Legal executive celebrates milestone 50 years with Tompkins Wake

Jenny Gilmore turned up for her first interview with the firm in her high school uniform

Legal executive celebrates milestone 50 years with Tompkins Wake
Jenny Gilmore

A Tompkins Wake legal executive has celebrated a milestone 50 years serving with the firm.

Jenny Gilmore was only 16 when she turned up for her first interview with the firm in 1970, schoolbag in tow and wearing her school uniform from Hamilton Girls’ High. Tompkins Wake was looking to employ school leavers, while she was looking to earn money to finance her training as a teacher outside Hamilton.

“I knew that if I got a job then I could earn money straight away. I thought working in a legal office would pay reasonably and the rest I guess you could say is history,” Gilmore said.

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She got her start in accounts, before shifting to a role as a legal secretary. Then a staff member’s relocation to Auckland opened up an opportunity for her to become a legal executive.

“I remember I was given the role for showing aptitude and doing things right. It was, and still is, a fantastic role,” Gilmore said.

She obtained her qualifications for the role after a three-year period of part-time study at the Waikato Institute of Technology, which was then known as Waikato Polytechnic, in the late 1970s. She went on to earn her legal executive diploma at Waikato University in 2000.

“I was working full-time, but throughout the time I studied I had the full support of the team at Tompkins Wake,” Gilmore said.

Today, she is a residential conveyancing specialist with expertise in refinancing, subdivisions and residential property transactions. As part of the firm’s property team, Gilmore’s experience includes advising first-home buyers in Huntly when Coal Corporation was unloading miners’ homes – she continues to assist some of those clients and their children to this day.

“I love dealing with first-home buyers… the excitement and nervousness in them. It’s lovely being able to guide them, advise them on little things they need to know along the way,” she said. “It is rewarding acting for all clients and particularly when I am now acting for a fourth generation in the one family.”

Gilmore was also part of the national council at the NZ Institute of Legal Executives, which aspires to expand the roles and recognition legal executives can receive; she was an independent member for 12 years, and served as president of the council for 4 ½ years. When Gilmore started, legal executives were relegated to only conveyancing, but now, those in the position can also work with estates, trusts and litigation, Tompkins Wake said.

Gilmore celebrated her 50-year anniversary with the firm last month.

“I never thought I’d be here this long. But I’ve had so many opportunities along the way. And that’s the key, I think – take those opportunities and run with them, even if you feel like you might be a bit out of your comfort zone,” she said.

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