In November 2021 the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa launched its National New Lawyers Group to increase support for new lawyers through the early stages of their legal careers.
The Group represents new lawyers with fewer than seven years post-qualified experience. It’s designed to complement the networking and education work already being done by the Law Society’s eight regional new lawyer groups.
The National New Lawyers Group (the Group) provides a collective voice for the next generation of lawyers joining the profession to empower, guide, and support new lawyers. The establishment of the Group will encourage better connectivity for new lawyers nationwide, reach out to all new lawyers across the country, and have a voice to influence positive change for new lawyers and within the Law Society.
“New lawyers are the future of our profession,” Law Society President Jacque Lethbridge says.
“We know that the demands on new lawyers are ever-changing. Those beginning their careers as new practitioners in the last couple of years have had to deal with pandemics, working from home – in most cases being quite isolated – and grappling with the ‘new normal’.
“My focus is ensuring the profession provides new lawyers with value. This means not only working in a job they enjoy and get benefit from themselves, but that they see a wider purpose and context to being a practitioner.
“Practising can be demanding at times and we all collectively have a responsibility to make sure the legal profession is a place where people want to be. The Group is absolutely vital in my mind to tapping into the aspirations of young practitioners and ensuring we meet that responsibility.”
Following a call for expressions of interest in August 2021, sixteen new lawyers were appointed to the Group in November. We were particularly pleased to receive applications from right across Aotearoa New Zealand, and from a diverse range of candidates covering multiple practice areas and types of legal workplaces.
The Group has identified several key projects, including diversity, inclusion, cultural competency, health and wellbeing for the profession, connectivity between new lawyers, law reform, and advocacy.
When the committee members were first appointed, we asked them to tell us how the Group could guide and support new lawyers. Ideas and thoughts included that “it can be lonely and isolating when you enter the profession; people seek connection, support, and guidance to thrive in a fast-paced and rapidly changing environment. This is essential when transitioning from being a law student to becoming a lawyer.”
“A key focus for the Group is to help shape a more inclusive profession that is reflective of the community that we serve; to promote collegiality between new lawyers and senior lawyers; and foster a fairer, safer, and more diverse working environment for new lawyers,” says Glenda Macdonald, General Manager Membership Services for the New Zealand Law Society.
The Group aims to be the common thread running through all eight Law Society new lawyer regional groups currently operating across the country. The Group is designed to support new lawyers by providing a direct channel into the Law Society while complementing the education and networking that our eight regional new lawyer groups already carry out.
“We aim to provide a network to help regional groups meet their objectives and reach more remote areas to reduce the isolation that new lawyers across the country can experience,” says the National New Lawyers Group.
The Group intends to support the great work that regional branches and committees are doing by encouraging increased participation in events, professional development opportunities, and health and wellbeing initiatives led by the Law Society. Facilitating networking and collaboration through these events, alongside the regional groups, will provide a direct avenue to influence new lawyers positively.
The Groups’ formation is ever more significant in light of the once-in-a-generation Independent Review of the statutory framework for legal services in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“As a representative body, considering our objectives for an enduring and future-ready profession, we will endeavour to work closely during this journey of change, advocating strongly for new lawyers and providing those new to our profession confidence in us,” says the National New Lawyers Group.
The Group looks forward to continuing to progress their work to implement significant change within the profession by taking a cohesive national approach to building community, advocacy, and wellbeing support for new lawyers nationwide.
The list of members who have been appointed are:
- Maria Sopoaga, Wellington
- Callum McPetrie, Hawera
- Jay Rajendram, Hamilton
- Thilini Karunaratne, Hamilton
- Vivian-Lee Schaaf, Auckland
- Bree Munro, Gisborne
- Josh Marshall, Blenheim
- Nick Byrnes, Auckland
- Mathew Martin, Auckland
- Ella Stolwerk, Whangarei
- Kaitlyn White, Christchurch
- Joyce Chiu, Auckland
- Josh Nyika, Hamilton
- Victoria Rea, Wellington
- Georgia Osmond, Masterton
- Edward Dryden, Dunedin
To read more about the members and the Group visit www.lawsociety.org.nz/branches-sections-and-groups/national-new-lawyers-group/