Law Society President and Criminal Lawyer Tiana Epati has been named New Zealand Lawyer of the Year.
Ms Epati, 43, who ascended to the presidency of the Law Society in April this year, was named by legal news website LawFuel as the Lawyer of the Year for the impact her elevation has had on the profession.
Gisborne-based criminal lawyer Ms Epati is the first Pacifica president of the Society, reflecting both the changing nature and face of the profession and the ‘fresh voice’ that lawyers other than mainstream legal figures bring, said LawFuel publisher John Bowie.
The award, sponsored by Staedtler pens, is provided to the lawyer who has had the greatest impact upon the profession in the year.
In an exclusive interview with LawFuel, Ms Epati said the Law Society had made an error in ensuring that Maori and Pacifica voices were not “front and centre” of the Metoo debate that enveloped the profession.
She says some Māori women lawyers were really angry, not just with the Law Society, but with everybody.
“It wasn’t that they said, ‘We were made to feel invisible; we were made invisible’,” she said in the interview.
In the wake of the sexual harassment allegations that rocked the legal profession, Ms Epati announced said that the Law Society would undertake a review of the complaints process and deal with the “unacceptable behaviour” within the profession.
The review, including a close look at the constraints imposed by the decade-old Lawyers and Conveyancers Act when investigating complaints about poor behaviour has long been sought by several legal figures.
Born in Australia and brought up in Samoa until she came to New Zealand at 10, her father is A’e’au Semi Epati, the first Pasifika judge in New Zealand.
“She brings a fresh perspective to the law profession and indeed to business and professional life generally,” said John Bowie.
About LawFuel.com – LawFuel is one of the Net’s first law news sites, reaching up to 70,000 users monthly and published online since 2001 and providing lawyers globally with news about lawyers, law firm marketing and management, law technology and other matters relating to the legal profession.
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