New Zealand Law Society - Our History

Our History

The New Zealand Law Society established a Family Law Committee in 1987 to advise it on matters relating to family law and the Family Court.

The committee put a proposal to the Law Society in 1996 that a Family Law Section be formed to raise the profile of family law within the profession and to recognise the advancements for family lawyers.

The Law Society saw the establishment of the Family Law Section as an important development that would provide an opportunity for a greater flow of information about family law issues among members who could be directly involved in the Section’s activities.

The Law Society President at the time, Austin Forbes QC, saw the establishment of a FLS as an important development. He said, on the proposal in October 1996: "This will be the path for the future of the profession whereby groups with a common interest could formalise their networks. The Section will provide an exciting opportunity for professional development for the benefit not only of practitioners, but, as well, others interested in or involved in providing family law services. These include the clients of family lawyers and the Family Courts as well as counsellors and others involved in the Family Court system."

Austin Forbes went on to say "I will be disappointed if there are not 250 members of the Section within a year or so". Today there are almost 1,000 members of the FLS, comprising family law practitioners, legal academics, judges, legal executives and government employees.

Past Chairs

Family Law Section – established 1997

1997 to 1998 Margaret Casey (now Margaret Casey QC)

1998 to 1999 Annis Somerville (now Judge Somerville)

2000 to 2001 Dr John Priestley (now Justice Priestley)

2001 to 2002 Anita Chan (now Anita Chan QC)

2002 to 2004 David Burns (now Judge Burns)

2005 to 2006 Simon Maude (now Judge Maude)

2007 to 2009 Paul Maskell

2010 to 2011 Antony Mahon (now Judge Mahon)

2012 to 2013 Garry Collin (now Judge Collin)

2014 to 2015 Dr Allan Cooke 

2016 to - 2017 Michelle Duggan 

2017 - 2020 Kirsty Swadling

2020 - 2023 Caroline Hickman

2023 - present Lauren Pegg

Family Law Committee – 1987 to 1996

1987 to 1989 Gray Cameron

1990 to 1992 (J) David Howman

1993 to 1994 Isabel Mitchell

1995 to 1996 Murray Cochrane