By now, you've hopefully recovered from the holiday-induced food coma. From awkward family conversations to keeping the 'back to work blues' at bay, what better way to kick off the year than dedicating this column to some of the legal industry's finest friends,
foes, and fancies. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for a listicle.
The Legal Twitterati awards
I'm not talking about 'Legal Beagle' Graeme Edgeler or Wellington barrister Felix Geiringer, the award for tweeting up a storm in 2019 goes to @strictlyobiter - "Too niche for The Spinoff. Too unlearned for the NZLJ. Too disrespectful for LawTalk." All thoughts from the unnamed lawyer are "wildly unrepresentative of any employer. Also wildly unrepresentative of sound legal advice", the account reads. Some hysterical posts include:
"Do I link my blog and Twitter to my LinkedIn or do I want to work in this town again?
"The collective noun for Queen's Counsel is ilk. As in: an ilk of silk.
"If someone tells you tall-poppy syndrome doesn't exist in New Zealand, just remember that in 1980 they made the Supreme Court change its name to the High Court."
And on the issue of Christmas presents: "Commerce Commission staff bracing themselves for another Christmas season of being given multiple sets of Monopoly."
Coming in second is @NZcourttweets. The emoji-loving account documents the hilarious – and sometimes hilariously bad – trials and tribulations of court, giving insight into the life and times of a court reporter. If you're constantly cursing the heavens thinking political-correctness has gone mad, then this account is for you.
You can expect to see posts such as: "Bail breacher says the alcohol on his breath at 1am was from his mouthwash, not booze #courttweet" or "Riled-up defendant asks for his old lawyer back, who he previously sacked. Judge: "I feel a hug coming"
Truth be told, @NZcourttweets had me at hello, or rather: "Judge to recidivist drink-driver: "do you know what road you're on?" Her: Judge: "the road to prison" #courttweet"
Now you see 'em, now you don't award
This award has multiple winners. Meredith Connell and Minter Ellison Rudd Watts deserve applause, for failing to respond to questions relating to this column, time and time again.
Russell McVeagh kept a low profile in 2019, with former spokesperson and partner of 18 years Pip Greenwood's retirement going under the radar in December 2018. In a statement published on the firm's website, Greenwood "delayed her plans to transition into governance full-time and expand her directorship roles at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Spark, in order to help lead the firm through the challenges it has faced in the lead-up and following Dame Margaret Bazley's Report".
"In the role of interim CEO, Pip initiated a cultural transformation to implement the recommendations of the Report." It's a pity she won't be seeing the fruits of her labour.
Overachiever awards are vast and plentiful. There's part time thespian, Judge Paul Mabey, who dabbles in amateur theatre in Tauranga. His performance as Shylock in Shakespeare's the Merchant of Venice was Oscar-worthy. The court is a stage insofar as he's not the only lawyer to thrive in a theatrical environment. Canturbury Dean of Law Ursula Cheer serves as a life member of amateur theatre group Riccarton Players - and dating back to 1982.
On politics, I'm inclined to tip my hat to Judith Collins, who repeatedly rises from the dead like a horcrux and whose wit and charm can reduce anyone to laughter and/or a ministerial restructure. But, the award has to go to David Bain look-a-like Andrew Little.
In less than one term he's pledged to reform the entire justice system. Can he do it before the election, well that's something different entirely.
Speaking of shaking up the system, Supreme Court Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann must be applauded for shedding light on society's most marginalised.
"Without the ability to have their voices heard in our courts, the marginalised are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. We frequently see those who live in poverty in the criminal jurisdiction of the courts, but seldom in our civil courts.
"But those in lower socio-economic brackets have very real and often complex legal needs. Lacking economic power, the poor, perhaps more than any other part of our society, need and should be afforded the laws' protection," she said during her speech as she was sworn into the top-dog role.
Public lawyer and Superdiversity Institute's Mei Chen, and Auckland University's Khylee Quince must get an honorary mention for their efforts for promoting meaningful diversity and tackling tokenism in the industry. Whether to add first Maori appointed Supreme Court judge Justice Joseph Williams to the list is problematic for reasons Quince raises time and time again. But he was awarded a knighthood for services to the judiciary in December.
Then there's Solicitor-General Una Jagose QC who did the unthinkable and question the billable hours model during the 23rd annual New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Address.
She said the industry needs to move away from a system "where value is measured by hourly billing, quantity of work delivered and a closed shop of legal talk which only other lawyers can understand - to a model where the advice offered is innovative and solution-focused, and the result of a collaborative work process".
"Time-based billing to clients remains the firm's main mode of measuring value (though this is changing), but measuring 6 minute units of time disincentivizes innovation and downgrades those non-billable but critical functions of research, productivity, and culture development."
Changing the industry for the better is the plat du jour here, but abroad there's the case of the 18-year-old University of Leeds law student, whose parent posted an advertisement calling for a part-time nanny.
"She has a driver who can pick up the groceries and drive her around but someone to ensure she eats well and lives without the stress of laundry, cleaning as her study schedule is very intense.
"This applicant does not need to be a gourmet chef, simply someone who can ensure my daughter eats three healthy meals a day and the fridge is always full of healthy snacks, juice etc.
"The hour requirement and rate can/will be tailored to the appropriate candidate."
If you've got any tips, legal tidbits, or appointments that might be of interest, please email sasha.borissenko@ gmail.com.