Year of everything at once helped build resilience

Webb Farry partner Kimberly Jarvis reckons she has the perfect mix of work. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Webb Farry partner Kimberly Jarvis reckons she has the perfect mix of work. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Last year was a challenging year for Webb Farry’s latest partner, Kimberley Jarvis. She talks to Business editor Sally Rae.

For Kimberly Jarvis, 2020 was the year of the three Ps — pregnancy, partnership and pandemic.

Ms Jarvis, a Dunedin lawyer, admitted it was a "pretty intense" time and a good exercise in building resilience.

"I kept saying, if I’m still alive during the year, I can do anything," she laughed. "It was a very interesting year."

Early last year, Ms Jarvis was invited into the partnership at Webb Farry. The same week, she discovered she was pregnant with her second child.

Both, while not unexpected, were unplanned and she admitted there was a split-second of, "Oh my goodness, how is that going to work?".

Son Finnegan was born on October 1 — a little brother for nearly 4-year-old Emmy — and she returned to work this week after her parental leave.

Ms Jarvis joined Webb Farry as an associate in the firm’s litigation and dispute resolution team in March 2019.

Since admission to the bar in 2008, she had specialised in commercial litigation, employment law and complex relationship property and international family law disputes.

She has appeared in a wide range of courts and tribunals around the country, up to and including Supreme Court level.

Brought up in Dunedin, Ms Jarvis was tossing up law, or the excitement of something like surgery but, being quite squeamish, she settled on the former when she was midway through Otago Girls’ High School.

It turned out to be the right fit; she enjoyed law school at the University of Otago and, on her first day of work, she recalled thinking that she hoped she would like it as a job — and she did.

While the theoretical side of law was taught during tertiary studies, there was still the learning of how to be a lawyer.

But put simply, law was a service industry — "our job is serving people" — and so it was about being empathetic and connecting with people, she said.

Her first job was doing commercial litigation work in a local firm and she worked for some sole practitioners before joining Anita Chan QC, which was "amazing".

She had always done general civil litigation and a little family work, but doing complex, interesting family work while there piqued her interest in that field.

She thought she might do a couple of years there, but she loved it so much that she stayed for five years.

But towards the end of her tenure there, she began to miss "the mix" — "I love family [law], I love civil and employment but a mix of the three is really me," she said.

Joining Webb Farry was her "dream role" with a good mix of those three things, while she had also "clicked" with the team straight away.

"I’m really lucky I’ve found a really lovely home here. I set the bar really high about how I felt about where I work . Now top priority has to be lovely people. You can get good work anywhere, get a job anywhere, the people are really the key."

Every day, clients brought their stresses and drama and it could be a stressful environment, as it was often a time when people were "at their worst".

So with all that stress on the outside, on the inside the firm, family and life needed to be happy and congenial, she said.

Before Covid-19 lockdown, Ms Jarvis used to often work at home at night, from a laptop on her kitchen bench.

But the pandemic had changed her perception of how working from home could work. She now replicated her office set-up at home and she found it easy to work there, with her ability to work flexibly.

Thanks to lockdown, people were now comfortable with the likes of Zoom and tele-conferences and, during lockdown, she had been able to meet clients at "home".

She used a decoy keyboard for her enthusiastic daughter who wanted to work beside her.

Ms Jarvis was grateful for the "amazing support" from her fellow partners and the team at Webb Farry. On her first day back, partner Megan Bartlett made her a dish of lasagne.

Ms Jarvis was chairwoman of the board of Pioneers Dunedin Community Childcare Association which was a "nice window in a different industry".

There was a misconception that early childhood education was babysitting; the reality was that "amazing programmes" were run.

She was also a volunteer trustee of the Trade Aid Dunedin Trust which runs the Trade Aid store in George St.

She had strong beliefs around fair trade, the living wage and environmental sustainability and all of those were embodied in Trade Aid.

Those governance positions were also about giving something back to the community.

"I really like to get involved with organisations ... [when] I really believe in their message," she said.

There was much to be learned in governance roles and it was a really good cross-over of skills with her day job. She also liked to feel a sense of belonging in the community.

Ms Jarvis and her husband were happily settled in Dunedin and it had been a great place to raise children, although she believed it needed a destination playground.

Both her and her husband’s parents lived in the city and she quipped that her top parenting tip was to have children in the same town as their grandparents.

She also did not have to be in a more major centre like Auckland or Wellington to be able to do good work.

"There’s heaps of good work down here, I’ve had referrals from all over the country. There is still really good work going on in the provinces and really interesting work," she said.

And what she liked particularly about working in a small to medium-size firm was those opportunities were realised from an early stage.

Ms Jarvis was excited about Webb Farry moving into new premises in Stuart St by the end of the year. Being a partner, she was involved with the decision-making around that.

The new fit-out would comprise heritage features with a modern twist and it would be "good for the vibe and the culture" of the firm, she said.



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