Using her law degree to help people when they need it most was what drew solicitor Tracy Sawtell into joining the team at Nelson’s Bamford Law.
Tracy previously spent years working in highly specialised insurance litigation. She dealt with large insurance companies and big money matters in her home city of Adelaide, where she studied and was admitted to the bar, as well as in Sydney and London.
But it was a desire to work with ordinary people face to face, rather than just paper, numbers and impersonal processes, that drove Tracy’s search for a role that would make a positive difference to others.
In May last year, she found just that at Bamford Law.
Her areas of law include family, employment, civil and immigration – anything, she says, apart from criminal law, which is the domain of firm principal and long-standing lawyer Tony Bamford and lawyer Tagan Lyall, and property law, which is handled by licensed conveyancer Linda Bamford.
The shift to working with individuals has been very rewarding, says Tracy, who accepts both legal aid referrals and private clients.
“I’m using my skills and experience to help people who really need it.”
Employment and family law, particularly, often involve emotionally charged situations, says Tracy, which require not just her legal knowledge but good people skills as well.
“In employment law, you’re dealing with people who have worked in an area and define themselves by this employment. When issues arise, it challenges their very identity, and that can be a very emotional time.”
Family law, too, comes with challenging aspects such as disputes over children and relationship property and Tracy sometimes finds herself as a sounding board, where careful listening is necessary to the wider process of solving the legal issues at hand; “It takes time, patience and empathy to be able to do that.
“You’ve got to keep your professional boundaries and make it clear what your role (as solicitor) is, but at that first meeting with somebody it’s very important to build that rapport and that trust.”
Tracy, who has two children with her Nelson-born partner who brought her here eight years ago, credits her past professional experience as well as being widely travelled with developing the interpersonal skills required for the job.
“I like to think that those experiences have opened my mind and made me more accepting. When you come out of law school you’ve got your law degree, but a degree and practising law aren’t the same thing. You can be book smart, and I like to think of myself as being that, but you also need to have the people skills to work alongside.”
Happily ensconced at Bamford Law’s Monaco office, which in its peaceful, scenic coastal setting couldn’t be further removed from the corporate offices of her past, Tracy says her colleagues make “a small team but a good team. Everyone works well together, and the support is there when you need it.”
Tracy also travels to Nelson to meet clients who may not be able to come to Monaco in Bamford Law’s Nelson office near the courthouse.
“My work is challenging and rewarding, and I see myself practising in these areas of law for many years