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Duncan Cotterill

  • 100 - 500 employees

Hannah Doogan

Make the most of your student years – it’s a unique stage of life that goes by so quickly.

What's your job about?

I work for Duncan Cotterill, a full-service law firm based in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch. I started last year in the Wellington office as a law clerk, before being admitted to the bar in June and becoming a solicitor. Duncan Cotterill runs a fantastic graduate program where I had the opportunity to rotate between our private client, commercial and litigation teams, spending three months in each. I found private client work particularly interesting, and I am now a member of this team. My work is varied as we service a wide range of clients with different and personal legal issues. Most days I’ll be jumping between property files to estate work and asset planning, to trusts and even immigration – I love the variety and the opportunities this line of work gives to help individuals and families.

What's your background?

I was born and bred in Wellington. I always enjoyed school and particularly my years at Wellington Girls’ College. My first ever job was a paper run, before I started dance teaching at my local studio. I moved to Dunedin in 2014, one of the best decisions I ever made, and there I studied toward my LLB/BA and fell in love with the city and the student lifestyle there. I was lucky enough to go on a student exchange to Germany in my penultimate year, and I tagged on a couple of months travelling through South East Asia and Europe before this. I started considering job opportunities towards the end of my final year at uni, and I wanted to find a firm that valued people and culture as much as it did quality work. It’s no secret a career in the legal profession can be demanding, so I was stoked to be offered a job at Duncan Cotterill where work-life balance is really valued.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely. The one prerequisite really is you need to have a law degree and then complete your professional legal studies to be admitted to the bar and practice as a solicitor, but apart from that everyone from any walk of life could do this role if they wanted. I think a strong work ethic, integrity, and an empathetic nature are some key characteristics/skills that would serve individuals interested in a legal career well.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I love the people – my colleagues are down to earth, genuine people, so I enjoy working with and learning from them. On a similar note, I also love working with clients, and in the private client team, I get a lot of opportunities to contact and meet with individuals and families.

At uni, I loved the way legal training makes you think, and that’s another cool thing about my job. I love being challenged to think critically and examine my clients’ issues from every angle. This is both challenging and rewarding, and it often involves assessing the legal issues at play but also the practicalities of the circumstances my clients are dealing with.

What are the limitations of your job?

It’s not so much a limitation but more something to be aware of, that this role does come with a lot of professional responsibility that I owe both to the firm and more broadly to the legal profession / Law Society, so in all dealings with colleagues, other lawyers and clients you need to be aware of and comply with these obligations.

At times the role can also mean working beyond normal hours, sometimes urgent work comes in and your client needs it done without delay, so that might mean staying late some evenings or even coming in on the weekend if there’s some really big files on the go.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Stay on top of the little things where you can, whether it’s updating your CV or contacting Studylink about your student loan, try not to let those kinds of jobs pile up.  
  • Travel if you can, whether that’s on a student exchange or use some of your summer break to go somewhere new. 
  • Make the most of your student years – it’s a unique stage of life that goes by so quickly, enjoy being in the same place as your friends before working life takes you all on different paths, and value the time you have to learn and discover what you like and don’t like.