I am a tax specialist lawyer operating via my sole practice which I set up in 2015. I have almost two decades of experience gained from a career that started with Inland Revenue as a solicitor and roles as a tax advisor with accounting firms.
As a tax lawyer, I provide consulting advice in relation to property transactions, commercial transactions, business acquisitions, and familial asset ownership structures, etc. My clients comprise of law firms, private clients, SMEs, charities, and more recently, a number of co-housing collectives across New Zealand.
My involvement with the NZLS commenced when I joined the Wellington Branch as a council member, becoming Vice-President of the Wellington Branch in 2019, and I am now the Vice President (Wellington) of the NZLS Board.
In addition, I am a member of the Pacific Lawyers Association, New Zealand Asian Lawyers, New Zealand Asian Leaders, and the Wellington Pasifika Business Network. I am an executive member of the New Zealand-Fiji Business Council, and was previously Chair of the charity, Parent Help.
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Why are you running for New Zealand Law Society President?
I feel privileged to be part of a profession that has provided me with many opportunities and collegiality. I have had the good fortune of having strong mentors through my career, and most invaluably, when I set up my own practice.
I am standing as a candidate because I want to contribute to and serve a profession that has given me so much.
It is my view that we must all, as lawyers, play a part in looking after our profession; a profession that is, and is becoming increasingly more diverse. I believe that I am ideally placed right now, both professionally and personally, to make a strong and meaningful contribution to the direction of the NZLS in the role of President.
In coming to the decision to run as a candidate, I did carefully consider whether what I have to offer, in terms of skills, commercial acumen, and governance experience, can make a real difference to the NZLS at this time. And I believe that it will.
I am also mindful that in addition to confidently standing as a credible and strong candidate, I need to elevate the visibility of “difference” within our profession. The profession, as I mentioned earlier, looks different to how it was before. And, it is important for lawyers to see diversity in terms of the choice of candidates in the context of such leadership roles – a diversity in terms of professional background, opinion, personal background, and also cultural background.
It is my hope that by my candidacy being visible it will encourage more lawyers who come from diverse backgrounds to put themselves forward when opportunities for leadership emerge. That in itself will be a win.
What would you bring to the role of President?
Leadership style: I have a strong but considered leadership style. I believe that people should be treated with respect, empathy and manners. And, that mahi tahi, collaboration and partnership, is important as I have found that working together with people yields better results.
Capability: My strong commercial background, expertise in a complex area of law, business development skills, and public speaking experience will provide a good platform for strong leadership in the governance of the NZLS.
Service: I have a strong personal sense of community and service. There is a Samoan proverb that I appreciate: “o le ala i le pule o le tautua” which translated means “the road to leadership is through service”.
I have, from as early on as being a law student, been involved in community service – through volunteering, mentoring, and now through the change I can create by being in the leadership roles I am in. I will bring that sense of service in terms of looking after our new lawyers but also our future lawyers. We must grow our profession, rather than simply cultivating the existing membership.
Perspective: I am a woman, an immigrant, a Pacific Islander, and an Indian. By simply being those things, I bring a different lens to decision-making. My background provides a platform to connect with people – because they relate with one or more aspects of my background, and I with them.
With the profession changing, my ability to connect on a number of levels with lawyers from diverse backgrounds will be useful and can be channelled to advance greater engagement from the profession.
If elected President, what are the three things you would like to achieve?
Advocacy and Representation
It is my view that the representative role of the NZLS requires a renewed focus. I would advocate strongly for, and on behalf of the profession. The NZLS must stand firm and speak to the challenges faced by our profession, in a way that demonstrates that the NZLS is a voice for lawyers. This has to be done with integrity and manners so as to not compromise the relationships with external stakeholders.
Access to justice: Work done to date on access to justice initiatives, such as the access to justice survey, is an example of work that must remain a priority. With the benefit of the empirical data collated via the survey, I would want the NZLS to strongly position itself on issues faced by lawyers in terms of legal aid, court facilities and safety (for both lawyers and clients). And, I would want continuing meaningful progress made in this space.
Independent Review: I would work to have this project completed in an expedient and transparent manner. This will be one of the most important projects to be completed within the term of the next president and I would want it to be a constructive (and fiscally responsible) exercise that produces tangible recommendations.
The NZLS must adapt if it is to be an organisation relevant to the profession. I would like to focus strongly on engaging with the profession, with emphasis on those new to the law so that we are nurturing the pipeline of future leaders and contributors. I want new lawyers to see the NZLS as an organisation that supports their career pathways and wellbeing.
Ideally, by the end of my term, I would want to see strong engagement with lawyers – with more lawyers contributing to the profession via the branches, committees, and governance of the NZLS in a way that builds a safe, diverse and inclusive profession.
There are increasing challenges faced by lawyers, which are having an impact, or rather a more growing impact, on the health and well-being of our profession.
The NZLS has implemented a number of initiatives and I would want to build on that. For instance, working to explore initiatives to make well-being training and support more accessible to all lawyers. The NZLS must lead on this issue.