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New Zealand > Dispute resolution > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Dispute resolution
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next generation lawyers

Leading individuals

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Next generation lawyers

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Bell Gully has a large dispute resolution team that is 'easy to deal with and provides both timely advice and good value for money'. The firm handles a range of disputes work, including commercial litigation, banking and finance litigation, class actions, commissions of inquiry, corporate and competition regulatory investigations and much more. Practice head Jenny Stevens in Wellington represented Danone Group in all issues arising from the Fonterra whey protein concentrate contamination crisis in August 2013, which included a private commercial arbitration. Highlights for key partners included Auckland-based David Friar's work for Southern Response Earthquake Services in a class action brought by the claims management company's customers, and Sophie East's defence of former directors of insolvent company Feltex against claims alleging misleading statements. Also recommended are the 'level-headed, measured' Simon Ladd; veteran partners Ian Gault and Alan Ringwood; Tim Fitzgerald, who advised Bryanston Pte. on a large property dispute; newly promoted partner Jesse Wilson; senior associate Rebecca Rose; and Wellington-based Tim Smith.

Chapman Tripp advises on some of the most significant commercial disputes in the country and is experienced in matters before the High Court and the Supreme Court, as well as in complex, multi-jurisdictional proceedings. Clients are 'very impressed with the level of service - the team is well resourced and well structured to handle large-scale litigation and the advice is clear and considered'. In Auckland, Justin Graham leads the practice and clients describe him and 'extremely gifted litigator' Matt Sumpter, who handles IP, competition law and civil litigation, as 'impressive and strong on strategy with great attention to detail'. Key partner John McKay specialises in commercial litigation with a focus on construction, insurance and media law. He defended BlueScope Steel in a claim arising from an unsuccessful attempt by New Zealand Steel Industries to purchase the Taharoa Ironsands business. Senior litigator Bruce Scott handles commercial and public law litigation, both in the High Court and in private arbitrations. In Wellington, Daniel Kalderimis handles large commercial disputes and leads the firm's international law practice, which focuses on the Asia-Pacific region.

LeeSalmonLong is a specialist dispute resolution firm that has 'a formidable reputation for litigation and a heavyweight team of partners'. Its work includes appearances in courts and tribunals at all levels, from specialist tribunals to the Supreme Court, and its partners also appear in higher courts in other South Pacific jurisdictions, as well as in domestic and international arbitrations. Key partners Davey Salmon, Tim Mullins and Michael Heard all stand out for large-scale commercial litigation, as well as defamation, competition and insolvency matters respectively. Isaac Hikaka is known for public and constitutional law, contentious trusts and equity matters, and South Pacific law. Salmon and Heard recently acted for kiwifruit growers affected by the introduction of a bacterial disease from a shipment of Kiwifruit pollen that did not meet import requirements. The NZ$376m claim for losses is one of the largest before the domestic courts and is currently at trial. They also handled a claim against the government that challenged targets for the reduction of emissions under the Paris Agreement.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts, hailed as 'as good as any tier one firm', provides 'very practical advice and listens to how clients want to play the litigation strategy'. In Auckland, practice head Sean Gollin and veteran Mark Sandelin are described as 'trusted advisers and very clever guys - focused and solution-orientated'. Experienced trial lawyer Zane Kennedy is defending Aon New Zealand against claims of negligence with a ten-week trial expected in 2019. Andrew Horne represented Refining NZ in a dispute arising from a fuel pipeline breach that caused a fuel shortage at the main international airport. The 'very commercial' Richard Gordon is 'wonderful at resolving a scrap in a timely manner'. Newly promoted partner Oliver Skilton is also recommended for investigations, prosecutions and civil proceeding instigated by regulatory bodies. 'Her strategic advice is very good', says a client of Wellington-based Stacey Shortall. She advised Television New Zealand on opposing an application for a judicial review by the leader of a political party. Oliver Meech is also regarded as an outstanding litigator.

Russell McVeagh has a blue-chip corporate client base, for which the firm handles high-value and high-profile matters, including cases that arise from large-scale mergers and acquisitions. Among its clients are Siemens, Credit Suisse and Samsung. Its litigators draw on sector-specific expertise, as well as specialist skills in contentious matters involving insolvency, tax, financial markets and insurance law. The practice is led from Auckland by national litigation chair Matthew Kersey, who predominantly handles insolvency disputes. Key partner Sarah Armstrong has a broad practice that encompasses tax disputes, banking and financial markets, telecoms, schemes of arrangement, company and securities law, insurance, product liability and intellectual property. For Siemens, she obtained an urgent interim injunction preventing competitor GE from taking possession of a gas turbine, on the basis that it could reveal trade secrets. Also recommended are senior litigator Malcolm Crotty; Marika Eastwick-Field for banking disputes; and Wellington-based Chris Curran. Emmeline Rushbrook and Nathaniel Walker have been made partner. Andrew Butler left the firm to become a barrister.

Simpson Grierson¬†is known for providing 'sound advice with¬†very pragmatic but well-composed responses'. The firm has a large dispute resolution practice made up of specialists in key areas including media law and defamation, competition law and regulatory, banking and securities enforcement, insurance, public law and product liability. The firm is also on the All of Government panel for litigation. Head of dispute resolution¬†Jania Baigent¬†handles¬†major commercial cases involving complex contractual and tort claims. She defended US company Innophos Holdings in High Court proceedings¬†brought by the New Zealand subsidiary of a global manufacturer that claimed breaches of the¬†Sale of Goods Act 1908 and negligence. Richard Lange¬†is¬†‚Äėan elder statesman of litigation‚Äô. Firm chair Anne Callinan¬†is an experienced commercial litigator who focuses on competition and regulatory law. She recently acted for peer-to-peer lender Harmoney in a High Court action. Also recommended are special counsel William Akel;¬†Wellington-based¬†John Shackleton¬†and Sally McKechnie; and Helen Smith¬†in Christchurch.

Anthony Harper provides 'a good level of service with lots of industry knowledge and good value for money'. One client remarks upon the 'excellent level of knowledge and experience' in the practice, which is led from Auckland by Dan Hughes, who focuses mainly on construction and insolvency litigation. The 'very responsive and helpful' firm has particular expertise in commercial, insurance, IP, insolvency, public law and construction litigation. Hughes recently acted for Meltzer Mason in a case involving large anomalies in the trust accounts of franchisee companies. Key partner Katherine Anderson advised Auckland Council on a Judicial review of its decision to change the use of Chamberlain Park Golf Course. Karen Kemp, who counts Home Owners and Buyers Association New Zealand among her clients, is 'a strong lawyer with a commercial focus'. In Christchurch, the 'prompt, confident and capable' Peter Woods, the 'thoughtful and strategic' Richard Smedley and star senior associate Lisa Taylor are recommended.

Buddle Findlay is known for 'excellent service and pragmatic, relevant and timely advice'. The firm's dispute resolution practice operates from all three of the firm's offices and is led from Auckland by Laura O’Gorman, who 'picks up technical and industry-specific matters very quickly'. She acted for Sky Network Television in claims against sellers of pre-loaded Kodi boxes in a case that raises key questions about piracy. David Broadmore is recommended for banking and finance, insolvency and contractual disputes and is 'client-focused and a good communicator who is calm under pressure'. In Wellington, Scott Barker acted for Zespri International in a Serious Fraud Office investigation into invoicing practises in China and Taiwan. Clients note that Sebastian Bisley is 'a great strategist - extremely thorough, with a clear understanding of what is at the heart of each issue'. Senior associate Oliver Gascoigne 'has a consistently calm approach and an excellent ability to get to the heart of an issue'. In Christchurch, senior litigator Willie Palmer and partner Kelly Paterson are recommended. Graeme Hall retired.

Litigation and arbitration boutique Gilbert Walker is 'outstanding', according to one client, who picks out key partner Martin Smith and associate Alexander Ho and describes the firm as 'one of, if not the, leading litigation firm in New Zealand'. Smith predominantly handles insurance disputes, but also has a broader commercial litigation practice that frequently sees him act as leading or sole counsel in the High Court. His recent cases include acting alongside Iva Rosic for one of New Zealand's leading banks in matters arising from a regulatory and governance review of the financial services sector in Australia. Rosic has broad-ranging experience in insurance, regulatory, unit titles, contractual and large-scale commercial disputes. She recently handled a High Court matter arising from an alleged breach of good faith in a sale agreement for a large mineral extraction venture. She also worked with associate Sam McMullan to advise Custom Street Hotel on a matter concerning the interpretation of standards for a major construction project. Matthew Harris is an experienced trial lawyer whose recent work includes large disputes in the areas of construction and trusts.

Kensington Swan¬†has a broad litigation practice that handles a wide variety disputes, including civil, commercial, competition, construction and infrastructure, defamation, MńĀori treaty and property-related matters. The firm is especially highly regarded for its work in¬†professional disciplinary investigations, infrastructure-related disputes,¬†and public law matters.¬†The firm frequently acts for international clients in their engagements with the New Zealand government and its regulatory agencies. Hayden Wilson¬†and special counsel Linda Clark¬†in Wellington acted for Rachel McGregor in settling a sexual harassment claim against former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig. The practice is led from¬†Auckland by David Campbell, who specialises in commercial and civil litigation. Newly promoted senior associate Reece Leggett¬†worked with health and safety specialist Grant Nicholson¬†to defend steel fabricator Herrick against claims alleging breaches of a joint venture agreement.

Lowndes in Auckland has a lean dispute resolution practice that focuses on high-profile contentious matters. Among these is the SkyCity litigation, which is one of the largest civil and criminal fraud cases currently underway in New Zealand. Key partner Jacqueline Lethbridge is handling that case, which centres on charges of fraud by a former employee. Lethbridge and corporate partner Mark Lowndes are also handling a complex and high-value case involving governance issues at one of the country's largest mortgage brokers. Veteran litigator Michael McCarthy has a broad dispute resolution practice that includes shipping matters. He is acting for the owner of the container ship Rena and its P&I and hull insurers in a complex shipwreck case following the  largest maritime incident ever to have occurred on the New Zealand coast and the second most expensive wreck removal operation ever in the world. Principal Tim Jeffcott focuses on corporate disputes and consultant Mike Whale is also recommended for his vast experience in restructuring and insolvency disputes.

Litigation boutique Wilson Harle in Auckland focuses on high-end commercial, public law and regulatory disputes and draws on the broad-ranging expertise and experience of its four partners: Ian Denton, Chris Browne, Allison Ferguson and Felicity Monteiro. Among their clients are Vodafone New Zealand, Marsh, Callaghan Innovation and Auckland District Health Board. A recent highlight was Denton's work for NZ Retail Property Group in a case arising from Auckland Council's cost-sharing agreements for the NZ$200m development of a new commercial centre. Senior associate Kerryn Webster also played a key role in that matter. For Crown agency Callaghan, which provides grants to promote innovation, Ferguson handled a dispute arising from the termination of a contract with Trends Publishing, which resulted in claims of breach of contract and confidence. Browne advised two District Health Boards in separate High Court appeals on questions of law for Medical Officers of Health, challenging determinations of the Alcohol Licensing and Regulatory Authority on critical issues arising under the 2013 alcohol licensing legislation.

DLA Piper New Zealand 'understands our business and meets or exceeds our expectations', remarks a client. The firm provides 'a high level service due to its professionalism and expertise' in specialist areas such as insurance, as well as in general commercial litigation. The key partner in Auckland is Iain Thain, of whom one clients says, 'he is one of the best litigators in New Zealand - equal to, or better than, any in this area'. He counts Foodstuffs South Island and Foodstuffs North Island among his clients. He recently worked with insurance partner Caroline Laband to advise Tower Insurance and Insurance Australia Group in a High Court matter that raised questions about the transfer of policies to new owners of damaged properties. Special counsel Alicia Murray is also recommended, having advised China Construction Bank in a dispute over a performance bond. Adam Holloway left to join Wotton + Kearney.

K3 Legal in Auckland is a boutique firm that handles dispute resolution and insolvency matters. It focuses primarily on civil and commercial disputes, though it also has deep expertise in contentious insolvency, property, construction, resource management, and relationship property disputes, as well as handling family, criminal and employment matters. Senior litigator Brent O’Callahan leads the practice and has significant advocacy experience in matters ranging from competition law to the tort of malicious prosecution. His recent highlights include acting for an international businessman who profited from international steel trading and investment, in a case concerning his business relationship with another individual and the rights to jointly owned assets. James Nolen, who is best known for contentious insolvency matters, is currently defending a director of construction company Mainzeal against claims of breaching obligations prior to the company's liquidation in 2013.

Wynn Williams is 'incredibly dynamic, strategic, innovative and flexible', according to one client. The firm is known for the high quality of its in-house advocacy and its experience in commercial, trusts, insurance and employment disputes. Head of dispute resolution Jeremy Johnson, who works in both Christchurch and Auckland, is recommended for 'outstanding service' and is described as 'creative in his approach and highly strategic' and as having 'an excellent intellect and a wealth of knowledge'. He acted for Sargon Capital as the purchaser of shares in Complectus Ltd, in the defence of a claim brought by the vendor following the collapse of the sale. He is also defending Craig Wireless in a derivative action brought by Cayman Spectrum that alleges breaches of a shareholders’ agreement. In Christchurch, managing partner Jared Ormsby handles disputes for private individuals, companies and large local authorities. He acted for Canterbury Regional Council in opposing an application to quash a bylaw. Joshua Shaw is also recommended.

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