Simpson Grierson associate, Tamina Cunningham-Adams, was born and raised on a marae on remote Motiti Island, located off the Bay of Plenty coast. She credits a childhood filled with time spent outdoors (the island had no roads, no power, and no schools when Cunningham-Adams was growing up) and constant reinforcement of her Maori heritage with giving her the ability to think differently as a litigator.
Cunningham-Adams, who went on to became the first person in her family to attend university, now works in the banking & finance litigation team at Simpson Grierson.
She started at the firm as a summer clerk and says Simpson Grierson’s willingness to welcome another aspect of her life has been one of the key incentives for her to stay.
“There are many [lawyers] who are still in the closet,” says Cunningham-Adams. “They’re afraid that if they come out, it will affect their partnership potential…But our business is about trust and how can you trust someone who is hiding such an important part of who they are?”
Cunningham-Adams is largely responsible for Simpson Grierson’s involvement in the Auckland Pride Festival Trust, which the firm now sponsors.
“For over a decade, Auckland has been one of the few major cities that doesn’t have a public parade to celebrate the LGBTIQ community…It costs a lot of money to put on a major event like Pride. So when I heard that ATEED [Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development Ltd] had decided to contribute $100,000 to Auckland Pride… it was important for our community to provide a good return on that investment,” she says.
Cunningham-Adams believes there’s room for many lawyers to improve their level of community involvement. “Being a lawyer is about helping people,” she says. “That gets skewed sometimes in the corporate sense, but…we should be respected. I cringe every time I hear the comments about lawyers being ‘bottom feeders’ – we have a really important role to play.”