A virtual chambers model is designed to encourage more women into chambers – earlier than otherwise
It had to happen – a Chambers or law firm celebrating suffragette Kate Sheppard. (Surely, the even more appropriate Ethel Benjamin Chambers can’t be far away). And now a barrister returning from Europe to New Zealand, Charlotte Griffin, has started a ‘virtual barristers chambers’, Kate Sheppard Chambers.
Unsure of whether the traditional chambers model would suit either her life or her career goals, she wanted to have the flexibility of a virtual chambers, encouraged by a friendly female judge who told her to go with it.
Teaming up with former Crown Law colleague Isabella Clarke, who was with Crown Law, and who used to share coffee with Charlotte Griffin at Kate Sheppard Place opposite parliament, the Wellington-based barristers had the challenge of making the concept work and, just as importantly, using it to attract other female lawyers to make the jump into their own business.
The result is Kate Sheppard Chambers
Charlotte Griffin notes that there are major advantages to the current model with no need to pay monthly rent, the ability to take time off for children and an easier ‘fit’ than working in the traditional chambers model. Generally women barristers will join chambers at a later stage in their career and as a result can be inhibited from realising their full potential, as barristers or otherwise.
The ‘Kate Sheppard’ aim is to have a working solution that aligns with the womens’ values and gives them the best life that they can enjoy in career terms. The Kate Sheppard name, Charlotte Griffin says, has a message of advancement of women “so they can be all they want to be.”
Part of that challenge is mentoring and encouraging women to avoid some of the prejudices that come with tags of being ‘pushy’ or ‘aggressive’.
The Chambers have also set up a scholarship, The Kate Sheppard Chambers Scholarship, to be administered by Victoria University and provided annually for research relating to women and the law. Members of Kate Sheppard Chambers will also be available to mentor recipients.
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