The New Zealand Law Society Vice-President for the Central North Island, Tiana Epati juggles a hatful of positions.
She is a criminal defence lawyer, a law firm partner, a wife, a mother of two and solid proof that the old saying rings true “if you want something done, ask a busy person”.
Ms Epati is the immediate Past President of the Law Society’s Gisborne branch and a partner at Rishworth, Wall and Mathieson at the east coast beach town.
She graduated from Auckland University in 2000 with a BA in philosophy and history and an LLB and was admitted that same year.
“Being Vice-President on the executive team is not quite as demanding as the position of President of the Gisborne branch,” she says.
“There are a lot of weekly meetings but I was a really active branch President and probably created a lot of extra work for myself in that role. So I’ve stepped aside from a lot of the local issues I was involved in with the Gisborne branch job,” she says.
So how does she cope with the juggling act of life?
“I’m a list person. I write down everything that needs to be done at work and at home and get started from the top and work my way down. Unfortunately the work list probably gets the most attention,” she says.
The new role is a challenging position in that Ms Epati is the representative of an area that has the highest number of small provincial districts in the country.
“The challenge for me is to ensure there is good communication between all of these areas. Drawing from my experience in the past, Gisborne tended to isolate itself a bit out on the coast so what I learned in that role as President, I’m also encouraging in other similar sized districts within the Central North Island.
When Ms Epati is not attending Law Society executive meetings, she is working as a partner in the small law firm.
“We have just four partners. I probably do the most criminal defence work. I’m in and out of the Gisborne Court daily. The one day I decide to wear mufti, you can guarantee there’ll be an arrest and I’ll have to go home and get changed,” she says.
Breaks from defence work hard to schedule
Ms Epati says taking breaks from criminal defence work comes with challenges.
“It’s hard to take a holiday because you can never predict what criminals are going to do and when they’re going to do it.”
She says work and family life constantly collide.
“There’s no balancing. It’s all about managing conflict. I’m married to a lawyer whose work is based in Wellington, so he commutes during the week, and we have two children, a four-year-old and an eight-year-old.
“I have a calendar that is constantly being updated, one with court and client appointments and the other is family jobs. I have to manage who is physically at home at any given moment – it’s a military operation, I cannot do it without a Nanny.
“It’s funny, in my experience, no one ever asks a really busy man, how do you manage with children and everything else going on in your life?
“Sometimes it’s a big hot mess at home, but we get by. The whole thing can fall apart when someone doesn’t get picked up from the school bus,” she says.
Ms Epati says when she eventually does get time off from lawyering, it is a break from all aspects of her life.
“Sometimes you have to stop the train so to speak and get off for a while. I’ve got a holiday coming up at the end of August for three weeks.
“That’s me and a girlfriend in Italy. During that time, I get a break from being a partner, a wife, a mother, the whole lot,” she says.