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From the Law Society

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Dunedin punches above its weight

This issue of LawTalk has a feature on the legal profession in Dunedin. As you will read, the profession here is in good heart.

Over the years Dunedin has transformed from being a key commercial centre to being a “regional centre”. Gone are the days of the gold rush, and of Dunedin being an industrial and manufacturing town and a commercial hub.

Dunedin can boast the oldest university; the first female admitted to the bar, Ethel Benjamin; legal luminaries like Alf Hanlon KC; and at one time all but one member of the Court of Appeal had strong links to the town.

Like many other regional centres the legal community has had to change and evolve to continue to serve the population and to prosper. Dunedin has seen a real focus develop on areas such as agribusiness, resource management and niche technology businesses.

There is a resilience in the profession. It is strong. Dunedin boasts 276 lawyers. Of the 41 lawyers practising at the separate bar, five hold the rank of Queens Counsel – surely the highest proportion in the country!

The town gives the practitioners the ability to work across a variety of fields, or to specialise.
While multinational mergers and acquisitions are not the daily bread of the Dunedin practitioner, the work is challenging and practitioners enjoy the benefits of the work-life balance that the city offers: no traffic jams, the outstanding natural environment of the Otago Peninsula and limitless possibilities for outdoor recreation.

The collegiality of the bar and the town-gown relationship with the Otago University Law Faculty cannot be overstated.

The profession here punches above its weight. Consider the number of Dunedin practitioners that serve on New Zealand Law Society committees, or the number of Dunedin practitioners that contribute to legal writing.

As a Dunedin City Council campaign once claimed: “Dunedin, it’s all right here!”

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