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New Zealand > Labour and employment > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings


Index of tables

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Who Represents Who

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Bell Gully is ‘highly responsive and always carefully tailors its advice to the business context, proactively recommending solutions to the issues’. The firm’s broad client base includes Air New Zealand, Apple, AT&T, PwC and Federal Express. Rob Towner in Auckland leads the team and his highlights from 2016 included defending Rank Group in two Holidays Act matters. Tim Clarkeapplies a litigator’s perspective to health and safety matters’. Clarke, senior associate Liz Coats and ‘calm and practical’ Wellington-based partner Rachael Brown regularly advise clients on changes in health and safety legislation. Clarke and Brown’s recent health and safety work includes defending clients such as Rentokil in prosecutions, and advising New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and the Department of Corrections on general matters. The firm has also been heavily involved in Holidays Act reviews and non-compliance issues for clients such as Rank Group, which it advised on matters arising from the sale of Carter Holt Harvey’s pulp, paper and packaging group to Oji.

At Buddle Findlay, the ‘high-calibre team’ is ‘responsive, focused, practical, knowledgeable and good value for money; it has a great understanding of the law and its practical application’. In Wellington, Peter Chemis is ‘a fabulous lawyer and businessperson, highly intelligent and perceptive, solutions-focused and practical’, and Hamish Kynaston is ‘highly intelligent and hardworking; he has integrity and gets to the heart of issues quickly’. In Auckland, clients recommend the ‘experienced, knowledgeable, approachable and trusted partnerSherridan Cook, and Susan Rowe in a key name in Christchurch. The firm regularly assists technology institute Unitec with collective bargaining, employment litigation and advisory matters, which recently included a bargaining strategy for new collective agreements and representing the client in an Employment Relations Authority proceeding in which an employee claimed unfair dismissal and unjustified disadvantage. Chemis recently advised KiwiRail on matters arising from the temporary presence of foreign workers onsite for repair work.

Dundas Street is ‘one of the best employment firms in Wellington – as good as any of the larger firms – and it is exceptionally responsive with sound knowledge of the public sector’. The firm is the largest provider of legal services to government agencies. Clients of the ‘incredibly pragmatic’ Susan Hornsby-Geluk and Blair Scotland ‘rate them very highly for their ability to develop strategies and solutions and provide pragmatic advice’. ‘Clients can rely on the timely advice’ of newly promoted Ros Webby and senior associate David Traylor. Senior associate Chloe Luscombe has ‘a remarkable work ethic and provides a service that exceeds expectations’. Highlights included advising Aviation Security Service on a complex industrial dispute arising from stalled negotiations with the Public Service Association and E Tu, which issued strike notices that could have severely disrupted air travel. A further highlight saw the team defend a case seeking the reinstatement of a senior employee in a governmental organisation who had also sought name suppression as part of the legal proceedings.

MinterEllisonRuddWattshas strong business acumen and provides good value for money’. In Auckland, Gillian Service leads the team and is ‘very pragmatic and provides good strategic advice’. She advised new insurance market player Youi NZ Pty Limited on collective bargaining and the management of union claims under amendments to a law that has not previously been tested. Litigator Aaron Lloyd also plays a key role in the practice. Head of the Wellington employment practice Megan Richards ‘has a very strong ability to communicate legal principles to non-lawyers and can grasp the commercial perspective quickly, so she feels more like a business partner than an external lawyer’. Her highlights included advising kiwifruit marketer Zespri Group on a claim by a former senior employee who was jailed in China, which raises matters concerning the termination of his contract and personal grievances. Special counsel Emma Warden is also recommended.

Employment boutique SBM Legal in Auckland is ‘one of the best in the country’ and ‘rates extremely high on all factors’. Its advises large corporations such as Coca-Cola Amatil, McDonald’s Restaurants and Foodstuffs North Island, as well as senior executives and unions. The firm continues to attract new blue-chip clients such as Designer Textiles, Funnell Group, Moana New Zealand, Maori Television and New Zealand Rugby. It has also provided strategic advice to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which administers the mediation service for the Employment Relations Authority. The firm has leading lights in Penny Swarbrick, Kathryn Beck (who is ‘highly regarded and very easy to work with’), Don Mackinnon (who is ‘a very experienced lawyer with particular expertise in union negotiations’) and Bridget Smith (who ‘has comprehensive knowledge and shows excellent judgement’). Senior associates Matthew McGoldrick (who is ‘very competent and helpful’), Tim Oldfield (who is ‘a great communicator who works well with unions’) and Sarah Ongley are also recommended.

At Simpson Grierson, ‘business acumen and industry knowledge are first class, which helps the firm to stand out in its field’. One client ‘rates the firm’s performance higher than other top-tier firms’. In Auckland, ‘top-notch litigator’ Phillipa Muir, the ‘calm and pragmatic’ Shan Wilson and John Rooney are highly recommended, and senior associate Rebecca Rendle ‘provides excellent customer service and stands out for her responsiveness and quick turnaround’. Samantha Turner leads the Wellington team and advises numerous government departments, public bodies and corporates. The firm’s highlights included defending the country’s largest company Fonterra Co-operative Group, which employs 22,000 people globally, against a claim brought by the New Zealand Dairy Workers Union that claimed a breach of good faith obligations by inducing union members outside the coverage of the collective employment agreement. The team also acted for Fletcher Concrete and Infrastructure Limited on all matters relating to the contracting of work to a third party in the face of strong opposition from a union.

Anthony Harper is known for ‘excellent advice and value for money’. Auckland-based Jennifer Mills leads the practice and is ‘an expert in employment law who understands business’. Clients also recommend special counsel and litigator Kevin Patterson and associate Ethelred Chey, who is ‘knowledgeable, gives sound advice and has an ability to pinpoint the issues’. Special counsel Jackie Behrnes is growing the firm’s presence in Christchurch. Mills advised Deutsche Post subsidiary DHL Global Forwarding on disestablishing 30 positions following implementation of an IT platform. The firm also acts regularly as local counsel to US-headquartered international law practice Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which counts blue-chip companies such as Amazon and Cisco among its clients. The work includes providing compliance advice to multinational companies and reviewing their international HR policies.

DLA Piper New Zealand provides employment law services to clients of the firm’s international network, as well as to large domestic employers. Its work covers relocations, temporary postings, investigations, litigation, health and safety issues, and the employment law aspects of M&A transactions, which often have a cross-border element. John Hannan in Auckland assisted Air New Zealand with the development of global data protection and privacy policies. Key partner Laura Scampion, who has more than 20 years’ experience in local and international matters, recently advised Pfizer New Zealand on local issues arising from the US$900m sale of its global infusion therapy business Hospira Infusion Systems to ICU Medical. She also acted for Newell New Zealand on the sale of its tool business to Stanley Black & Decker. In Wellington, litigator Sean O’Sullivan counts Federated Farmers of New Zealand among his clients. Senior associate Murray Grant joined the firm, having previously been a barrister at 42 Bedford Row in London, and adds experience in litigation and mediation.

It has ‘a strong, well-led and high-performing team’, say clients of Hesketh Henry, where ‘the advice is sound, realistic and consistent’. Clients also appreciate the ‘depth of thinking and analysis, and the good value for money’, noting that ‘the firm has a very good understanding of foreign-owned businesses’. It advises public and private entities in sectors including manufacturing, aviation, marine, dairy, communications, utilities and professional services. Its clients include Restaurant Association of New Zealand and Kia Motors. Jim Roberts has ‘in-depth knowledge and provides clear and practical advice’. The team also advises the Corrections Association of New Zealand, which represents 2,500 prison officers and other employees, on collective bargaining, disputes, personal grievances, and health and safety matters. ‘Very responsive and exceptionally client-focused’ special counsel Alison Maelzer and ‘efficient and friendly’ senior associate Jodi Sharman are recommended.

Managing partner Anthony Drake, who co-leads the Kensington Swan employment and industrial law team from Auckland, is ‘a very experienced practitioner who is highly regarded in employment law circles’. Team co-head Michael O’Brien in Wellington advises large corporates such as Qantas Airways on strategic employment matters. Clients also recommend health and safety specialists Grant Nicholson in Auckland and, in Wellington, Greg Cain. Cain defended New Zealand Transport Agency in Employment Court and Employment Relations Authority proceedings against allegations of breaching a collective bargaining agreement. O’Brien acted for the Order of St John on strategic matters, including collective bargaining negotiations with five different unions. The team also defended an application for interim reinstatement of a parking officer for Auckland Transport, and advised Broadspectrum on an investigation by WorkSafe New Zealand and prosecution under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

Auckland-based employment litigation boutique Kiely Thompson Caisleyalways provides excellent service’. Peter Kiely, who has more than 30 years’ experience and is ‘a master of his profession’, and collective bargaining expert Andrew Caisley are among the leading lights in the market. Clients also praise the ‘personable and pragmatic’ David France, who ‘really understands his clients’ business and is technically excellent; he is a very good communicator and a real pleasure to deal with’. Simon Lapthorne, who joined from Simpson Grierson and was subsequently promoted to partner, leads the immigration team. The firm’s highlights included acting for Radius Residential Care in a precedent-setting case against New Zealand Nurses Organisation Inc. Another key matter saw the team handle an appeal to the Supreme Court to review a decision in a dispute between the New Zealand Airline Pilots Union and client Air New Zealand concerning a collective bargaining agreement.

At Russell McVeagh, the service is ‘excellent, timely, up to date, pragmatic and efficient’. The firm has a small but high-quality team known for advising employers on union-related issues, the departure of senior executives, and health and safety matters. Auckland-based litigation partner Kylie Dunn, who specialises in employment matters, is ‘not only a fantastic lawyer, but also an excellent business partner with a ferocious grasp of the law’. ‘I couldn’t ask for more’, said one client. Dunn successfully defended Sanford Limited in a settlement agreement dispute, and acted for Auckland International Airport in obtaining without notice freezing orders from the Employment Court. She also acted for Skycity Management Limited in defending a challenge to the enforceability of a settlement agreement, in which the claimant alleged that all settlement agreements were a prohibited contracting out of New Zealand’s personal grievance regime. Norske Skog Tasman and General Distributors Limited are also clients of the firm.

Chapman Tripp has employment practitioners in all three of its offices. Newly promoted partner and head of the team Marie Wisker in Auckland handles a broad range of commercial disputes, with a strong focus on employment law and professional indemnity matters. She recently acted for BlueScope Steel, which owns New Zealand Steel, on the employment issues arising from the NZ$51m sale of its Taharoa export iron sands business, and she advised Shell New Zealand on the sale of its Kapuni onshore oil and gas field to joint venture partner Todd Energy. Another highlight saw her advise private equity firm Waterman Capital on the acquisition of home delivery service My Food Bag, which included the negotiation of employment arrangements for senior staff. Investment funds partner Mike Woodbury in Wellington focuses on superannuation and workplace savings schemes. Garth Gallaway in Christchurch handles health and safety matters and is one of the South Island’s foremost litigators.

EY Law is known for advising on employment, health and safety, and privacy matters. Its recent work includes health and safety reviews and advisory work for agricultural firms, a power generation and distribution company and a licensing trust. Director Christie Hall in Auckland leads the team and has more than 15 years’ experience in the employment field. Senior associate Kathryn McKinney is also recommended. A key matter from last year was the team’s work for a major corporate in a Holidays Act compliance review.

Lane Neave is a specialist employment law boutique that operates from four offices in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown. It is a member of the All-of-Government panel for employment law services, which sees it advise government departments, but its client base also includes local authorities, city councils, multinational companies and SMEs. New Zealand’s largest agricultural services company PGG Wrightson Limited, meatworks company ANZCO Foods, and the Tourism Industry Association are among its clients. The practice is led by managing partner Andrew Shaw in Christchurch, who has 25 years’ experience in employment, health and safety, ACC and privacy matters. Litigation partner Rebecca Hopkins devotes a substantial proportion of her time to employment disputes. Partner Fiona McMillan in Auckland advises on human rights as well as employment law, and health and safety matters.

LangtonHudsonButcher, Lawyers is a niche employment and litigation firm based in Auckland. It has a lean and focused team of experienced lawyers who advise large corporate and public bodies on all aspects of employment law and industrial relations matters. Founder and managing partner Stephen Langton recently acted for The Selwyn Foundation in a challenge to a determination by the Employment Relations Authority, and advised Restaurant Brands in a dispute with Unite Union. Key partner Emma Butcher is an experienced advocate and regularly advises large national and international businesses on disputes and strategic matters. Andrew Schirnack is also recommended for his broad practice, which encompasses employment-related disputes at all levels, from mediation to Court of Appeal.

Wynn Williams delivers a ‘very good and responsive service at a fair cost’ and has a strong reputation for resolving complex employment disputes, particularly in the areas of contracting, construction and road transport. Partner Amanda Douglas in Christchurch leads the employment team, which is part of the firm’s dispute resolution group, and provides employment law as well as health and safety advice to many local authorities. Her recent work includes assisting regional council Environment Southland in collective bargaining with unions. She also advised smart home alarm systems provider Vivint New Zealand on human resources issues arising from its post-sale restructuring, which included the transfer of employees to the company’s new owner and the agreement of settlements with employees in excess of their contractual entitlements. Litigation associate Naoimh McSparron is ‘highly capable and easy to deal with’.

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Legal Developments in New Zealand

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