New Zealand Law Society - NEW IN THE LAW: Shawn McManus, District Court Registry Officer, Wellington

NEW IN THE LAW: Shawn McManus, District Court Registry Officer, Wellington

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Raised in Rotorua, Shawn McManus grew up with her parents and her two sisters, one of whom is her twin. She attended John Paul College in the town. 

"I was involved in lots of extra-curricular activities including rowing and speech and drama and also did a lot of voluntary community work through John Paul College. I started studying at Victoria University of Wellington in 2011, officially graduating in May of 2016 with and LLB and a Science degree, majoring in psychology."

Shawn is due to start working toward her Professionals in June and will be admitted in December of this year. She is currently working for the Ministry of Justice as a District Court Registry Officer in Wellington.

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

"I, like lots of high school students, decided that being a lawyer sounded really interesting so instead of just saying I wanted to be a lawyer, I did work experience in a law firm in Rotorua.

"My work experience was mainly in the criminal and family law areas and I was inspired by the work that I saw during that time and the effect it had on people directly involved and the wider community."

Shawn believes the criminal law system is important in our community and says "…so many people don't really understand it, and how it works. Doing that work experience really sparked my interest."

What made you choose to specialise in criminal law?

"Criminal law is something I'm passionate about and interests me."

What do you enjoy most about being a Deputy Registrar?

"I love being in the courtroom and working with a wide variety of people."

Shawn currently works as a Deputy Registrar at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in Wellington and works closely with lawyers, judges, police, victims and defendants in a practical setting. She says of the MOJ, "The Ministry of Justice values respect, integrity, service and excellence and it is with those values in mind that we work with all those people."

"With a passion for criminal law, being in court is a great stepping stone into the legal profession, giving me good operational knowledge and an arena to learn from both Crown and Defence lawyers in practice."

Is there anything you wish you learnt in law school that wasn't covered, either in the study or practically?

"The great thing about Victoria University is the mix of academic and practical teaching. We had so many subject options that you could really hone in on one area or do a broader range of papers."

I've heard from other young lawyers that the job market post-graduation can be quite competitive, especially if you didn't have a scholarship or clerking background.  Can you tell me about your experiences with this?

"It can be really difficult – especially during your final year of study. You think that if you don't have a job from clerking that you're going to be unemployed and grasping at straws to get your foot in the door.

"I applied for so many jobs and got a lot of rejections, but you have to put that aside and keep applying. It's so easy to get despondent but I just told myself not to take the rejections personally."

Fielding rejection in such a competitive environment is never fun, but having a wide range of people to call on for advice and support is always appreciated both before employment and during.

Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you?

"My first ever 'mentor' in Rotorua inspires me. She has a young family, works hard and is passionate about her job. She started off as a social worker and then went on to study law and now works in family and criminal law. She is the person that really inspired me to study law and taught me to keep looking ahead.

"My grandmother is also a big influence - she has taught me to be independent, strong-willed and to fight hard for the things I want. Nothing in life comes easy and she has instilled in me the work ethic and resilience that got me through 5 years at university!"

What are your favourite ways to disengage from the job?

"The content of my job is quite heavy so it's really important to have different ways of coping and disengaging after work. A huge part of my life outside work is taken up by coaching rowing for Wellington Girls' College. This is a positive outlet which lets me engage with a different part of the community and is an amazing distraction."

Angharad O'Flynn is a Wellington journalist.

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