Frazer Barton is serving his first term on the Law Society’s Board as Vice-President, South Island. Mr Barton studied Law at the University of Otago, obtaining an LLB Honours degree specialising in Public law.
He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1985 and became a Partner in Anderson Lloyd’s predecessor firm in 1988 (at age 27). He has remained a partner since then and recently completed a six-year stint as Chair of Partners. Mr Barton’s career started in the Criminal, Family and Employment areas.
Following this he specialised in civil Litigation and pursued the challenge of court work and advocacy. He has appeared at all levels of the law, from District Court to Privy Council and Supreme Court. His litigation experience includes civil, quasi-criminal, insurance, insolvency, commercial disputes, Family Protection and estates.
He supported clients through the sharemarket crash of 1987 and more recently after the Global Financial Crisis. Today his work is largely in the area of professional indemnity insurance. He was recently involved with litigation concerning the Treaty of Waitangi, in particular, questions concerning tikanga and mana whenua.
During his tenure as Chair of Partners Mr Barton oversaw a change in focus towards gender diversity. Anderson Lloyd now maintains one of the highest percentages of women equity partners of any NZ law firm at 42%.
His governance background includes 27 years on the Board of Presbyterian Support Otago, as well as longstanding council positions for the University of Otago, Wakari Primary School and Columba College.
Why are you running for New Zealand Law Society President?
Because I want to create change.
The legal industry is about to enter a period of disruption and we need to help the profession to prepare. It’s essential that we carry on Tiana Epati’s fantastic work, particularly around diversity and inclusion, access to justice and well-being. In our role as lawyers, we have the potential to make real differences to people’s lives and the outcomes of society. I’m confident that my experience, combined with my passion and unique approach, will set a progressive and courageous path for the Law Society, as well as our profession.
Over the course of my career I have benefited enormously from the work of the Law Society, and it would be a great privilege to be able to give back.
Above all else, fairness is a key principle that underpins my approach to practising law. I want to use my experience to achieve real, systemic change in our profession, including improved working conditions for our young lawyers and ensuring our profession reflects society, now and in the future.
What would you bring to the role of President?
In one word: experience.
I have worked in all areas of litigation, including those requiring Legal Aid. I have accumulated experience from all corners of the country and know first-hand the many challenges practitioners can face on a day-to-day basis.
My leadership approach is often described by peers as solutions-focused, and this is the mindset I would bring to the Law Society. This approach has been shaped by years of governance experience – including 27 years as a Board member of Presbyterian Support Otago, six years as Chair of Partners at Anderson Lloyd, and over 23 collective years on various education boards.
Importantly, my perspective is that good work requires a whole team approach. I consult, ask questions, listen to the answers, synthesise solutions, reflect and work with my team towards a consensus.
The Law Society should reflect the views of lawyers from all ages, locations, backgrounds and experiences. Should I become president, a priority of mine will be to ensure contributions from all members of our society are sought, considered and heard.
If elected President, what are the three things you would like to achieve?
Greater diversity and inclusion
It is critical our profession reflects Aotearoa’s changing society. While I’m encouraged by the increased focus on D&I across the board, it is essential that it becomes a key focus area for all law firms in Aotearoa. To achieve this, I would seek to establish closer working relationships with our universities, to ensure systems are in place to support students from all backgrounds who want to pursue a legal profession.
Sustainability becomes a higher priority
This applies directly to the Law Society as an organisation. It needs to be thought through and structured in a way that ensures it will be here for the long-term. It’s essential that we do our part to protect future generations – the recent IPCC report is just one example that shows that the world is in a position where sustainability must be prioritised.
Improved access to justice
Our system only works when there is equality of adversarial power. We need to ensure everyone has access to representation and that the Courts are operating efficiently and productively, without undue delay and inconvenience. New approaches will be needed to address the failings in the system – this will involve changes in government policy, as well as government recognition of pro-bono work.