Five minutes with… Gracey Campbell

by Hannah Norton06 Jul 2015

What made you decide to become a lawyer?
I enrolled in LAWS101 after Mark Henaghan told me that practicing law was just like it looks in Boston Legal, only things move a bit more slowly. However, it wasn’t until my second year of law school at Otago University that I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. I really enjoyed reading all the cases; they were like people’s stories. Plus I nailed my mock plea in mitigation, so I thought it was something I could be good at.

How long have you worked at Wilson Harle for and what brought you to this position?
I have been at Wilson Harle for two years now. I applied for summer positions with them a couple of times, and finally got offered a graduate position. It just shows persistence is key! I always thought they stood out amongst all the recruitment material you get inundated with at law school, and I feel very lucky to be able to work with such a talented team.

What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
There haven’t been too many strange cases, but every case has its characters. I have also come across some pretty odd material during the discovery process, which livens up what can be quite a tedious job. 

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Amy Poehler, because I think she is hilarious and an amazing role model for ambitious women. Stephen Fry because I have been an avid QI fan for a long time and I would love to talk to him the conservation projects he is involved in. Finally, James Spader, because Alan Shore was my favourite Boston Legal character at law school. 

Where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work in Auckland?
Burger Burger in Newmarket. For a burger joint, they do great cocktails. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
When I first started interviewing for law jobs, my dad told me to remember that interviews are just as much an opportunity to find out if you like the firm as it is a chance for them to assess you. That really changed my perspective and reminded me not to put people on pedestals just because they might be more senior than you, which also makes it a lot easier to network as a more junior member of the profession.

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
I am currently training for the Auckland Half Marathon. I will be running to fundraise for the Blind Foundation Guide Dogs, which is an amazing cause. The charity relies on volunteers to care for their puppies until they are ready for their formal training. If you would like to donate, my fundraising page is: 

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
A zookeeper. A couple of years ago I was given a “behind the scenes” experience at Auckland Zoo and I absolutely loved it, especially the lemurs. 

What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in New Zealand in 2015?
Access to justice is an ongoing issue in New Zealand. Bringing a claim to court is very expensive, and out of reach for a large portion of our society. The threshold for legal aid is very low, leaving a lot of people who cannot afford representation and are not covered by the legal aid provisions. I know a lot of young lawyers who had hoped to practice in criminal and family law, which typically involves a lot of legally aided clients, who haven’t been able to get work in that area of practice because there are diminishing incentives for lawyers to do legal aid work. We have people who want to do the work, and people who need representation, so it’s a shame that the two can’t be put together. 

If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
I don’t think I would be able to make many changes in a day, so I think I would use the time to have a drink with Barack and Michelle Obama. 

What do you love about your job?
I get to work with a great team of people. Because we aren’t streamed into particular teams or practice areas, I have worked with everyone in the office and on all sorts of matters. When someone is getting particularly swamped with work we all pitch in to support them, whether it’s just bringing them a coffee or taking some photocopying off their hands. 

What would you change about your job right now if you could?
I would change the policy on pets in the office. I think my golden retriever, Jenny, could be a real asset to the team.