New Zealand Law Society - Our Profession, Our People

Our Profession, Our People

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Auckland barrister Debra Bell has been appointed a coroner. Ms Bell fills the vacancy created when Judge Deborah Marshall was appointed Chief Coroner earlier this year. She joins four other coroners serving Auckland, Henderson, Manukau, Papakura, Pukekohe and Takapuna. Ms Bell has practised as a barrister sole since 2013. She was previously a partner at Meredith Connell for eight years and before that worked as a legal executive for that firm for 12 years. Earlier in her career she was a Deputy Registrar at Henderson District Court. Ms Bell was sworn in as a coroner on 6 August.

Helen Cull QC has been appointed Chief Commissioner and Peter McKenzie QC has been reappointed Deputy Commissioner of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

In-house lawyer Mauro Barsi has been reappointed to the New Zealand Racing Board. Mr Barsi works for the Employers’ & Manufacturers’ Association (Northern) Inc.

Former Ombudsman and acting Secretary for Justice Mel Smith has been appointed to head an inquiry into the handling of the Tony Robertson case. While subject to release conditions, Robertson raped and murdered Blessie Gotingco. This followed a number of previous breaches of the release conditions. Justice Minister Amy Adams and Corrections Minister Pesata Sam Lotu-liga released the draft terms of reference for the government inquiry on 10 August.

Dame Patsy Reddy, former Minter Ellison Rudd Watts partner and Victoria University law lecturer, has been reappointed chair of the New Zealand Film Commission.

Law firm news

New Zealand law firm Conveyancing Shop Lawyers Ltd is one of four finalists in the 2015 Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA)/InfoTrack Thought Leadership awards. The other three finalists were Australian firms. The winner will be announced at the 2015 ALPMA Summit Gala Dinner at the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre on 10 September. Conveyancing Shop Lawyers introduced George the Robot as an enhanced way of allowing clients or the firm’s lawyers or a management team member to attend a virtual meeting. Before introducing George the Robot, virtual meetings were held using Skype. George is controlled by the person attending the meeting remotely. George is a tele-presence Robot from Double Robotics that includes a tablet screen as a ‘head’ and Segway like ‘feet’ to get around. He can move, back up and turn. This, for example, allows the person to move George around the room, to turn and look at whoever is speaking and so on. Conveyancing Shop says that the introduction of George has really improved the atmosphere of the meetings.

Baywide Community Law celebrates

Baywide Community Law Service (BWCL) recently celebrated a decade of service in the Bay of Plenty. Associate Justice Minister Simon Bridges was the guest speaker at the celebration. BWCL has been offering free legal advice in the Bay of Plenty since July 2005, and now has fully staffed offices in Tauranga and Whakatane, with outreach clinics reaching 5,000 clients annually. Three of the founding trustees – Dick Williams, Beth Bowden and Michael Sharp – still serve on the BWCL Board.

Lawyer moving into new venture

James & Wells partner Kate Wilson is moving on from the specialist IP firm to pursue another passion in 2016.

She has always been excited by new ventures, but usually they are her clients’. This time it’s her own; a joint venture with her husband Allan that will enable her to indulge her passion for food, wine and the arts.

This has had to take a back seat over the years, although Kate has still managed to publish a cook book, appear on Masterchef NZ and exhibit and sell her paintings in that time.

To ensure a smooth transition, Kate will remain with James & Wells until the end of March 2016. She will also consult to the firm after that.

A recent empty nester, Kate believes the time is right for both herself and the firm to retire.

“There is no doubt that I will miss working with the friends I have made over the years – both staff and clients,” she says.

Kate was just 22 when she joined James & Wells, with physics and chemistry degrees behind her. A registered patent attorney in Australia and New Zealand, she has collected many international accolades over her 28 years with the firm. She says she is proud to have been recognised as a top IP strategist by being listed in the IAM Strategy 300 for five consecutive years.

Waikato student wins top scholarship

Waikato University law student Sam Lusk has won a $62,000 Danish government scholarship to complete an LLM at Copenhagen University. Sam was also awarded a Jonas Thomsen Sekyere Scholarship to live at Regensen College.

The honours student has lived in Denmark before on a student exchange and says he can’t wait to go back.

“Denmark is a wonderful place to live. It’s one of the happiest countries in the world and you certainly notice this in day-to-day life,” he says.

The scholarship is awarded to international students who display academic excellence and covers all tuition fees for 22 months and a monthly allowance.

Originally from Auckland, Sam says New Zealand life and culture is great and that he’ll likely return home after his studies. “I want to contribute to New Zealand in my future career and my family is here so I’m sure I’ll feel a pull to come home.”

Lawyer who died from Gallipoli wounds remembered

Knapps Lawyers held a commemorative service on 10 August for Major James Houlker, who died 100 years earlier after being wounded at Gallipoli.

Major Houlker died on 10 August 1915, after being wounded and lying on the beach for two days awaiting treatment.

Before he studied law, Major Houlker was Head Boy at Nelson College. He eventually joined the firm of Maginnity & Son and became a partner, after which the firm was renamed Maginnity Son & Houlker. That firm was the forerunner of Hunter Ralfe, which is now Knapps.

The service was attended by three of Major Houlker’s great nephews – John Houlker, Peter Houlker and Auckland barrister Jim Thomson. They brought with them several items of memorabilia, including Major Houlker’s ceremonial sword, a plaque and a memorial scroll that was presented by King George

Ross McKechnie, formerly senior partner at Hunter Ralfe and now partner at Knapps, gave a short talk on the firm’s history and Major Houlker’s part in that.

Peter Houlker also spoke about his great uncle. Solomon Stephens, representing Nelson College, gave the speech that won him the regional RSA Speech Contest and that he delivered at the Nelson Anzac Day service this year.

A copy of the picture that is on the Cenotaph website was “unveiled”. A moment’s silence was followed by morning tea.

About a dozen Nelson lawyers attended the commemorative service.

Otago student wins international contest

Megan Paterson, a fifth year honours law student at Otago University won the Allen’s Witness Examination Competition at the Australian Law Students Association Conference (ALSA), held in Sydney last month.

This conference was attended by 40 Australian Universities, as well as six New Zealand and a handful of Asian Universities. Megan beat her competitor from Auckland University in the final event, which was held in the Federal Court of Australia.

Otago law students Ben Bielski and George Miele placed second at the 2015 International Negotiation Competition, which was held in Ireland. Associate Professor Selene Mize, from Otago’s Law Faculty, coached the duo. 

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