New Zealand Law Society - Litigator longs to give female-friendly looks a go

Litigator longs to give female-friendly looks a go

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By Jock Anderson

Angela Mary Elizabeth (Angela) Parlane
Te Awamutu. 
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Waikato University 1994. Admitted 1994. 
Barrister and solicitor on own account at Chancery Chambers, Auckland. 
Speciality area
General civil litigation including insurance law, earthquake claims, professional negligence, leaky building, maritime, and employment law.
Angela Parlane
Angela Parlane

If she tires of law – “it’s more of a means to an end” - Angela Parlane is ready to step into a new career designing female-friendly people movers and shoes with retractable high heels.

“People movers are designed to be as ugly as possible, because they are designed by men to ‘protect the family unit',’” she says.

“So when the wife is driving along with the kids no other man is going to have a look and say ‘Oooh, that’s nice’ …

“But a people mover needs to look good, not like a people mover but still with enough seats for the kids …

“Men also design cars impractically for women. For example, any nice car doesn’t have anywhere to put a purse … It’s either dumped on the passenger seat of the floor.”

Angela drives a manual six-speed Peugeot RCZ coupe (which she found in the garage with a big bow tied round it on her 41st birthday), which she says is a fine looking car but needs a bigger back seat because her two kids are growing and get squashed in the rear.

“The clutch is so firm I can only drive it with one shoe on, but that’s fine …

“I’d like to design a shoe that goes up and down … a pneumatic thing in the heel so you could have a flat shoe or a high heel – without changing shoes …

“When I was 21 I thought about lights that came on in handbags but someone pinched that idea …"

Growing up on a Te Awamutu orchard one of four kids, the only way to get out of town was to get a higher education.

“Dad was an artist who became a potter … there’s no money in pottery but we still loaded up the yellow two barrel hemi Valiant with pots – the kids squished up in the back – and drove to Auckland to sell them to Peter Sinclair’s gallery.”

“Then sit at Cook Street market trying to sell some more … I hated it.”

With a Waikato law degree at 21, Angela started work straight away law clerking in Te Awamutu, before moving as soon as she could to Auckland and a job with insurance lawyers.

“I learned the ropes of bankruptcy and recovery before Masters Anne Gambrill and Tomas Kennedy-Grant and seemed to get a better run from them than most young lawyers did.”

With a taste for insurance law she joined McElroys and began appearing in District Courts all over New Zealand doing recoveries for insurance companies.

After a brief stint at Simpson Grierson – “where I was lucky to be carrying the bags and pouring the water” – Angela went overseas in 1999.

“I got a job in Zurich as a staff attorney for a Claims Resolution Tribunal for dormant bank accounts in Switzerland.

“It was set up through an American Jewish organisation in conjunction with Swiss banks to arbitrate claims related to bank accounts from the war era, basically 1937 to 1945.”

Some accounts had a “holocaust connection” and a lot were of tax evaders from all over Europe.

“Swiss banks published around the world the names and where they came from of all the accounts that had not been touched in wartime, but not the amounts in the accounts.

“Relatives – including some from New Zealand - claimed on the accounts and it was our job to establish if the claim was genuine.

“The best thing was living in Zurich aged 27, being flown business class, all accommodation paid for, getting a good Swiss salary and able to go snowboarding every weekend.”

Husband-to-be Nick Williams, who had won a green card lottery to work in America, decided to join Angela in Switzerland.

The son of private arbitrator and former High Court judge David Williams QC, Nick is now a partner in Meredith Connell regulatory and commercial litigation group specialising in criminal and civil litigation.

Between cheap commutes to European ski fields, Angela got a job in Lloyds legal service department in London but resisted a dare to swing on the Lutine Bell on her last day.

[The Lutine bell, weighing in at 106 pounds, was traditionally rung to herald important announcements – one stroke for bad news and two for good. These days the ringing of the Lutine bell is limited to ceremonial occasions, although on rare occasions exceptions are made.]

Returning to Switzerland, this time Geneva, she worked as a legal advisor for the privately owned Italian Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the second largest cargo shipper in the world, in charge of cargo claims in the American and Caribbean area.

Returning to New Zealand in 2004 about to have their first child – they have a daughter now aged ten and an eight-year old son – Angela says she was drawn back into work without wanting to.

“I like what I do but employment doesn’t suit me … I would like to have some time off in the next five years …”

With her daughter starting school, state-funded child-care finishing at 3pm and a desire not to work on school holidays, she opted to go out on her own.

“I had one client who came with me and gave me confidence to try it on my own.”

In the last five years she has worked on leaky buildings and Canterbury earthquake cases – preferring to act for defendants “because they are much easier to deal with.”

With a new 65-inch television at home she says she watches very little TV. “I like Breaking Bad and Top Gear – which will die a natural death without Jeremy Clarkson, despite him being a bully and ‘dissing’ my cute Peugeot.”

A case she won’t forget is defending one of the many thousands of bus lane tickets dished out to Aucklanders that landed her up before Justices of the Peace in 2012.

“I was in a Subaru Impreza trying to get out of a bus lane into another lane in Khyber Pass but couldn’t get across traffic. The video didn’t identify me and the MotoCheck document which says names the registered owner is not admissible in court.”

“I reckoned the charge should have been biffed … The JPs went out the back, came back and dismissed the charge … But I had a defence lawyer who came in at the last minute – Nick …

“I take my hat off to women who, once they have had children, then become a partner in a law firm.

“It’s tough generally to work the hours that a firm requires and juggle the commitments of a family …

“There are always other things I think about doing but it is easier to carry on doing law almost by default …

“Why do I use my own name? I don’t use Williams because it is much further down the alphabet when someone is looking for a lawyer …”

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for several decades. He also writes the weekly Caseload column for the New Zealand Herald. Contact Jock at

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