also work with a great bunch of people!" 

What made you lean toward specialising in family law?

Samantha has a similar story to a lot of young graduates and junior lawyers:  "To be perfectly honest, as a graduate, I was willing to 'lean toward' any particular specialty. However, I was extremely lucky when my current position arose within Cullinane Steele's newly formed litigation team. I definitely see myself remaining in this area long term."

A lot of young graduates have voiced their opinion on the New Zealand job market saying it's highly competitive. A common theme I've come across is that young graduates and junior lawyers don't get to use the specialities they studied in law school and end up practising over a broad spectrum of subjects. The universal consensus on is that this can be frustrating when you have trained in a specific area and poured a lot of hard work into a chosen speciality subject.

Samantha also enjoys being in the courtroom environment working with people from "all walks of life" saying, "…it's refreshing and keeps things interesting."  She is also focused on developing her skills in litigation alongside her current law work.

Is there anything you wish you learnt in law school that wasn't covered?

"I think a slightly more practical approach would have been useful at times, an opinion shared by many. However, practical learning once employed also makes sense, although it was a bit unnerving initially." 

As Samantha says, many lawyers, from different graduation intakes, have made similar comments regarding this issue.

Observing the senior litigators in their firms is an important part of growth and development when first entering the workforce, and helps with the lack of practical knowledge missed in school. However, the general feeling is that some practical knowledge education would be beneficial, and appreciated, because the stress of not knowing can contribute to high-stress levels within the first few years of work.

Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you?

"My mother has an amazing work ethic, which has always inspired me. Both she and Dad have always encouraged me to succeed and reach my full potential."

What are your favourite books/musicians/movies? Ways to disengage from the job?

"I'm not a very big reader nor do I watch movies very frequently, I struggle sitting still for that long! I have a very diverse music taste and am easily pleased. However I particularly like a range of hip-hop and 1970s rock."

Samantha finds exercise and an active lifestyle are great ways to disengage from work. "It's the best way to reduce work-related stress."

She also has two dogs, Ronnie and Rufus, "I enjoy taking them down to the beach and bush walking with my fiancée."

Angharad O'Flynn is a Wellington journalist.

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