New Zealand Law Society - Wellington via golf, Gore and Glasgow

Wellington via golf, Gore and Glasgow

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Honor Kerry
Honor Kerry

Honor Kerry, judge’s clerk at the Court of Appeal, Wellington

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Honor Kerry spent the first four years of her life living in the Shetland Islands, the northern- most point of Scotland.

“My parents wanted to move back to the Scottish mainland when it came time for me to start school but they felt that, as a teacher and a physio, they wouldn’t be able to give my brother and I the upbringing that they wanted for us in Scotland. They decided instead to give New Zealand a two-year trial and we are all still here 20 years later.

“My family initially moved to Gore as it was the first place where my dad could get a job. Within a year both of my parents had found jobs in Christchurch and we moved north. Despite then moving to Auckland for university, and now living in Wellington, I remain a very proud Cantabrian.”

When did you decide that you wanted to work in the legal profession?

“I don’t have any lawyers in my family but my extremely intelligent and assertive great-grandmother wanted to be a lawyer. This, however, wasn’t the done thing at the time and the powers that be prevented her from doing so. She went on to become the British women’s champion in golf. I like to think that she channelled all of her energy and intellect into hitting golf balls further and more accurately than those who prevented her from doing the same with legal arguments.

“Her story both inspired and frustrated me and it spurred me to work in the law for both of us. I also remember a parent-teacher interview in year 10 where my social science teacher said that she wanted to see me as a lawyer or a politician changing the law and creating policies to make Aotearoa a better place. I have been fairly focused on the law ever since.”

What do you enjoy most about being a judge’s clerk in the Court of Appeal and the work you do?

“What I enjoy most about being a clerk is the exposure that I get to all manner of legal issues and factual situations. I have gained an insight into parts of society, business and government that I had (in some circumstances the privilege of) not having any experience in before. I am constantly learning.

“I also really enjoy the people that I have come across in this role. I have wonderful colleagues, have worked with fantastic people in the wider community, and have the – unlikely to be repeated – privilege of Court of Appeal judges listening to my opinions on a daily basis.”

After finishing your studies, did you find the job matched the expectations you had in school?

“While I wanted to work in the law from a relatively young age, I had very little idea of what that would look like. The law is not a particularly accessible profession for young people. I had the privilege of not having to deal with the law in any substantive sense until I got to law school.

“I had the opportunity to do some summer clerkships while I was at university. These gave me an idea of what working in the law might be like.

“While I didn’t know much about what it looked like in a practical sense, I did come out of school with firm expectations of how I want to be treated and how to treat others – equally and with respect for their individual dignity and differences.

“I started working in the law in January 2018, about the same time as the publication of revelations about the profession which were far from those, perhaps naive, expectations. I am, however, pleased to see the cultural change that is starting to take place and hope that my naïve, but nonetheless firm and continuing, expectations will be met.”

Are there any issues currently facing young lawyers that you’d like to highlight?

“As noted, the legal profession in New Zealand requires meaningful cultural change to restore its mana.

“The profession has serious issues with mental health, sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination and a lack of diversity. I think that all of these issues boil down to a lack of respect for one another and the privileged positions that we, as lawyers, hold in society.

“These are serious issues and we must do better if we want to retain the people that can make the most positive change to our legal system.”

Angharad O’Flynn is a Wellington-based journalist.

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