A Cantabrian born and raised, Alex Beal spent her childhood growing up in both Rangiora and the small town of Tuahiwi, just north of Kaiapoi.
With both parents working in the funeral industry, Alex remembers her childhood family dinner time conversation being “interesting to say the least”, if sometimes a little macabre.
While her favourite subject in high school was physical education, Alex also showed a keen interest in English and History studies and, after finishing high school, she intended to study a double degree in Arts and Psychology, but a chance law lecture gatecrash led her down a different path.
When did you decide to go into the legal profession?
“I decided within my first week of university that I wanted to be part of the legal profession.
“I was originally enrolled to study a double degree in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts. However, I remembered quite quickly that I wasn’t passionate about science in High School and, therefore, was not likely to love a science-based degree at university. I decided to sit in on a first-year law lecture to see how I felt about it and I was completely in my element. I immediately switched my degree to Law and have never looked back.”
What do enjoy most about practising employment law?
“What I enjoy most about employment law is the relatability of the issues I am addressing each day.
“Almost everyone will experience some kind of employment issue, or have an employment-related question, at some point in their lives. Therefore, I find it easy to connect with our clients as I can imagine what they are going through.”
What does your role at Lane Neave entail?
“I am a solicitor in the employment team.
“Our practice area covers a lot of aspects of employment law, including disputes, company restructures, reviewing of employment agreements and policies, health and safety law, accident compensation law, privacy and human rights. We also, interestingly, practice in electricity law. Therefore, I spend my time undertaking a large range of tasks from research and legal drafting, to advising clients, attending mediations and assisting the senior members of the team for Employment Relations Authority and Employment Court appearances.
“I am also an active member of the Lane Neave social committee which involves planning regular firm-wide social events, including the family picnic, the Mid-Winter Ball, Wellness Week and our Christmas function.”
Is there anything you wish you learnt in law school that wasn't covered, either in study or practically?
“Learning how to interview clients and build client relationships is not part of the university degree, although I certainly think it should be.
“I made the smart decision to work on these skills throughout my university degree by joining Community Law Canterbury - and a number of other volunteer organisations - which really helped build my confidence when it came to client interactions and learning to ask the right questions from an early stage in my legal career. I strongly believe teaching these skills at law school would be invaluable.”
After finishing your studies, did you find the job matched the expectations you initially had in university?
“I was lucky enough to summer clerk at Lane Neave before I started full-time, therefore I had a pretty good idea of what practising in a law firm would be like.
“On the whole, my expectations at law school matched the reality of practising as a solicitor. I work in a largely litigious-based practice area, which is what law school prepares students for, essentially how to advise a client when things take an unexpected turn.”
Are there any issues currently facing young lawyers that you'd like to highlight?
“Personally, I have found my time as a young lawyer to be especially rewarding and exciting as I start out in my career. I appreciate that not everyone has the same experience so I’m not in a position to comment on any issues faced by other young lawyers.”
Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you and what is the best piece of advice you have received so far?
“My mother inspires me a great deal. She is, and always has been, an exceptional public speaker. My goal is to be as confident and relaxed as she is when I speak in front of an audience.
“The best piece of advice I received came from a political science lecturer. He stated that people should treat their personal health like they would treat their own business – you have to invest in your own personal health from an early stage, taking a holistic approach, in order to thrive in the long-term.”