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Take a Deep Breath

  • Stout Street Chambers Huddart Parker Bldg, 1 P ost Office Square Wellington 6011 (map)

A Professional Development Group for Women in Law

Click here to register for the next group beginning in July. We also invite expressions of interest for groups in 2020.

A small group of women meet over lunch for 6 weeks. 

There has been much research and public discussion about women either leaving or not progressing in the profession. With this in mind, Mary Scholtens QC, together with experienced coach and facilitator Ava Gibson, offer a confidential lunchtime discussion group over six weeks for a small number of women practitioners (maximum of 8).

The purpose is to provide a supportive and wise environment to discuss professional issues, to draw on collective insight and experience of the group, and to learn new strategies to enhance your practice of the law.

Enquires for this group are invited from women 7+ years PQE. Enquiries for other groups are welcome.

How will the course work?

Mary will have a brief introductory telephone discussion with each registrant prior to the group's commencement. She will be interested in your circumstances, career plans and any particular issues or concerns you might like to cover.

Discussion topics for each week will be identified based on the needs of the group (see examples below). You can expect to participate in robust and open discussion of a wide range of topics, in a confidential, helpful and supportive environment.

You will be provided with readings and activities to complete between sessions.

Each week you will enjoy a delicious, healthy lunch.

At the end of the lunchtime sessions you have an individual coaching session to consolidate your learning and plans.

Matters covered may include

  • Wellbeing

  • What makes successful women thrive

  • Know your values and your strengths - and let them guide your decisions

  • Organisational culture

  • Unconscious bias

  • Confidence

  • Conflict management/difficult conversations

  • Career planning and development

  • Dynamics and culture of workplace relationships

  • Ensuring your values guide your decisions

  • Managing work with other aspects of your life

  • Network building

How will you benefit?

What seems to make these groups work so well is the combination of being with a small group of women from different legal backgrounds, the structure of the sessions, and (women have told us) the credibility, openness and experience that the facilitators bring to the group.

The course is independent of your workplace so you are away from your daily work, in a space where confidentiality is emphasised, where you can reflect on your practice and take steps to improve your professional effectiveness. Unlike a one day course, ‘Take a Deep Breath’ is spread over several weeks, allowing you time to integrate your learning and insights.

The course is a ‘journey’ with each session building on the last. There is ‘homework’ by the way of reading and reflections. There is accountability, as women report on actions they have taken during the week. This all takes place in an environment of encouragement and support.

At the conclusion of the course participants report they are clearer about what is important to them, have greater confidence, courage and skills to direct their career, and have gained a network of other women to support and encourage them. All these are important contributors to a sustainable legal career.

Your facilitators

Mary Scholtens, QC

Mary is an experienced Queen's Counsel who acts predominantly in the commercial public law arena. She qualified in 1982 and worked initially in NZ Government departments and a criminal/human rights practice in London. After the birth of her son she worked part time until he was 2 years old. She then worked for ten years at Crown Law. In 1996 Mary joined the independent bar, and took silk in 2002. She practises from Stout Street Chambers and has a broad public law/regulatory litigation practice. Mary has appeared in many judicial review proceedings, in public law claims in contract, tort and equity, and in appeals from regulatory bodies. She acted for the IRD in the tax avoidance case brought by the BNZ. She has assisted and appeared before Commissions of Inquiry, Parliamentary Select Committees, and the District Court on an Electoral Petition. She is a member of the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal and an accredited mediator. She has served on the board of a leading health and safety consultancy. She has a husband, one son, three step children and nine grandchildren. More information at

Ava Gibson

An experienced coach and facilitator, Ava is Director of Orb Solutions Ltd. Her coaching practice includes working with leaders, managers, and personal coaching clients, as well as providing regular supervision to professionals working in the human service field. Ava is a communication and conflict resolution specialist. She facilitates workshops, team development, difficult conversations and mediates for a range of businesses, government organisations, and within the social-profit sector. Ava utilises knowledge and techniques from neuroscience and positive psychology which enable her to assist individuals and groups to understand themselves and others better, and develop strategies to apply to situations that require change. More information at

Upcoming Courses


Our next course commences 5 July 2019, for women with 8+ years PQE (post qualification experience). Other dates are yet to be confirmed. If you are interested in future courses, please register your interest below.

Generally courses take place over six Friday lunchtime sessions, 1.00pm - 2.15pm. 


Boardroom, Stout Street Chambers, Level 6, Huddart Parker Building, 1 Post Office Square.

(We are also seeking registrations of interest from those in other regions who  have a small group of women interested in participating via video-link)


$950.00 + GST (includes light healthy lunches and 30 mins individual coaching)

Coaching session

An individual 30 minute coaching conversation with Ava is included to assist you with reflecting on your learning needs and actions for the future. This will take place at a mutually convenient time once the group sessions have finished.


There are six potential CPD hours. Certificates of attendance will be available on conclusion.

Feedback from Participants

"I can truly say that the course was a personal and professional highlight for me. I have a lot more clarity on where I want my career to go, and feel really empowered to take myself in that direction (with some new skills to help me navigate the obstacles along the way!) The group was also a wonderful forum to discuss confidential or difficult issues in a safe and supportive environment, and it was validating to know that others felt the same."

"Meeting every Friday for six weeks meant that you had the opportunity to think and work on the matters discussed. There were clear shifts in attitude amongst group members throughout the course and these changes were purely as a result of having the support and encouragement from the group to address these in their workplace."

"This course really changed the way I viewed my own career development and daily challenges, gave me more confidence in how I viewed my own ability and has inspired me to push myself harder, take more risks and to identify, understand and seek to overcome 'perceived' barriers. It has encouraged me to be more assertive, change the things I don’t like and to view challenges in a more positive light."

"Excellent content driven by well selected readings. It was great to prepare for the discussions, and to think about the issues between sessions. How refreshing to be part of a course that encourages the success of women, gives access to resources about how successful women operate and inspires us all to be successful."

"Understanding the drivers and factors which contribute to our confidence, resilience and wellbeing as women at work is really the first step to sustaining a happy and successful career in the law. Your course should be compulsory for all women (young and old)."

"Inspirational, excellent facilitators focused on positive, reinforcing messages, rather than outdated rhetoric. Refreshing, down to earth presentation styles and active listeners who created an environment of sharing and encouraging."


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We plan to offer one more course in 2019, and two courses in 2020.
e.g. dates you can or can not make, dietary requirements
e.g. other course you would be interested in or modes of delivery
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