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New Zealand Law: Is This The Next Law Society President?

Special Correspondent

The end of NZ Law Society President Kathryn Beck’s presidency will see two women seeking to replace her, with nominations due to close on 23 September.

In what has been a tumultuous year for the Law Society with the sexual harassment and bullying issues dominating their agenda, it may not be surprising that women are putting their hands up to lead the profession as it handles these and gender equality issues.

Kathryn Beck’s term concludes in April 2019 and the next President will be elected at the Society’s mid-term meeting on 24 October 2018.

However the battle between the two current contenders – one a seasoned campaigner from the Capital with a solid knowledge of Law Society and public law issues and the other a younger, Pacifica battler who has already achieved considerable mana as a highly effective litigator and an  ‘operator’ whose time may well have come.

The latter is current Vice-President and Rishworth Wall & Mathieson (Gisborne) partner Tiana Epati (pictured above) and the former Wellington Vice-President Nerissa Barber, who worked at Simpson Grierson before joining Crown Law and later the State Services Commission.

She  re-established the Wellington Women in Law Committee and also served as Convenor of the Legal Assistance Committee.

Ms Epati spent four years as a Crown prosecutor with Meredith Connell before working with Wellington Crown prosecutors Luke Cunningham & Clere and later with Crown Law.

She was President of the Law Society’s Gisborne branch from 2014 to 2016 and was elected Vice-President, Central North Island in April 2016.  She also achieved considerable success as a litigator, including defeating her former firm when securing the release of a gang member from prison in a 2016 Court of Appeal case reported expansively in her local newspaper.

Nerissa Barber is serving her third term on the Law Society’s Board as Vice-President, Wellington, with a strong background in constitutional law, regulation and related issues and with a strong background in governance.

While not to be underestimated in any sense, the emergence at the national level of Tiana Epati could be the fresh, younger and connected face that the profession needs.

Time will tell.

The President is elected by the Law Society Council, which comprises the President and four Vice-Presidents, a representative of each of the Law Society’s 13 branches, a representative of each of the three sections, and a representative from each of the New Zealand Bar Association and Large Law Firms Group Ltd.

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