Professor Paul Rishworth QC has made a “tremendous contribution” to law reform in New Zealand, those who have worked with him say.
Professor Rishworth has stepped down as chair of the New Zealand Law Society’s Law Reform Committee after almost a decade in the role. He will be continuing as a committee member, however.
“The Law Society, practitioners, the public and all those involved in law reform owe an enormous debt to Paul,” says Law Society President Chris Moore.
“He has invested huge hours, often at very short notice, at times in providing in-depth analysis and on other occasions a high level review covering a myriad of legislative proposals.
“To have someone of Paul’s ability, coupled with his dedication, judgement and humility assisting the Law Society with its law reform initiatives is a real privilege. To have that on a voluntary basis is all the more exceptional,” Mr Moore says.
Professor Rishworth “undoubtedly” made a huge contribution to law reform in New Zealand, says Austin Forbes QC, convenor of the Law Society’s Rule of Law Committee.
“My view of Paul is that he has a broad legal knowledge which he is able to express in a clear and concise way.
“In submissions, in particular on behalf of the Society, he was always sensitive to the position that the Society had on law reform matters, particularly when any issue was being taken with an aspect of the policy behind the bill.
“He managed to indicate the Society’s different position on that in a way that was least likely to aggravate the select committee or the relevant minister who was promoting the bill,” Mr Forbes says.
In fact, generally, Professor Rishworth had a way of putting submissions to maximise the chance of ministers and select committees adopting the Law Society’s recommendations.
“He didn’t see going in with aggressive submissions as being the best way to achieve the desired goal.
“He reminded me, in many ways, of the attributes of John Burrows, who I had a lot of experience of at Canterbury University and in later years at the Law Commission. I think it’s no coincidence that they have, as academics, both been appointed QCs.
“He always had a valued contribution, which indicated he had seriously considered the matter, and I often wondered how on earth he ever had time to do that as well as his job at Auckland University,” Mr Forbes says, adding that it is “excellent” that Professor Rishworth will continue serving on the Law Reform Committee.
Dr Andrew Butler describes Professor Rishworth’s contribution to Law Reform as “tremendous”. The convenor of the Law Society’s Human Rights and Privacy Committee, Dr Butler outlined seven aspects of Professor Rishworth’s contribution.
“One of the most remarkable things was his breadth of knowledge and his comfort dealing across the whole range of law reform initiatives the Law Society was involved with.
“Second was the level of commitment that he showed. The number of issues and projects that the Law Society was involved with was just immense. His commitment was huge and he never shirked from it at all. In fact, he was enthusiastic in his involvement,” Dr Butler says.
Third was his respect for the expertise of the Law Society’s specialist committees, which is always an important contributor to the formation of Law Society submissions.
Fourthly, Professor Rishworth was a “great person” to take on the role of standing back and looking at the big picture.
In doing so, he would make sure that any proposed submission or perspective from a committee was one that could be regarded as truly representative of the Law Society – as being one that a group of 11,000 or so lawyers could make.
Fifthly, he had a very good understanding of the parliamentary and law reform processes. This was particularly invaluable to members who weren’t so experienced.
Sixthly, Professor Rishworth had “huge respect” within the Ministry of Justice, other ministries and the Parliamentary Counsel Office. “So the fact that Paul had been involved in a drafting process, in a submission process, was a plus.”
“And seventhly, he is just so easy to work with. He has been a pleasure to work with,” Dr Butler says.
Professor Rishworth has been a member of the Law Reform Committee since 1997. He served as its convenor from 2005 to December 2014. He has been succeeded as convenor by Wellington lawyer Liesle Theron, who is a partner of Meredith Connell.