New Zealand Law Society - Recent legal books

Recent legal books

By Geoff Adlam

Family Law Policy in New Zealand, 5th edition

Mark Henaghan and Bill Atkin, General Editors

Family law policy has developed piecemeal and there is no single family law code which fits all the pieces together, the authors say in a preface. They also comment that the piecemeal approach to law reform continued as this new edition went to press. The fourth edition was published in January 2013 and there has been a lot of policy and a lot of family legislation passed since then. The very experienced author team says their goal is to isolate what they see as the assumptions, values, and aspirations of particular areas of family law, and to subject them to analysis in terms of their coherence, consistency, and fairness. Each of the seven chapters is a self-contained essay on a particular aspect of family law policy. As well as law professors Mark Henaghan and Bill Atkin, law lecturer Ruth Ballantyne, Professor Jacinta Ruru and University of Otago Children’s Issues Centre Director Nicola Taylor contribute.

LexisNexis NZ Ltd, 978-0-947514-96-9, Paperback and e-book, 428 pages, March 2020, $160 (GST included, postage excluded).

The Herstory of OWLS: The first 30 years (1986-2016)

By Janet November

One of the earliest and most influential of the organisations established to advocate for women in the legal profession, Otago Women Lawyers’ Association (OWLS) is already well on the way to its first 40 years. Janet November is well-known for her definitive biography of Ethel Benjamin, In the footsteps of Ethel Benjamin: New Zealand’s first woman lawyer. She was invited by the 2015-16 OWLS Committee to record the first 30 years. She has done so admirably in a fast-paced and personable narrative which brings together a substantial collection of anecdotes, memories and documents from 1 May 1986 when OWLS was “hatched”.

Apparently the easily memorable OWLS acronym was chosen to bring the eyes back to justice, and the owl was the symbol of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war. “More than one of [those at the first meeting] has told me that it is surprising how much change can be made with a bit of humour”, Janet November records. That active sense of humour and a willingness to see the lighter side of things as well as the very serious and important issues which OWLS has tackled since 1986 shines through.

Janet November is a constant presence. She has talked to a large number of the women involved in OWLS and read an enormous number of reports and documents, and manages to distill them into an engaging tale of a dedicated group of women lawyers united with a desire to work for the equal opportunity and advancement of women in the study and practice of law. She is present as the storyteller who relates the OWLS history but doesn’t hesitate to make her own comments, such as “I imagine many of the meetings at Kathryn’s house were enhanced by delicious aromas of culinary delights provided by Kathryn and/or her family.” The result is an always-interesting herstory which, as Dame Silvia Cartwright says in a foreword, “outlines the struggles, the fun and the achievements” of the group. “There is much to celebrate but much yet to be achieved,” she says.

Otago Women Lawyers Society, 978-0-473501-66-2, Paperback, 213 pages, $40 (GST included, postage excluded). Orders to – use “HerStoryBook” in the subject line.

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