A well-annotated set of borrowed textbooks helped Campbell Smith on his journey to admission to the bar in the High Court in Whanganui.

Smith, who grew up in Whanganui, was sponsored by Geordie Johnson, another former Whanganui resident turned solicitor, at Monday's ceremony where Justice Helen Cull officiated.

Johnson was the owner of the textbooks which Smith used in his first year of legal studies.

"It's nice to be admitted by the guy whose textbooks I borrowed for the first year," Smith said.

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"They were very well annotated. I've got lots to thank him for."

The pair knew each other from their time at Whanganui Collegiate where Johnson was a year ahead and both are now based in Wellington.

When Smith moved there to study at Victoria University, he joined the Army Reserve.

"I carried on training throughout my university career and was lucky to have the opportunity to become an intern at Defence Legal Services," Smith said.

"That painted a picture for me of what I really wanted to do."

Having been admitted to the bar, Smith's next step is to get his practising certificate. He plans to stay with the Defence Force for the immediate to mid term and says he enjoys the varied work there.

In the longer term, a legal background could open a lot of doors such as a career in diplomacy, Smith said.

Smith said it was good to be back in Whanganui for his admission to the bar.

"It's been a long time coming so it's nice to be done with studying," he said.

"You don't ever stop with education though.

"It's great to be here in front of friends and family."

Justice Helen Cull presided over the ceremony for Campbell Smith's admission to the bar. Photo / Bevan Conley
Justice Helen Cull presided over the ceremony for Campbell Smith's admission to the bar. Photo / Bevan Conley

While those in the public gallery were excited to witness the ceremony, the judge's robes nearly stole the limelight.

Justice Cull wore the ceremonial robes that have replaced the traditional full-bottomed wigs and red robes which were introduced as ceremonial wear for judges of the High Court in the 1940s.

Justice Cull said it was the first time the new robes, designed by Ros Bignell, had been worn in Whanganui.

The new gowns reflected the cultures of New Zealand, she said.

"The fabric features a stylised kauri cone and leaves in the black on black weave to represent the country of New Zealand and the shelter of the law."

Family and friends in the court later had the opportunity to talk to Justice Cull and admire the robes close up.