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Knowing the right language when it comes to law

17 August 2015

For most when it comes to sitting down with a lawyer for the first time could see a few moments of head scratching and blank looks. And that’s for someone who can speak English.

As Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty’s population continues to boom and diversify, one Tauranga-based law firm is being proactive about offering legal services catering for these needs – specifically the Asian community.

Harris Tate Lawyers have recently acquired the services of Solicitor Nicole Wong from Christchurch, giving it a cultural point of difference when it comes to offering legal services in the Bay of Plenty.

Born in Malaysia before moving to New Zealand in 2003 with her family, Nicole is fluent in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, Indonesian and Hakka. Graduated from the University of Canterbury in 2013 – with a Law degree and Commerce degree – she specialises in conveyancing, immigration and commercial matters.

Nicole says when it comes to legal advice it’s vital the client thoroughly understands the legal process and the information being laid out in front of them. Something the language barrier has hindered in the past.

So that’s part of her job, to break down these barriers, with the added ability of covering all bases – language, legal advice and any cultural sensitivities.

“I think it is about explaining the legal procedures and communicating clearly with the Chinese clients, and guiding them through the process so they understand what they are dealing with”, says Nicole.

“Some may go to a referral and due to the language barrier they might ask a friend to interpret for them. However, the interpreter may not have sufficient legal background which may lead to a breakdown in knowledge there.”  

Aligning herself with the Bay of Plenty Chinese Business & Commerce Association early on, Nicole has been helping spread the message at conferences and informal meetings.

Immediately being innundated with referrals and questions from her native community, either through referrals or word of mouth.

According to Multicultural Tauranga, the Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga have become one of New Zealand’s popular areas for migrants to settle.

Tauranga’s population grew by 1900 to 121,700 during the year ending June 30, 2014.

Net migration was the biggest factor, boosting the population by 1300 – and with no signs of slowing.

Bay of Plenty Chinese Business & Commerce Association president Candy Yan welcomes Harris Tate’s move, and has already referred a number of residents to Nicole given her cultural background and extensive knowledge.

“She and her company have provided our members some free presentation on legal advice of "Setting up New Business", "Invest in Residential Properties", "Invest in Commercial Properties" and “Employment Law and Kiwisaver” in Mandarin,” says Candy.

“We are very appreciative for their offer and we believe that we will have more opportunities to serve the local Chinese community in the future together.”

Harris Tate Director David Foster says Nicole is an invaluable asset to the law firm providing

advice to individuals and businesses that trade in Asian markets and also to the local Asian community.

He says the firm is proud to offer a point of difference where they strive to always work with their client’s best interest at heart, through communicating and listening.

“We are delighted to have Nicole join the team at Harris Tate. We found from people involved with the Asian community that there was no lawyer here offering them support, so we got the very best in New Zealand.”