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Graduates signal a celebration for our justice system

Graduates signal a celebration for our justice system

The first professionally trained McKenzie Friends in New Zealand graduated last week, setting a new benchmark in New Zealand legal history.

A McKenzie Friend is able to assist a self litigant with their legal case, offering support to clients and explaining court processes at a lower price point than other advisors. It is a concept forcing change in one of our oldest systems; renowned for its inability to change with the times - the law.

The graduation of Patricia Cooksley, Tina Peters and Tui Ruawai as McKenzie Friends in New Zealand and trailblazers in the history of our justice system, was celebrated over the weekend at the McKenzie Friend offices in Newmarket.

Cooksley is Auckland based and has experience in the disputes tribunal, family and employment court. Peters and Ruawai are based in Whakatane.

“The Manukau Court especially is providing a lot of work for current and soon to be graduates, being one of the busiest courts in the country” says McKenzie Friend Professional Director Vinay Deobhakta.

Sonya Taiko, based in South Auckland is another McKenzie Friend enroute to graduate soon who has worked for several years helping family court clients.

“Women especially don't tend to fear well in our legal system. We are by nature more emotional and the court is only interested in the facts. Having someone be able to guide you through the process, without the hefty [legal]price tag, definitely can help you win a custody case” she says.

Michelle Herbst works in the ACC tribunal. Having to plead her own cases, she is now very experienced at doing the same for others. “ACC refused me rehab which would have cost me over $20K defending it with lawyers. Ironically however ACC would have spent ten times my rehab bill in lawyers fees" she says.

“It is a testament to what happens often in our legal system - cases not being won on merit but because one party has alot more resources and bleeds their opponents bank account, shutting down their ability to continue litigation. What we know to be true is that the McKenzie friend concept introduces a more level playing field whereby justice is delivered based on the principles of law not the principles of finance. The company focus is training selected applicants to represent themselves in the court system and to assist others as a professional Mckenzie Friend" says Deobhakta.

An entrepreneur, Deobhata has recognised a gap in the free market place in the British legal jurisdiction and is assisting to meet this need by imparting his knowledge, skills and experience through successful training methods.

Prior to being controversially struck off the lawyers role in 2009 Deobhkata had a glittering twenty year career. He was struck off following a complaint instigated by Brad Shiptons lawyer, on behalf of another client, for not returning a fee.

Deobhakta had stood against him and supported Louise Nicholas in her claims of sexual misconduct against the NZ Police. It resulted in a lot of acrimonIous commentary from the legal fraternity in Tauranga and Hamilton and polarised him from members of the Waikato/BOP Law Society, where he was a member also. His ceremonious disbarring came soon after.

“The recent disclosure of misconduct by senior partners at Russell McVeagh is indicative of this culture" he says.

Despite providing affidavits from a private detective which proved the work had been done for the client and the client actually owed money to Deobhakta, and written statements from senior police and lawyers given in his support, the Law Society never put them on file for consideration.

Deobhakta’s own experience of injustice in our justice system has developed an empathy with others experiencing the same, hence his creation of a New Zealand first with his training company.

If you are interested in learning how to represent yourself in courts and tribunals and helping others get justice in our legal system by assisting them as a professional Mckenzie Friend then contact


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