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Tauranga's newest solicitor shows it's never too late to make a legal dream a reality

12 February 2016

For 15 years Tauranga’s newest solicitor woke up every morning and asked himself one simple question, “am I following my true passion?”

And for 15 working years the answer was “no”. Until this month when John Delaney answered his true calling and put “the final piece of the jigsaw” into place for his legal career.

The 41-year-old was admitted to the bar at a special ceremony at Tauranga High Court earlier this month, one of only two lawyers. Made particularly special with wife Louise and sons, Connor, 11 and Jake, 8 on hand for the ceremony.

Having recently graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Laws, Mr Delaney now takes up a qualified position as a solicitor in  the litigation team at Tauranga law firm Harris Tate – after joining last August as a law clerk.

Although the intricacies of law aren’t foreign after after spending his entire working life resolving disputes. Born in Britain, he was previously a trade union negotiator representing doctors at the British Medical Association for 10 years, a qualified mediator and, more recently, managed the Tauranga Moana Restorative Justice Trust for five years.

“Law has always been something all the way through my working career. I have had moments where I’ve said, ‘I should have done law’ and I haven’t done. I should have done it when I first went to university, after leaving university, or when I moved here 10 years ago,” says Mr Delaney.

“And I never did. And it got to that point where my wife said ‘you need to go and do it’.”

While the majority of students are fresh-faced and straight out of secondary school, Mr Delaney spent three years juggling work and studies while sacrificing precious family time as a mature student. Efforts he was happy to commit to, showing it is never too late to realise your dream of picking a career that is fulfilling.

Figures from online employment website Seek show that in 2015, 35 per cent of Kiwis intended to change jobs within the next 12 months. But of this only 26 per cent would actually make the change.

“There is a cool little plaque at home that I got from Queenstown. It is by George Eliot and it reads ‘it’s never too late to be what you might have been’.

“It just sums it up my situation perfectly, showing the difference between someone who talks about doing something different and someone who goes out and does it. I admire people who have the courage to carry out their convictions.”

However, had he still been living in Britain, things may have panned out differently due to the different working mentalities between the two countries.

He says in the Northern Hemisphere there is still very much a mentality where you pick a career and you stick with it, while in New Zealand employers appreciate previous job skills and work experience.

Seven months into joining Harris Tate, Mr Delaney is relishing the chance to put his studies and legal passion into practice, strengthened by his extensive working background, which he believes is holding him in good stead.

“Any academic study has got to have a point to it and what’s often hard is translating that academic study into what the commercial reality of the work requires.

“Having life experience, I don’t have that problem and it is a lot easier to picture how things works in reality.”

Comments backed by Associate Professor Wayne Rumbles, Dean of the University of Waikato’s Te Piringa – Faculty of Law, who says mature students are great examples of what can be achieved when you really set your mind on something.

“John’s story is a great one. It’s never easy to look after a family and study for a new career,” says Professor Rumbles.

“He used every opportunity available to make his learning experience a successful one.”