Hamilton lawyer a leading light for the legal profession

A rising star in the legal profession, Renika Siciliano (Waikato, Maniapoto) is passionate about the interface of tikanga and the law.

14 Dec 2023

As Executive Director at McCaw Lewis Lawyers in Hamilton, Renika provides legal and strategic advice to clients across the motu. She co-leads the firm’s Kahurangi Team, and specialises in kaupapa Māori, including Te Tiriti o Waitangi. She also leads the firm’s Workplace Law Team.

Building strong relationships and giving back to others is at the heart of all she does, whether as a leader at work, in the legal profession, or in her community.

“The mahi we do can be challenging and we cannot do that for any sustained period of time without massive support networks and the help of others. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by many, many excellent lawyers over my 15 years in practice who have given so much to me. And so it’s important I honour their legacy by giving back to other lawyers so they can grow and provide amazing service for our people and our clients."

Our clients are often what make this job so rewarding. I still work with many of the same clients today that I started with more than 15 years ago. We could see each other every week or once a year and the ahua is still the same – they are special relationships that I absolutely treasure.”

Excelling in her industry

In 2022/2023, Renika served as Tumuaki Wahine (Female Co-President) of Te Hunga Roia Māori o Aotearoa (NZ Māori Law Society), standing down in September 2023.

In 2023, Renika was named one of NZ Lawyer’s Elite Women of 2023, identified as one of 49 female lawyers across the country making a lasting and positive impact on their field, and within their communities.

Throughout her career, Renika has had a passion for Te Tiriti o Waitangi matters. Her core work is Treaty settlement negotiations, iwi governance, disputes related to Te Tiriti and tikanga, and employment relations.

She enjoys her work and being able to make a positive difference for iwi, hapū and whānau around Aotearoa.

Recognition and influence

In 2023 and 2022, Renika was named as one of New Zealand’s leading Māori law, Māori land and Treaty of Waitangi lawyers by Doyles, as identified by clients and peers.

She was also named one of NZ Lawyer’s Most Influential Lawyers for two years in a row (2023, 2022), and as a Rising Star in 2021.

It’s been a steady ascent for the talented University of Waikato alumna, who graduated with a conjoint Bachelor of Laws with Honours and Bachelor of Arts degrees in 2009. Throughout her tertiary study, her early passions were evident. Alongside law papers, she took ones on New Zealand history, te reo Māori, and ethics and philosophy.

Inspired by wahine toa

Originally from Taranaki, Renika grew up as a curious and inquisitive child. She attended Inglewood High School and was inspired to study law thanks to another wahine toa in her whānau.

“One of my aunties, Kylie Pascoe, is a lawyer in Taranaki, so I was alive to that possibility there for me and I saw that as a pathway. I loved debating and speech writing at high school, so in that respect, the law felt like a natural fit for me.”

Coming to the University of Waikato was an easy choice, says Renika, as it was “close to home”, friendly and supportive, and surrounded by rural farmland, much like Taranaki.

“Waikato really was the right place for me in terms of the approach to the papers and the way they explained law in context. I also appreciated the smaller class sizes and tutoring groups, especially coming from a small town like Inglewood.”

Establishing a strong foundation

In her final year of her studies in 2008, Renika was offered a law clerkship at McCaw Lewis. She was able to work 15 hours a week, fitting it around study commitments. The experience provided a strong foundation and set her up for her successful legal career.

“I learnt a lot about time management and hard work” recalls Renika. “At the end of my University studies, I was doing two directed studies for university, studying for the Professional Legal Studies Course (Profs) and working full-time.”

In 2009, even before attending her graduation, Renika was admitted to the bar. Her strong work ethic and love for the law saw her career progress, and Renika was promoted to Director at McCaw Lewis in 2018 and then Executive Director in 2020.

Work and whanau

In her free time, Renika likes to get back home to Taranaki whenever possible to spend time with her extended whānau. Spending time cheering on her son Kupa in his sports and other pursuits, alongside husband Daniel, is also something that fills her cup.

Renika is currently a member of the Puketaha School Board of Trustees, coaches her son’s basketball team, and enjoys giving back to her local community.

In all she does, the focus is on doing her best for those around her - Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tūoho koe me he maunga teitei.



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