New Zealand Law Society - Tyson Hullena: Battling cancer to become a lawyer

Tyson Hullena: Battling cancer to become a lawyer

Tyson Hullena: Battling cancer to become a lawyer
Tyson Hullena

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Kahui Legal solicitor Tyson Hullena (Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Toa Rangatira) has travelled a long and somewhat bumpy road to becoming a lawyer.

Raised in Wairarapa, Tyson’s father works in education, his mother works in management and his two younger siblings are in banking and the New Zealand Navy, with the latter “gallivanting over/under the ocean somewhere in the world” as a diver.

Never one to do things by halves, Tyson studied a wide variety of high school subjects while attending Chanel College in Masterton, “I studied maths and science mostly at school and I did history by correspondence, and English.

“Calculus was definitely my favourite at the time. I was pretty lucky to have some awesome teachers at high school and they all played a big role in helping me enjoy those subjects whether it was through how they taught or just being decent humans.”

After high school, Tyson moved to Dunedin to study physiotherapy at Otago University.

“I studied physiotherapy for four years and worked in a private practice in Palmerston North for two years,” he says, jokingly adding, “it’s [Palmerston North] not quite as bad as the reputation it’s given.”

A change then a shock

After two years working in a successful private physio practice, he felt it was time for a change.

“I really enjoyed the people who I got to work with there, but I just wasn’t fulfilled by the work and knew I needed a change. I talked with my inner circle and whānau and came to law.”

Moving to Wellington to study both law and accounting at Victoria University, the start to his first year in Wellington was a positive one. However, things took a turn for the worse towards the end of 2013.

“I was diagnosed with testicular cancer on 19 November 2013. Right after my exams in my first year at VUW. I knew something was up during exams but didn’t think to check until I’d gone home for summer.

“When I went to see the doctor, I nearly didn’t mention it but, being Movember at the time and making a valiant, albeit pitiful, attempt at growing a moustache, I felt obliged to say something and to get tests done – luckily I did. If I had left it much longer the metastasis would’ve reached my brain.”

After extensive treatment involving surgery and three week-long sessions of chemotherapy for 23 hours nearly every day, Tyson went back to university a few weeks late in the first trimester.

“Since then I’ve had regular appointments with the oncologist, and sometimes scans and tests to confirm that everything is still in order. So far so good!”


After finishing with BCom and LLB degrees, Tyson was admitted in 2018 and he now works as a solicitor at Wellington law firm Kahui Legal.

Along with the active and positive working experience, Kahui Legal has provided Tyson with several highlights and valuable experiences, and the opportunity to learn and grow on a regular basis.

“Learning from some amazing people, particularly at Te Hunga Roia o Aotearoa-Hui-a-Tau, and listening to speakers like Justice Joe Williams, Moana Jackson and Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias lay down challenges and provide insight into what can be achieved working in and with the law.”

Tyson shares that the most enjoyable aspects of his work are the diversity he sees as a part of the Kahui Legal team and applying his tertiary education in professional settings.

“It’s easy to feel a little removed from the people you’re going to be working with/for at university because it’s all theory. Joining the workforce has opened my eyes to the practicalities of the work we do which makes it so much more important.

“Every day is different. Being able to problem solve across different specialty areas of law is challenging but finding the right solution for our clients is really rewarding.”

In his down time, Tyson finds physical activity and time with whānau great ways to unwind. “I enjoy spending time by, in, and on the water, be it just relaxing, going for a dive for kaimoana, or a surf.

“Family time is high on my priority list. Whether it’s at home or visiting my siblings/cousins, it’s always good to spend time with whānau.

“I’ve been lucky enough this last year to be able to see more of New Zealand, so that’s something I want to be able to keep doing – exploring. Hopefully a bit further abroad in the not-too-distant-future, but for now I’m happy exploring my own backyard. Finding a good work/life balance is important, so being active is always good.”

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