Anita Birkinshaw’s biggest lesson from last year is about millennials. The Buddle Findlay senior associate says that even more senior lawyers could pick up a thing or two from their younger colleagues.
In this interview, Birkinshaw also talks about why she loves her job, her biggest accomplishment last year, and what she thinks lawyers and law firms should focus on in the coming year.
What made you choose a career in law?
Apparently, I was quite an adversarial child, as my parents told me from an early age that I should put my gift for arguing to good use. More seriously, law – and more specifically, litigation – appealed because it combined research, analysis, writing and advocacy – and a degree of psychology – to resolve disputes.
What do you love most about your job?
My favourite aspect of my job is that it is so mentally stimulating. I'm lucky to work with some really talented people on some genuinely interesting issues. And of course, we're assisting clients to resolve problems, which is rewarding.
What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
I'm particularly interested in the firm's work in the area of diversity and inclusion, which is an important issue for business as a whole. Buddle Findlay is active in this area. By way of one example, at the end of last year, it was one of the early adopters of the NZLS and the New Zealand Bar Association's "Gender Equitable Engagement and Instruction Policy" for court and arbitral proceedings and major regulatory investigations. The policy seeks to facilitate a fair allocation of work to women in lead roles for such matters.
What has been your proudest accomplishment in 2017?
2017 was my first complete year of full-time work after two periods of maternity leave following the birth of my young sons.
What should the profession and law firms focus more on?
Technology. We need to ensure that the profession keeps abreast of technological advances, evolves alongside them and takes full advantage of the benefits they offer.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give to fellow lawyers about it?
I've been lucky to supervise some really talented younger lawyers. I've always been aware of the importance of team work, but working with them has shown me the importance of being open to new ways of thinking and approaching the practice of law. I've somewhat unexpectedly become a big advocate of millennials.
What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?
As above, diversity and inclusion and technology.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
Continuing to work on interesting cases with colleagues and clients.
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