Miriam Klein Ovink
Graduate, Auckland Council
“Being in-house requires me to wear multiple hats which I absolutely love. It’s not just about the law but also requires an understanding of the business side of the organisation and the ability to think strategically.”
Where do you work? What does your job entail on a day-to-day ?
I am a Legal Graduate at Auckland Council. Every day looks very different. We have four legal teams that cover Projects & Transactions, Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Regulatory & Enforcement and Public law. Over my year and a half long graduate rotation I’ll get experience in all of these teams. So far, I’ve been involved in everything from mediations in the Environment Court to drafting new loan documents for community groups.
How did you get there? Where did you work beforehand and what useful skills did you pick up along the way?
I started out doing a Resource Consent Internship for Auckland Council during university. Although the internship wasn’t law related, I got to experience the culture of Auckland Council which made me sure I wanted to work here as a graduate. I also worked the whole time I studied. I think sometimes there is a lot of focus on law related experience, which while it’s valuable, isn’t always viable for students who can’t drop the jobs they do during the year for an internship over the summer. Jobs I did while studying included delivering NZ Heralds, working at a rest home, running a computer lab and working at a kennels. It was all a lot of hard work and it meant I couldn’t always take all the extracurriculars other law students were engaging in. These jobs all gave me so many useful skills though, including management skills and confidently engaging with all kinds of clients. Not everyone takes the same path to getting to the first rung of the legal career ladder so back the experience you have.
If I had one thing to say to current students, it would be to do things outside of the law school bubble that work on your confidence and soft skills. It can be so easy to get very wrapped up in grades but there is so much more that makes a good employee and a good lawyer. Work, volunteering, hobbies and sports don’t just make your CV look good they also help prepare you for the next step in your career.
What are the perks of working in-house?
Auckland Council is a very big organization with over 6,500 full time staff. This means a huge variety of different business units and areas of work. In some ways, legal sits at the core intersection of all of these and gives an amazing overview of everything going on at Council. It’s awesome to feel like I have my finger on the pulse of such a large organisation. Being in-house requires me to wear multiple hats which I absolutely love. It’s not just about the law but also requires an understanding of the business side of the organisation and the ability to think strategically.
What is a highlight of your career so far?
It’s difficult to pick one thing but the major highlight would probably have to be the exposure I’ve gotten to the different legal departments within Council. While studying I did my conjoint with a BA. A lot of my law electives were steered towards Public law and Human Rights law. I didn’t do anything that related to Corporate or Commercial because I thought it wasn’t my thing. Experiencing what the Finance and Corporate team do and getting to work with them through lockdown made me realise I have a huge passion for that area of work and want to continue my career in that direction. Something I never would have known without the exposure!