If you had asked Alice Tocher in 2009 if a career move to Taranaki would see her working in a highly technical industry while also becoming a partner of a law firm, she would have queried moving to a part of the country she barely knew.
“In all honesty, I had only been to the Taranaki once before and that was as a child on a family vacation. So when my husband had to move here for work I started asking family and colleagues in Wellington about legal jobs in a region I knew little about.”
She was building her budding legal career in the Wairarapa and then Wellington, mainly in the area of property rights, when her husband had to move to Taranaki in 2010 for his work as a top dressing pilot.
After a recommendation from her sister’s flatmate, she successfully applied for a job at Govett Quilliam’s Inglewood office and has since climbed the firm’s career ladder with success.
Ms Tocher was recently made a partner at Govett Quilliam in New Plymouth at the age of 32 and has built a new career specialising in the oil and gas industry.
“I am really proud to have become a partner here at Govett Quilliam at such a young age, although I am aware that there are a few other partners my age at some of the other Taranaki firms,” she says.
“When people ask me what are the differences to working in the provinces instead of a major city like Wellington I guess it would be that fast tracking in terms of career progression. The opportunity is there for talented lawyers and partnerships seem keen to recognise it, hear your ideas and allow you to give it a go.”
She says that one of the reasons law firms in the provinces are seeking new lawyers to the region is providing a succession plan for their business.
“I arrived at a time when the firm was looking around, wanting to create some long-term succession plans. The partners are very clear on that fact and I guess I was the enthusiastic lawyer who was proud to be here.”
She adds that some provincial firms don’t have such succession plans in place and could be waiting for new lawyers to enter the region and come knocking on their door as she did.
“Those lawyers who grew up in provinces will know that you don’t regress there. In fact the opposite. There is a huge client base out there in provincial New Zealand for those lawyers if that’s what they want and you can mix a lovely lifestyle with good practice.”
Richard Natusch, 41, is currently in his first legal job after being admitted in 2008. After 14 years working for Wellington City Council in various regulatory roles while studying law part-time at Victoria University Mr Natusch decided it was time to make the career change in 2013.
He joined Till Henderson in New Plymouth as a staff solicitor last year, covering the general law work of property, sale purchases, estate, wills, power of attorney, deeds and gifting.
“I guess an advantage for me when I decided to become a lawyer was that I wasn’t fixated on staying in Wellington,” he says.
“Finishing my law degree I saw the job market in the main centres was highly competitive with many law graduates wanting to work in Wellington or Auckland.
“There has always been that hearsay of legal graduates who start a career in the provinces and say how they got more opportunities and responsibilities as a rookie lawyer. And for me my personal goal was to acquire as much experience and opportunity as possible, so I knew moving to the provinces was the best decision.”
Balance of work and life
He views his life in New Plymouth as hard-working but also relaxing compared to the life of a professional in a large city.
“The one enjoyment I’ve had moving to New Plymouth has been, in my opinion, the better lifestyle,” says Mr Natusch.
“You do the work but I never stay in the office or continue work into the night at home. It is usually finish at 5pm every day and enjoy the nice climate, or jog alongside the coastal area. Sounds rather simple but it does improve your output in work.
“The reality is a legal career is a very stressful one and it doesn’t matter which city or town you work in as a lawyer, there will be that level of stress.
“You hear of horror stories about new or young lawyers being driven into the ground by work overload. But if you don’t have that balance between your work as a lawyer and life then really what’s the point?”