Charlene Cooper

Charlene Cooper

Relationship Manager, Westpac New Zealand Limited
Bachelor of Laws (Honours)

The variety of options and career pathways is what drew her to the law, says Charlene Cooper who completed a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and now works as a relationship manager at Westpac New Zealand Limited.

“I like that law offers so many different options – from family law to medical law or property law. You can constantly adapt your career. As a law student, I enjoyed the law in general and I loved that all the lecturers at AUT were really passionate about their individual topics. That was really infectious.

“I was particularly impressed by Associate Professor Khylee Quince. She is so enthusiastic and passionate, and I loved seeing the law through her Māori worldview. I also really enjoyed the lectures by Professor Warren Brookbanks. I still see him around sometimes and I’m impressed that he still knows my name.”

The close-knit environment is what she enjoyed most about studying at the AUT Law School.

“What I liked most about AUT was that you got to form really close relationships with your classmates and the academic staff. The lecturers got to know your name and you never felt like you were one of a thousand people.”

A rewarding career
After graduating from AUT, Charlene worked at MinterEllisonRuddWatts, one of New Zealand’s most established law firms, for three years. In September 2021, she changed tack by going in-house to Westpac New Zealand Limited where she manages Westpac’s relationship with the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ).

“I joined Westpac during our longest lockdown which was an interesting experience. I got to dive right into weekly COVID-19 calls, which the RBNZ was having with the industry, so that they could get a better understanding of how the situation was impacting banks and customers.”

In her role as a relationship manager, Charlene enjoys working closely with stakeholders from different areas of the bank.

“At law school, I had the misconception that I would not be qualified to work at a bank because I’ve never been great with numbers. But working at Westpac has made me realise that banking is about so much more than that. My day to day work on RBNZ matters covers a whole range of topics including climate change and Māori access to capital – not to mention the huge amount of regulatory change that’s on the horizon at the moment, including the Deposit Takers Bill.”

Advice for other students
Charlene has some great advice for other students considering a career in law.

“Law is a great profession if you’re passionate about making an impact on the world.”

Make time to give back to the community, she adds.

“Get involved in social projects while you’re studying. That’s such an important thing in this profession. For example, I was a teacher’s aide while I was at law school and also took my greyhound to rest homes for pet therapy. The residents loved interacting with my dog, especially the ones with Alzheimer’s. I found that really inspiring.”

Photo courtesy of MinterEllisonRuddWatts.