New Zealand Law Society - Working as a Partner whilst dedicating time to my family

Working as a Partner whilst dedicating time to my family

Working as a Partner whilst dedicating time to my family

Deciding to study law really came down to my preference for writing over science. I went to the University of Otago to study law and history and upon graduating realised that I didn’t really know what being a lawyer actually entailed. I joined Buddle Findlay in Auckland where I learnt a lot, but for me what I really got out of that experience was working alongside some great role models.

Since then, what’s determined my career has been the people I work with – it was the same when I went to London to work at the Magic Circle firm Freshfields. I really enjoyed that experience because of the people I worked with, many of whom I am still in touch with.

I spent nearly four years in London before taking a year out to travel. In 2011 I ended up back in Tauranga where I’d grown up – something I hadn’t expected! But the city had changed a lot since I’d been away and I could see the opportunities for me as I looked to move into the next phase of my life.

Joining Cooney Lees Morgan

Cooney Lees Morgan was the first firm I joined in Tauranga and I’ve been there ever since. I’ve had some great opportunities over that time working in the firm’s Commercial team and more recently its Private Client and Trust team to support clients with their commercial and property transactions and structuring their affairs.

I’ve acted on a range of work including some of the firm’s most significant farming and orchard transactions and many of my clients are based outside of Tauranga. A lot of business is now done online and it’s seamless. So, you can live in Tauranga with all the lifestyle benefits that brings, while working with interesting clients all over the place.

I went part-time after my son was born six years ago. I took time away from work and started back at just two days a week. Since then, I’ve had my daughter and another period away from work and have been gradually increasing the amount of time I spend working.

A leap of faith into partnership

Earlier this year I became a partner in the firm whilst maintaining my hours at four days a week spread over five. I decided that it was too exciting an opportunity not to take up – being an employer and running a business are new challenges for me, allowing me to appreciate the law from a whole new perspective.

I talked through the option to be part-time with my fellow partners, all of whom work full time. It was a new thing for the firm to have a partner join while working part-time but I was not prepared to work full time while my kids are still young. Like with most things, we talked it over and came to an arrangement that everyone was comfortable with. Any arrangement like mine has to work for both sides.

It’s only been a couple of months but I have had some great feedback about the part-time arrangement. I really hope that this becomes more of the norm. It’s not just parents who benefit from having the option of working part-time in a senior role, there are a lot people who would want to do this for a whole variety of reasons.

How I make it work

I’ve certainly found that being part-time is about doing the best job I can. In my experience part-timers smash out the work and are very efficient. You’ve got to make the most of the hours you have at work.

That also means that when I’m not working I need to be really disciplined with my time, making sure I’m not checking emails whilst looking after my children. I actually read a really good book on this – The Mother of all Jobs by Christine Armstrong. One of the top tips in there was to only check your emails when you can do something about them. So I’m trying to be really mindful of that.

I have a great set-up at home which means I can easily work from there or the office which gives me real flexibility. I had that before Covid, but it’s even better now that everyone has had the experience of flexible working and can see the benefits.

Another really important thing is to have a supportive team around you who you can rely on when you’re not in work. They also need to have a good understanding of when it’s okay to contact you outside of your work hours, because sometimes that will be necessary, but we keep it to when its required.

I’ve found structuring my hours across five days means I’m more on top of what’s happening. I also stick to a routine so that people know when I’m working and when I’m not.

I am also very lucky in that my partner also works part time. I think it’s great for my children to see both their parents working but also sharing the parenting responsibility. I always like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s quote; “Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation”. I feel very lucky that I am able to do that and contribute to it hopefully becoming more of a norm. I look forward to a time when it’s really normal for people to work part-time in senior roles across a range of professions.

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