New Zealand Law Society - Samoan Language Week: Samoan 7th-most spoken by lawyers

Samoan Language Week: Samoan 7th-most spoken by lawyers

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The Samoan language has the seventh-highest number of lawyers who speak it fluently, according to information held by the New Zealand Law Society.

This week is Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa (Samoan Language Week). The Samoan language is the third-most commonly spoken language in New Zealand, according to the 2013 census.

New Zealand lawyers are given the option of stating which languages they are fluent in. At 27 May 2019, 74 lawyers said they speak Samoan. This places it behind English, Mandarin, French, Hindi, Māori and Korean.

First celebrated in 2007, Samoan Language Week was part of a series of Pacific language weeks leading up to Te Wiki o te reo Māori. From 2009, the Fa’alapotopotoga mo le A’oa’oina o le Gagana Samoa i Aotearoa (FAGASA) and the Human Rights Commission partnered with other organisations to extend the week to the wider New Zealand community.

Samoan Language Week runs from Sunday, 26 May to Saturday, 1 June. The theme this year is "Lalaga le si’osi’omaga mo se lumana’i manuia" - "Weave an environment for a better future".

Like Te Wiki or te reo Māori, Samoan Language Week places emphasis on celebration and education on the country’s rich culture, heritage and language.

Small steps like changing email signatures and using Samoan greetings are a great way to get started on incorporating Samoan into your day.

The 189 lawyers of Samoan ethnicity comprise 1.4% of the 13,754 lawyers who are based in New Zealand. Lawyers may identify with more than one ethnicity. At 27 May, the largest lawyer ethnic groups selected by lawyers were New Zealand European (75.9%), Māori (6.1%), Other European (5.8%), Chinese (3.6%), Indian (2.2%) and Samoan (1.4%).

Of New Zealand practising lawyers with Samoan ethnicity, 16% practise as barristers, 46% practise in law firms with more than one lawyer, 30% are in-house lawyers and 8% are sole practitioners. And 69% of lawyers with Samoan ethnicity practise in Auckland (compared with 43% of all New Zealand-based lawyers).

A much higher proportion of practising Samoan lawyers are women than for the whole legal profession. Of 189 lawyers who say they have Samoan ethnicity, 120 (63.5%) are women. Overall, 7,122 (51.8%) of New Zealand-based lawyers are women.

The average lawyer of Samoan ethnicity is also younger. Samoan lawyers are aged an average of 41 years and 5 months, compared to 42 years and 4 months for all lawyers. Samoan lawyers have spent an average of 13 years and 8 months in practice, compared to 17 years and 7 months for all lawyers.