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NZ Law Awards – Mai Chen to Wine-Growing Lawyers

Briefcase Blog – John Bowie – NZ Law Awards – From Mai Chen to Wine-Growing Lawyers

A Night At The Town Hall

A night at the museum’s not necessarily something that conjures up images of great good times, but last Friday’s evening at Auckland Town Hall for the law awards was an appropriate venue, if somewhat hazardous given the free-flowing wine, for the 100 years since the New Zealand statutes were substantially rewritten. The Judicature Act 1908 remains a centre piece of modern statute law and that year certainly marked a new coming of age for New Zealand. The Awards get better each year, to the great credit of New Zealand Lawyer editor Darise Ogden and her team. The only caveat, grudgingly offered, is that it would be nice to see a greater spread of firms in the awards mix. As Team Factor’s Ron Pol pointed out, the metrics by which the winners are chosen are carefully and impartially calibrated and weighted so all firms are placed on a level footing. It seems somewhat churlish and even self-denying for more firms not to enter the fray. Be that as it may, the evening’s great fun and hardly suffering from lack of support on the night.

The Berry Awards

Apart from Darise, the most weary participant on the night must have been Lane Neave’s chairman, non-lawyer Stephen Collins, who was back-and-forth picking up a swag of awards for his firm. The other big winner was Simon Berry, a Russell McVeagh and Minter Ellison alumni who’s been practicing as a barrister for five years specializing in resource management work and who picked up barrister of the year and resource management and environment law award.

Helping Mai

Prior to the awards I briefly considered actively assisting Mai Chen with a brief sartorial complication involving her dress, or some indeterminate part thereof. I hesitated to become too involved out of fear that Mai would slap me, but I soon realized that it was the man who’s the power behind Mai’s throne, Dr John Sinclair, a public policy man and former prime ministerial speechwriter who also happens to be Mai’s husband and, last Friday evening, Mr Fixit as well. Mai duly went on to pick up the Public Law award, as she did last year, paying tribute to John, her team and to the merits of firms focusing on what they do well, particularly in today’s environment.

Of Wine And Lawyers

Many lawyers own vineyards, damn them, but one who’s working from his vineyard and who took out the regional/suburban law award is Marlborough legal veteran Peter Radich who proclaimed the award to be “misplaced” and later said he believed something had gone wrong with Ron Pol’s computer. Peter works from his home on his Blenheim vineyard in an environment that he describes as being like a Croatian restaurant where everyone works most days. It may be nirvana for many, but it’s clear the vineyard doesn’t get in the way of some heavy-duty legal work, with the firm representing entrepreneur Peter Yealands in his stoush over Oyster Bay, the Marlborough District Council, Port Marlborough, Kurahaupo Iwi and others. It’s a Croatian family affair too, with Peter’s daughter Miriam, formerly with New York-based Shearman and Sterling and son Luke, a former Trackside TV announcer and lawyer, plus formerly London-based lawyer Clair Mills working in the firm. The firm has also been involved in two Supreme Court cases, Gibbons, a contract argument and Rose v. Rose, a relationship property issue.

The Big Award

The Big Award went to the National Party, of course, and we’ll now presumably have a legally qualified Attorney General, which will be a nice change. Chris Finlayson, the shadow Attorney General, has solid legal credentials with seven Privy Council appearances behind him and a strong interest in a number of legal areas, including intellectual property law reform and litigation procedure reform. His law reform efforts would have been aided if Stephen Franks had made Parliament where, ironically enough, Stephen would have been if he had remained on the ACT list. In the meanwhile, the National powers that be can ruminate over their short-sighted decision to relegate a top man on any measure to place 60 on their own list – a travesty no reform can remedy. Our loss, Chapman Tripp’s gain, I guess.

ENDS

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