The Innovators: Mickayla Strode-Penny, Aspiring Lawyer

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself?

I am Mickayla Strode-Penny, a 22-year-old, third year law student at the University of Canterbury and I teach children how to swim as my part time job. I grew up in a small town in North Waikato. 3 years ago, I moved to Christchurch when my fiancé encouraged me to put in an application to the University of Canterbury to study law. 

What made you want to pursue a legal career?

At 8 years old I watched Bones and decided I wanted to do forensic science. However, when I started my degree, I had to do a couple of law-based papers. These papers opened my eyes to a challenging career in law, so I decided to change my degree. I also believe that all people deserve access to justice, and I want to be part of the current and future change within the legal system.

As an aspiring lawyer, what new skills do you think will be valuable going forward?

After covid I think flexibility is going to be valuable as well as being able to adapt to circumstances in short time frames. Technological skills are also going to become very valuable especially because everyone has changed their mindsets towards working remotely. I think being able to embrace the unknown will be incredibly valuable as well. I also believe now that Te Reo Maori is becoming more recognised within the legal system understanding of Te Reo and tikanga will be required.

How could legal educators better prepare students for the evolving skills required to practise law?

I think providing a more hands on learning experience would benefit students. Profs is great as it gives the practical experience, but it is at the end of a law degree. I believe that if educators give more practical experience throughout the degree, every learning style would be catered to. Things such as encouraging trips to the courthouse to watch a trial, tours of law firms on a working day to immerse students and providing real-career skills that actual law practises implement. Educators could also promote conferences towards the student body.

If you could give one piece of advice regarding internships and technology, what would it be?

Law firms should look beyond grades. I understand that everyone wants the best of the best, however life outside of study can affect your grades unless you are a robot. In place of A grades, I have resilience, perseverance and a can-do attitude. My father was re diagnosed with terminal cancer and my partner spent 6 weeks in hospital after a motorcycle v car accident. Yet I still passed my exams. Many of my fellow students have also had life happen, yet they battle on but miss out on the best opportunities. However, if I had the opportunity to get an internship (despite grades) I would exceed expectations as I am more of a practical person than a test/exam person. I think a way that technology can be used with internships is offering them remotely, my father is the subject matter expert for a set of regulations currently being drafted and he can do this remotely. So why should an intern not be able to research, communicate and contribute to the firm remotely. For example, Office 365 has tools where multiple people can be working on the same document remotely from anywhere in the world with internet access. This means that students who are participating in the internship can complete it whilst continuing with their university work during times such as summer school. This also means they do not have to uproot their lives for a short period of time and at the same time adding valuable resources for law firms and real-life experience for students.

As someone just starting on their legal career, how do you see the importance of innovating and leveraging technology?

I think it will be very important as technology is always changing. With new technology being invented weekly being up to date with the latest technology can be a powerful tool. After attending LawFest and seeing how technology is used within the legal sector I have started using it more myself, particularly the organisation apps that Jeremy Sutton recommended to me. Some ways to learn how to leverage technology is by familiarising yourself with the various meeting platforms such as Microsoft teams and zoom. Understanding how to use Google Docs and building your network on LinkedIn is also important.

What are some of your practical tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

Being open minded and understanding that being told no is a part of life and a lot of the time it is not a bad thing; it often means you are not coming at the problem from the wrong direction. Who has not had to be innovative due to Covid and the issues the world has faced as a result? It is important to have an innovative mindset because life is constantly changing, often with no warning. I have had my fair share of unforeseen challenges this year such as my fiancés bike accident which resulted in me studying and sitting tests on the hospital floor.

What changes do you see in how legal services are delivered in the future?

Legal services are currently changing with businesses hiring in house counsel over hiring larger law firms. As well as defendants showing in court via audio-visual link. Another change I think we will see is that most meetings will be held less formally or even online. I also think we will see in house counsel oversee Australasia and further afield, and potentially see case hearings done remotely, as travel is becoming a hot issue due to climate change.

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

Ten years ago, the ability to have your voicemail turned into a text was never thought of, today we have that ability thanks to Vxt. I can only imagine what kind of technology we will have in another 10 years. Holograms to attend meetings, and the hologram communicates in the language that your fluent in even if the person in real life is not, you never know. Thinking back to 23 years ago the likes of Siri and Amazon Alexa did not exist, now you are able to write entire emails and texts and have received texts read out loud by these programmes. I think it is important to leverage technology as this is where the future is heading.

The legal profession is changing, I think being able to have an open mind and embrace the change is important. As well as the need to weave this change and technology into the historical framework that is the foundation for New Zealand law today.

Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate ( He helps lawyers and organisations successfully innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services Legal Innovate includes LawFest (, LegalTech Hub ( and E-Discovery Consulting (

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