Emma Burke (nee Bunton) attended St Hilda’s from 1992-1996. After St Hilda's, she studied Law and completed a BA (French) at Otago University. "I thought I wanted to be a litigator because programmes like Boston Legal (or Suits for those too young to remember Boston Legal) made it seem cool and exciting, so my degree had a strong litigation focus." She graduated with Law Honours in 2001.
She worked at Russell McVeagh in Auckland for four years from 2002. "I was supposed to be going into a litigation team but, just before I joined, the two litigation partners left to start their own boutique firm, so I was put into a commercial team that had a strong construction and infrastructure focus, and that has been my passion ever since. The partner I worked for was great and I loved the work, but I could see the huge sacrifices the partners had to make so at that stage I didn’t think partnership was for me."
She met her future husband at her sister’s wedding - he was the groom’s brother. They left NZ in 2005 and travelled to Spain and New York before settling in London for a year, where she worked at law firm Norton Rose. "I travelled to the Middle East a lot during that year, working on power generation projects in Qatar and Abu Dhabi."
After a year in London, her (now) husband's visa ran out and they returned to Dunedin, where both their families lived. She worked remotely for Russell McVeagh, and while she initially enjoyed working from home, after a couple of years she was ready to get back into an office environment.
"I got a job at Anderson Lloyd in 2009 and was very lucky to work for Warwick Deuchrass, one of the smartest people I know and the best mentor I have ever had. I will always be so grateful for all of the time and effort he put into developing my career."
In 2016 a partnership opportunity came up at GCA and, after meeting a number of the partners, Emma could see it was possible to be a partner at a successful law firm while maintaining a healthy work/life balance. "For me, family will always come first, so I thought the culture and values would be a great fit for me. And I was right."
"I love going to work every day. There is a real sense of collegiality among the partnership group and I really enjoy being involved in strategic decisions about the firm. I have a real passion for the law and have always loved the work, and still do, but what I find even more rewarding now is working with our junior lawyers. I was so lucky to have had such amazing mentors throughout my career, so I invest a lot of time in the development of our juniors. We recruit very carefully and the talent among our junior lawyers is seriously impressive, so it is really important to me that we foster that talent."
Outside work, Emma and her husband (a builder by trade but currently training for the NZ Fire Service) have three young children and one very naughty German Shepherd puppy. "We love being outside and most weekends you will find us at the beach or exploring one of the many bush walks around Dunedin. I am very lucky that my parents and two sisters live here, so we are able to spend heaps of time together with all of our kids."
Find out more about GCA and Emma's work here.