New Zealand Law Society - Two Cleary Prizewinners for 2015

Two Cleary Prizewinners for 2015

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Two Auckland lawyers – Ashiq Hamid and Alexandra Sinclair – were the 2015 winners of the New Zealand Law Foundation Cleary Memorial Prize. The winners were announced in December.

Ashiq Hamid

Mr Hamid, who recently secured a role with Meredith Connell, graduated with an LLM from Columbia University in New York in 2015, attending as a New Zealand Fulbright Scholar. He was the Founder and President of the Columbia Law Students Negotiation Association, a club which aims to promote the art of negotiation and has continued to gain prominence in New York.

Ashiq Hamid
Ashiq Hamid

He aims to use the mana associated with the Cleary Memorial Prize to raise awareness of issues that affect minorities in the law.

As a first generation New Zealander of Sri Lankan descent, Mr Hamid has received a particular insight into what can happen to ethnic minorities.

"As a young ethnic Muslim, I witnessed the consequences of an unconstrained government passing laws to marginalise ethnic minorities, breach international laws and commit human rights abuses in an attempt to conclude a civil war."

Mr Hamid did not begin his tertiary studies in the law, but rather in cell biology and biotechnology, studying towards a BSc at the University of Melbourne.

"A big political issue when I was at Melbourne was the plight of 'boat people' from countries like Sri Lanka, who sought asylum in Australia, only to be indefinitely detained by the Howard Government. I became involved with human rights groups like Amnesty International, advocating against these gross human rights violations."

Looking back, he sees his time in Melbourne as a "defining moment", because it led him to seek more knowledge of the law. He decided to move back to New Zealand and pursue a law degree.

He graduated with an LLB from Waikato University in 2011, winning several accolades including the John Houston Memorial Scholarship, awarded to a single student recognising academic success, cultural contribution and leadership at the University.

Alexandra Sinclair

A junior barrister at Shortland Chambers in Auckland, Ms Sinclair says: "I consider it my duty to give back to others as much as I possibly can."

Two areas of interest and activity for her have been law reform and international relations and the law.

Alexandra Sinclair
Alexandra Sinclair

From 2010 to 2013, she was the project leader for the law reform team of the Wellington Community Justice Project.

"I was in charge of searching out law reform projects for 20 students and then co-ordinating their roles in these projects, as well as participating myself."

In addition to working first as a judges' clerk at the Auckland High Court and then as a junior barrister, she has found time to volunteer for organisations around Auckland including as a homework helper for the Braveheart Trust and at the Auckland Central Koha Shed.

In 2010 Ms Sinclair created the inaugural Central North Island Model United Nations (Model UN). Catering for secondary school students from the Central North Island, this Model UN was held at Massey University in Palmerston North.

"Many of these students had not participated in a Model UN before, due to the geographical locations of their schools," she says.

In 2010, she also took six high school students to Perth for the Australian United Nations Youth Conference.

Ms Sinclair graduated from Victoria University in 2012 with an LLB (first class honours) and BA in International Relations and Pacific Studies.

She placed first in insurance law, evidence law, Māori land law and media law.

A series of victories have come Ms Sinclair's way in mooting, both as a student and then as a young lawyer.

In 2012, she was a member of the winning team at the Victoria University Bell Gully Moot. She also won the Sir Richard Wild Memorial Cup as first equal best oralist in the final. Ms Sinclair and her team mate went on to win both the 2012 New Zealand Law Students Association and the 2012 Australian Law Students Association moot grand finals. In 2013 she represented New Zealand in the Philip C Jessup Mooting Competition in Washington DC where she was named the 21st best speaker in the competition.

In 2014, she was a member of the victorious team in the New Zealand Law Foundation Auckland Young Lawyers mooting competition. Once again, Ms Sinclair was named the first equal best oralist in this contest.

"After post-graduate study, I wish to come back to New Zealand and get trial experience as a criminal prosecutor, potentially in the regions," Ms Sinclair says. "I then want to return to civil litigation."

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