Today, Charlotte Garland has worked out just how she'd defend Darth Vader if she ever became his lawyer
A fortune cookie predicted the trajectory of Charlotte Garland’s career when it told her she “would make a great lawyer”. A great lawyer she indeed became, as earlier this year, she made partner at Mayne Wetherell alongside Jonathan Riley and Sherryn Harford.
A homegrown star, Garland started with the firm in 2015 as a summer clerk and hasn’t looked back since. Today, she is eager to be a mentor to others and to advocate for more diverse representation in the area of transactional law.
In this interview, Garland talks the exciting potential of generative AI, Mayne Wetherell’s CSR efforts, and what kind of defence she’d use if she was Darth Vader’s lawyer.
What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?
To be honest, I fell into the law. I’m not one to believe in fate, but while waiting to hear the result of my application for Part II Law at Auckland Uni I happened to open a fortune cookie that (believe it or not) said “you would make a great lawyer”. The next day I received the news that I had been accepted and haven’t looked back since.
My favourite part of the job is witnessing and participating in the opportunities that we create as a firm. At our core, Mayne Wetherell’s focus is to create opportunities. For our clients, that means facilitating the bespoke and complex transactional corporate, finance and tax work we specialise in. Often these transactions are transformative in nature, so it’s incredibly satisfying to be a part of a team that can deliver outstanding results.
For our people, it means providing a platform for them to develop and progress quickly without bureaucratic limitations. I have personally benefited from this approach, having been promoted on merit without a focus on age and it’s great to be able to extend those same opportunities to our younger staff members.
What is going on at the organisation? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
As part of our CSR committee, I am particularly focussed on how Mayne Wetherell can be a better corporate citizen and use profit for purpose. Since obtaining our BCorp certification in 2020, we have embraced the framework provided by BLab as a valuable resource for determining our focus areas. Currently, we are implementing systems to measure and reduce our environmental footprint with an aim to become carbon-neutral certified in the coming months.
What tech-related initiatives adopted by the organisation, if any, are you most excited about?
We are particularly excited about the potential that generative AI holds for our firm. We have been closely monitoring the advancements in AI tools for some time and are looking forward to the advantages that tools like Microsoft Copilot can offer, especially when it comes to drafting. Leveraging these tools effectively will help us to work more efficiently allowing time to focus on complex legal issues, strategic decision-making, and providing tailored legal advice to our clients.
What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so? Or what’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?
My proudest accomplishment of the past year has undoubtedly been my promotion to partner. What makes this achievement even more special is the fact that I have been a part of this remarkable firm since the beginning of my legal career. The journey has been amazing, starting as a summer clerk in 2015 and being nurtured with unwavering support, mentorship, and invaluable opportunities that have paved the way to my current position. I take great pride in contributing to the continuous growth and success of Mayne Wetherell and look forward to providing others with the same opportunities that have shaped my own trajectory.
What should the profession focus more on?
Something I would like to see more focus on, specifically in the transactional legal space is diverse representation. Transactional law can be incredibly challenging given the hours and workload, which often leads to a lack of diversity in the field. To address this, we need to actively encourage and attract a broader range of individuals to pursue careers in transactional work from an early stage.
We also need to foster a flexible work environment to accommodate different needs, enabling more people to view transactional law as a viable and sustainable career path.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
We have an exciting pipeline of work for the year ahead. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with our wider team to produce great outcomes for our clients.
If you had to defend a fictional antagonist/villain in court, who would you pick, and why?
As a Star Wars enthusiast, it would have to be Darth Vader. With his intimidating presence, iconic helmet and mind tricks, I’m sure he would do my job for me. Perhaps we could construct an argument that his descent into the Dark Side stemmed from overwhelming workplace stress. After all, managing a small team of people is hard enough, let alone governing an entire galaxy. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see a lightsaber in action?