Matthew Hitchman

Solicitor: Ministry for Primary Industries – Commercial, Programmes and Māori Partnerships

I have been working in government since February 2013. Initially I started out in a temporary position in the Fisheries Officer Communications Centre. However the exposure to government made me start to seriously think about a career as a government lawyer. 

Matthew Hitchman Low
In government you can really become the lawyer you want to be.

I am currently a Solicitor in the Commercial, Programmes and Māori Partnerships Legal Team at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).  However before gaining a promoted position in that team I was working at graduate level in our Legislation, Standards and International legal team.

The expertise within my team covers fisheries management, forestry, climate change and Maori and Commercial partnerships. We also cover all the general commercial work such as leasing and contracts. At the moment I am being exposed to the general commercial work – predominately so I can build my wider skill set. However along the way I am being drawn into subject-matter projects including forestry and our commercial partnerships. 

I never really thought about working in government when I started my law degree, which is a shame because the public sector has such a diverse range of opportunities on offer. Once I began a career in government I was drawn to stay because of those opportunities, the variety of the work and the impact that work has.

For example, working for an organisation such as MPI, I see the impact that the work we do has on kiwis every day. On an individual level, our work reaches into your home because we are regulating things like the snapper you caught for your dinner, or the food you just bought from the shop. But our work also has a broader national scope - we regulate many of the core industries in New Zealand and I find it exciting that every day in the media there is a story that relates directly to what MPI is doing. I often find that everyone has a view on what we are up to. 

Aside from impact, a career in government allows you to specialise or diversify your skill set according to your goals. Working in a relatively large legal team at MPI (around 40 people), there is some flexibility to focus on one specific area but if you want more general work you can do that too.

Being a government lawyer also means I’m part of the Government Legal Network (GLN) which provides a fantastic opportunity to meet other government lawyers and to share stories and ideas. It also provides a framework to be able to gain free training directly tailored to the government sector, which is sometimes missing from generic legal training.

I have definitely found that relative to colleagues who have started in the private sector, I am developing as a lawyer faster and I have had exposure to projects and work earlier than I otherwise might have. I am given the support that I need to engage with clients and provide advice directly to them. 

The public sector is a great place to start out your career. There is so much diversity in the work available and in the training provided, that you can really become the lawyer you want to be.