Every day, lawyers in public sector practice work on issues right at the heart of government. Whether advising on existing or new legislation, ensuring our policies enable fair and fit-for-purpose outcomes, or undertaking public prosecutions - public sector lawyers directly support effective constitutional governance and better outcomes for all New Zealanders.
It's a dynamic field - and one that is committed to continuous improvement and collaborative ways of working. These motivations are championed by the Government Legal Network (GLN), which actively promotes an informed, connected and engaged approach to public sector legal practice.
Formed in 2011 and led by the Crown Law Office, the GLN links more than 800 lawyers across all government departments, enabling professional mentoring and the sharing of knowledge and expertise essential for the provision of high-quality, trusted legal advice to the Crown.
A shared workspace, hosted by the Department of Internal Affairs, is a popular facility with GLN members. GLN Online functions as an e-portal where public sector lawyers can upload their profiles, download legal resources, participate in discussion forums, advertise jobs and promote events.
With a core focus on advancing capability and engagement, the GLN has an active events calendar - running professional development and 'lessons learned' seminars of general interest, in conjunction with programmes specific to specialised legal practice groups. All government lawyers are encouraged to participate in GLN initiatives and Phil Griffiths (GLN Director) works closely with Chief Legal Advisors, Chief Executives and Deputy Chief Executives to identify ways in which individual departments can demonstrate their expertise and leadership ability. A collaborative approach towards mobilising talent and optimising technical excellence across the sector is key. "In the past, one agency might have run a workshop exclusively for its own staff - now, increasingly, we share training resources. We're continuously finding common ground and learning new skills - it's excellent", says Phil.
Building the capability of today's lawyers is a priority, but equally important is attracting and developing tomorrow's lawyers - today. GLN representatives attend university career expos and at a recent event for young lawyers, Christopher Finlayson QC (Attorney-General) and Mike Heron QC (Solicitor-General) highlighted the public service legal career. Mike believes that the best public sector lawyers combine technical excellence with a wider sense of purpose. "To excel in public sector practice, you need a public service focus. You have to have a passion for testing your ability and applying your skills in a constantly-evolving context that revolves around the desire for effective governance and better outcomes for all New Zealanders," he says.
With today's government lawyers informed, connected and engaged, and tomorrow's ones inspired, the GLN is making a real difference to how lawyers in the government sector work. Kevin Allan, Deputy Chief Executive of the Crown Law Office notes that "as part of one professional community, we combine our efforts for best effect - upholding the integrity of New Zealand law, developing legal talent and supporting a safe and just society in New Zealand."
The GLN really is a pathway for shared success.