I am going to be the next Chief Justice. That is the second or third sentence I said to Dame Helen Winkelmann after having a discussion about my misworded question on the first day of the Conference.
Over three days in May, myself and a few other Law students were privileged enough to attend the International Association of Women Judges Biennial Conference [IAWJ]. This conference included hearing from female Judges and legal experts from around the world, speaking on a wide range of thought provoking topics. The conference was opened with a Powhiri on the Ōrākei Marae accompanied by sessions relating to indigenous legal issues.
The second and third day of the conference was held at the Cordis Hotel and featured speakers from across the globe, in person as well as over Zoom. Session topics consisted of mainly Judges speaking on immigration, trafficking, gender equality, Judges in Afghanistan facing danger at work, indigenous legal systems and much more.
Personally, I was able to meet a range of amazing judges, from the District Court, High Court and Supreme Court. I was also able to meet Judges from courts I was not even aware of such as Coroners Court, Drug Courts and Matariki Courts. On a whim, I addressed the room of legal professionals with permission from IAWJ President Justice Glazebrook. This was regarding a human rights matter affecting pregnant prison inmates, relayed to me by my table mate Dame Silvia Cartwright.
What I was not expecting was to find a range of job possibilities within the industry other than becoming a run of the mill solicitor. Universities do not do the legal sphere justice when advertising the sheer number of opportunities that are available which is a real shame. A lot of people who attend law schools around the country do not undertake legal education for the purpose of going into a firm to work till 65. People undertake legal studies to create change within their communities to create change in people’s lives, to create change in the legal industry. This is certainly the case for me, I don’t believe that the legal industry reflects the diverse range of clients that we serve. How can society trust the legal industry to uphold justice when there is no intersectionality within the profession? The IAWJ conference experience gave me faith that the industry is giving it’s best efforts for change from the top down.
The conference experience added fuel to my fire to create change. This is because I was able to see that there were other women from all around the profession who were fighting the same fight. I believe that I might actually have a shot at Chief Justice one day. However, before this can happen, the legal industry has a lot of work to do. The IAWJ conference is proof that everyone has a space within the law and I am forever grateful for this experience.