New Zealand Law Society - Palestinian 'quake lawyer fancies catching bad guys

Palestinian 'quake lawyer fancies catching bad guys

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American-born Palestinian Noor Hamid says for her family to live in peaceful New Zealand "is a bonus when you come from Palestine."

Her doctor parents left Syria for the United States for work and the benefit of becoming US citizens and getting US passports.

"Palestinians don't have passports and without a passport we would have been stateless, which makes life very difficult," says Noor, a solicitor at Grant Shand in Christchurch.

Noor Ayman (Noor) Hamid
Indianapolis, United States. 
Entry to law
Graduated from Auckland University with BA, LLB(Hons) in 2013, LLM in 2014. Admitted in 2013. 
Solicitor at Grant Shand, Christchurch. 
Speciality area
Acts for earthquake-related plaintiffs suing insurance companies and EQC.

Her family moved to New Zealand in 1995, when she was five.

Her parents – who came to New Zealand under the points system as skilled migrants - work at Auckland hospital where her father is an oncologist and her mother works in the laboratory.

"New Zealand was really welcoming at the time," says Noor.

Describing herself as "very single with no pets," Noor and her brother are well travelled, especially in the Middle East.

"We have been to Egypt and Jordan together. People like to know where you are from and like to chat about your Palestinian-ness…

"In Egypt you get discounts if you are an Arabic person and don't pay the full price western people pay, but you don't get the same discount that would apply to an Egyptian.

"My brother and I became good at faking an Egyptian accent to get better discounts … for example, 20 cents to see the pyramids … and they don't charge their own people to see national treasures, just tourists…

"They knew we were faking the accents and were imposters but when they found out we were Palestinian they felt sorry for us and let us go through…

"To visit the Middle East you need to go for a long time and a lot of it is stressful, but it's a good time.

"It's a hazardous place to visit now … there is what is called political tourism, where visitors take photos of themselves at protests…

"In Egypt the traffic is worse than post their revolution and the people are angrier than they were before … Egyptians are normally a jovial people but post revolution it is different."

When Palestinians left Palestine in 1948 they moved to Syria because Syria was historically compassionate towards refugees.

An area of land at Yarmouk near Damascus – known as the Camp - which was established in 1957 as an unofficial refugee camp, is now the scene of fighting between ISIS and Palestinian militia and very run down.

Noor's grandfather was fortunate to be able to own a rented-out apartment block. "Once you have money you migrate out…"

"When my brother and I visited it was the first time we had been confronted with the Palestinian diaspora in a very concentrated way. It was like a Palestinian Chinatown…

"It was hard to find people who were not related to us by blood … It felt a bit like home and there was a strange sense of belonging … We had all these cousins we had never met taking us to meet all our aunts and uncles…

"I had an uneventful infancy in America. When I went back to Miami a year ago, I noticed a lot more Spanish than English spoken by the high Cuban and Latin population.

"I am not a fan of America, I like the London style a lot better and like having holidays there … America is tasteless consumerism gone wild…

"With more experience I would like to work overseas, probably in the Gulf countries, where I am able to speak the language and would have the western experience."

As part of her travels, Noor collects national instruments of the countries she visits and has a go at playing them.

"I have a commitment issue … I can play a lot of instruments OK but not in-depth, including the piano and oud – an Arabic-style 12 string guitar.

"I like African drums and tried the acoustic guitar but it didn't work for me…

"When I get time I like to sketch, go to the theatre and opera – I like Puccini a lot… Tosca and Madame Butterfly.

"I am not a fan of anything not Italian - Wagner will kill me … I like something with a good love story and a bit of drama…

"In opera you know two of the three main characters will die … I like that certainty in a plot line … you know how it will end…

"I also read the last page of a book before the first to see how it ends.

"Sport is difficult for me so my sport consists of going to the gym … I tried to surf but have abysmal hand eye co-ordination and my sense of balance is very much off.

"I played hockey but gave that up when I left high school.

"To get law out of my head I watch comedy or sitcoms and am watching New Girl at the moment – a pointless American comedy about a girl who moves in with three guys and how she interacts with them…

"I don't mind a good historic novel. I'm reading Japanese best-seller Haruki Murakami's IQ84 – which is a bit heavy and weird - about a woman who is essentially an assassin and a guy who ghost writes…

"It's a love story and they are entwined in this bit of a mystery as well … A bit like Clockwork Orange, it's weird…"

With no lawyers in a science-based family of doctors and engineers, Noor got into law by a process of elimination.

"I eliminated all the things I did not want to do then thought of law as a kind of last resort … Either law or teaching … law won…

"I tried it out the first year and liked it so decided to stick with it…

"If I wasn't a lawyer I might like to be a police prosecutor or a detective. That looks like a positive contribution to society."

"As a lawyer sometimes that is obscured and your contribution to society can seem a bit negative … I would like to catch some bad guys; that would be all right…"

Whether being a detective is a tongue-in-cheek ambition – "I'm a very small person" – Noor says she could consider an academic life at some point in the future if front-line lawyering "wears itself out on me…"

"At the moment I'm in litigation in a good firm so it's quite fun - fun in a very stressful way … Five years from the earthquakes we still have plaintiffs with unresolved claims.

"It's disheartening for the people who have been waiting for resolution for such a long time, nothing seems to move fast for them … I try to do everything I can to ensure their needs are being at least listened to…"

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for most of his career in journalism. Contact Jock at

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