Legal Studies Student Profiles

Aurora Christensen
Aurora Christensen
Graduate: Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice (Level 7)
Employed: ImmigrateMe

I studied and completed the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice (Level 7), through Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, in 2016.

I am based in Christchurch so I studied the programme extramurally. It was an academically challenging but extremely interesting year. Despite it being distance learning, I have made many very close friends, who are based all over the world. They are now professional colleagues in the industry, and we are a great support network for each other.

The teachers and support staff are experienced, professional and supportive. The course content is wide ranging, and robustly prepared me with a large skill set, so I was immediately able to open my own company, and start working as a Licensed Immigration Adviser."

I am really enjoying working as Licensed Immigration Adviser and feel ready for all the challenges the job will bring me going into the future. It is an exciting industry to be working in.

Howie Yin
Howie Yin
Employed: HY Immigration and Investment Ltd

“It’s all about helping people”

Howie Yin first came to New Zealand 14 years ago as an international student, but knew almost straight away that he wanted to make this country his home. Following his Business degree, Howie worked for the New Zealand Police for seven years, including as the Asian Liaison Officer, as well as getting involved in a number of community and professional organisations, and participating in the Auckland Council elections in 2013.

But Howie had always wanted to try his hand at business, to run his own company and “learn about being an entrepreneur.” The Graduate Certificate in New Zealand in Immigration Advice (now called the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice) was a perfect fit. Learning about immigration law and visa requirements and processes was a fairly natural progression from Howie’s existing skills, qualifications and experience, because, as he says, “People need advice, professional advice that they can trust. A lot of our focus is on educating clients not to rely on posting questions on Facebook or We Chat, but to talk to us personally. You have to be a good communicator.”

Howie says there is a lot of demand out there for services like those he and his company provide, and already has four other staff members working for him from their central Queen Street office in downtown Auckland. “At first, most of our clients were Chinese, both offshore and people living here wanting to help their families. But we are diversifying and have Indian, American and Vietnamese clients too.”

“It’s busy, and with the time differences, you’re on call a lot. I don’t get many weekends! But it’s a really good experience, and I enjoy doing what I do.”

Naina Sawhney
Naina Sawhney

I am studying the Graduate Certificate in New Zealand Immigration Advice (Level  7)* part-time. It doesn’t affect my work life and leads to registration as a licensed immigration adviser.

I’m enjoying the course. It has exceeded my expectations. The weekly assignments ensure continuous learning, rather than cramming for exams. The lecturers always seem to be available to assist students with their questions. They use open discussion forums which create a classroom environment, even though everything is online, except exams.

The knowledge I am gaining is very relevant to the market.

* Note this programme has since been replaced by the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice (Level  7)

Pritika Nand
Graduate Pritika Nand NZ Law Society Legal Executive Diploma Level 6
Employed: Bay of Plenty District Health Board, Tauranga

Fijian immigrant Pritika Nand is fully embracing the idea of lifetime learning.

With a management qualification under her belt, Pritika (34) chose to study the NZ Law Society Legal Executive Diploma to help her return to the workforce. She had enjoyed a career break while relocating to New Zealand and having her second child and wanted to restart her career by gaining an in-depth understanding of the NZ legal system.

The hard work paid off, with Pritika landing an administration support role at her local District Health Board. She is thriving on the diverse culture and the continuous learning opportunities being provided by her employer and is keen to pursue further study towards the Bachelor of Management Studies.

She says the support she received from her Bay of Plenty Polytechnic tutors and the Ako Awe learning centre gave her the confidence and encouragement to succeed with her studies while also juggling her roles as a wife, mother and part-time employee.

“I enjoyed everything about this course. This was my first time studying in NZ and I felt so welcomed – I had constant guidance and encouragement,” she says.

“The tutors were absolutely awesome, they kept on encouraging us to ask questions and always had time to sit and chat if we needed more help. The tutors knew what they were doing. I am also grateful for having a supportive family that encouraged me throughout this journey.”

Pritika says a highlight of the course was listening to speaker Evan Christensen, a trust advisor at Mackenzie Elvin Barristers and Solicitors: “His journey into his current position encouraged me a lot.”

She says the trick to successful learning is to make notes after every class and discuss the topics in a small study group to reconfirm your understanding of what you have learnt.

“Legal executive study is really interesting – it helps you to understand how the law prevails in our daily lives. Have fun and enjoy being a student!”

Karen Faalilo
Conveyancing graduate Karen Faalilo starts making her mark
Graduate: Diploma in Conveyancing (Level 6)
Employed: Property Transfer Office Limited, Christchurch

Using a Conveyancing Practitioner is fast becoming a popular choice for people needing assistance with property law – just ask Karen Faalilo. Karen is a recent graduate of the Diploma in Conveyancing and has now opened her own Conveyancing practice - Property Transfer Office Limited, in Christchurch. 

Karen knows how first-time home buyers can be a bit daunted by the process and prides herself on being approachable and friendly in her practice: “I have seen younger clients get nervous when dealing with Solicitors,” Karen remarks. “Buying a home is an important process – but it does not need to be terrifying.  Explaining legal jargon in a non-legal way is extremely important, plus I have set fees so there are no hidden surprises at the end.”

A keen rugby league fan, wife and mother-of-two, Karen has 24 years’ experience in the legal industry but she knew she wanted to further her training in property law and completing the online diploma was the perfect opportunity.

“As an ‘older student’ going back to study was hard… technology is not one of my strong points but online study is really simple. It also gave me the flexibility to study when I could around my work and other family commitments.”

A highlight for Karen was the support and assistance she received from the tutors and would encourage anyone – especially those with a legal background and an interest in property law to try considering this diploma.

“I always wanted to set up on my own account as a conveyancing practitioner. I didn’t study to be an employee – I studied to be my own boss! Without a doubt, obtaining my Diploma in Conveyancing has been the biggest and most rewarding professional aspect of my career to date.”

Alisha Dare
Legal Executive Graduate, Alisha Dare
Employed: Bell & Graham Barristers & Solicitors

Growing up in Matamata Alisha always imagined herself studying law when finishing school. However sitting in a lecture theatre with hundreds of other prospective students during a university open day got the then year 13 student thinking ‘is this really for me?’ On returning to school Alisha headed to the brochure stand to ponder her future and it was there she came across the details of Bay of Plenty Polytechnic’s Legal Executive Diploma. 

“It was just what I was looking for, combining my interest in law with small classes and the opportunity to be a person, not a number.”

Alisha speaks highly of her Polytechnic experience. “I loved the small class sizes that allowed for stimulating discussion to enforce the learning; I don’t think you’d get in a lecture theatre,” she said. “I like that style of learning.”

Tutors also earn praise from Alisha.

"The tutors are really approachable and helpful and you develop great relationships with them. They’re really knowledgeable, experienced and experts in their field.”

Whilst studying Alisha was lucky enough to secure a six week placement with Bell and Graham covering a member of staff while on holiday. When her six weeks was up she asked them to be a referee for another role she was applying for, and they said “No, because we want you to work for us!” and the rest, as they say, is history.

Thrilled to have secured work in her hometown Alisha completed her final paper through the Open Polytechnic while working fulltime.

“The content of the legal executive diploma at Bay of Plenty Polytech was very relevant and covered everything I now do in my role including conveyancing, estate admin, relationship property settlements, trusts, wills and powers of attorneys,” said Alisha. 

The love the vibrant twenty year old has for her job is evident. “The great thing about working for a small law firm is that you get a taste of everything and don’t need to specialise just yet; I’ve got time to work out what aspects of law I enjoy most and work my way up.”

Erin Mackay
Conveyancing graduate, Erin Mackay
Graduate: Diploma in Conveyancing (Level 6)
Employed: Central Conveyancing, Otago

Based in the gorgeous area of Cromwell, Central Otago, Erin Mackay is enjoying her status as a newly registered conveyancer after completing the Diploma in Conveyancing online.

Having previously worked in accounts and as a legal assistant, Erin had a strong foundation to start her conveyancing studies – but only learned about conveyancing as a profession while searching for legal executive courses.

“I did look at other providers… but found the course structures a bit confusing. Once I learned about the Diploma in Conveyancing through BOP Poly, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Now she is working from home as a conveyancer, Erin is enjoying putting all the skills she learned to good use, especially when it comes to land law and conducting e-deals. Support from Bay of Plenty Polytechnic tutors was a major benefit while studying, and Erin is full of praise for them:

“I found the tutors amazing, with such a wealth of knowledge and experience and they were all happy to help with any questions or concerns I had outside of the tutorials, via phone or email.”

Studying full-time allowed Erin to complete the Diploma in two years – but being based in the South Island meant she had to complete her studies online. Not that it was a problem for the mum of two.

“Online study is fantastic as it gives you flexibility… I also enjoyed the interaction with the other students and the tutors. Being rural, this was important to me as I didn’t feel so isolated and it really felt like we were all a team working together and helping each other.”

Leighton Hodge
Legal Executive graduate Leighton Hodge
Employed: Trust Account Assistant, Sharp Tudhope, Tauranga

Obtaining the Legal Executive Diploma has given Leighton Hodge the platform he needs to progress to a higher role within leading commercial law firm Sharp Tudhope. He’s happy in his role as Trust Account Assistant, but has hopes to one day step-up when the opportunity arises.

“The Legal Executive programme was perfect for me as it streamlined my goal of gaining a higher qualification in preparation to pathway in to a higher position within the company. I studied part-time while working full-time but, as it was only a six paper course, I was able to complete it in three years.”

A busy father of three, Leighton had a big load juggling work, study and home life, but he says it was well worth it to achieve the end result, and he was fortunate to have a lot of support from his partner Anna.

“It’s a great qualification. Whether you need it to work in a legal executive role or as a pathway in to the law degree, this course is fantastic. I learnt so much and the tutors were highly knowledgeable and well-versed in law.”

When asked why Leighton chose Bay of Plenty Polytechnic to gain this qualification it’s easy to see he holds the institution in high esteem.

“Bay of Plenty Polytechnic is a well trusted tertiary provider in the region. I had already gained a hospitality qualification from there when I first left school and the Polytechnic was just as great back then as it is now. It’s a positive learning environment and has great resources.”

Leighton’s manager, Deena Himpers - also a graduate of Bay of Plenty Polytechnic - is happy to reinforce her employee’s high opinions of studying at the Polytechnic.

“Throughout the years a significant number of our employees have worked towards various qualifications at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. The institution provides a great variety of industry relevant programmes. Most of the business and law related papers are offered in the evenings and part-time which makes them very suitable.”

Jo'An (Jo) Rewiti
Photo of Jo Rewiti
Employed: Bush Forbes Barristers & Solicitors, Tauranga

If you’re looking for excuses not to study, then Jo Reweti had multiple reasons. Mother to four school age children and holding down an almost full-time job really didn’t leave much  spare time, but this hard working woman didn’t let that stop her from enrolling to complete a long sought after Legal Executive Diploma.

Not only did she study despite her already busy schedule, but her grade point average was enviable, scoring A+ on more than one paper. She also attained the top mark in New  Zealand in the 2009 Litigation Law exam. Her exceptional achievements demonstrate that you can always make time to improve yourself and pursue a reputable qualification.

“I always wanted to study for a law degree,” explains Jo. “We didn’t have a local university where I grew up so my parents didn’t really push me to enter tertiary education. I got married  quite early too, which also acted as a bit of a hand brake.”

“At the end of 2006, we moved from Wellington to Tauranga after my husband started a new job. We hadn’t been here long when I saw an advertisement for the programme in one of  the local newspapers. I felt a little thrill right away and decided to go for it - I also applied for a job as a legal secretary at a local law firm, which was new to me after being in the medical  profession for 22 years. It was the first job I applied for and I got it right away! It couldn’t have been more perfect, I almost started studying and working on the same day!”

Jo loves learning new things and encourages others to give it a try. “I love to keep stimulating my brain. When I started the programme I found so much that really interested me. A lot of  what I learnt on the programme I could directly input into my job. I provided a challenge for my tutors by asking more critical questions in class than a lot of the younger students simply  because I could apply the theory learned in my real life job.”

“Amongst the things that I do at work now are: conveyancing and property development, estate administration, relationship property settlements, trusts, wills and powers of attorneys.” Jo wants to take it a little bit easier after graduation, but is seriously considering doing a law degree eventually.

“For now I want to be an independent legal executive and I want to be as much support as I can be to the firm’s partners. And of course, I want to spend more time with my family! My daughter is nearly 15 and she also wants to be a lawyer. Maybe we can finish our law degrees together!”

Nicky Mcllvride-Winmill
Photo of Nicky McIlvride-Winmill
Graduate: Diploma in Conveyancing (Level 6)
Employed: my3sons marketing

Mother of four Nicky McIlvride-Winmill has her own business creating marketing strategies for small to medium size businesses.

She has a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in French and a Masters of Management Studies from the University of Waikato. Not content to rest on her laurels, Nicky felt the time was right to explore new opportunities.

“Over the years  I’ve developed a real passion for property; this timed with wanting a change made it a perfect opportunity to look at study options. Bay of Plenty Polytechnic’s conveyancing programme is perfect for me - it’s an opportunity to enter a new industry and it’s taught online, making living anywhere in the country a breeze!”

“I’m now in my second year of my  programme and I’m really optimistic. Since this is a new profession in New Zealand I’m looking forward to the niche market opportunities that will arise in the future.”