Wellington-based Bell Gully partner, Rachael Brown, specialises in public and administrative law, Maori legal issues and employment law.
However, aside from her demanding role as a partner at one of the country's largest firms, Brown has also been instrumental in organising the secondment of many of Bell Gully's junior staff to community law centres around Wellington and Hutt Valley.
“All of the junior lawyers at Bell Gully have an opportunity to go on secondment to community law centres and a number of them also volunteer in their own time,” she tells NZ Lawyer
In Wellington, Bell Gully is even working together with fellow top-tier firm Russell McVeagh to provide a secondee each month to the Law Centre.
“All Bell Gully lawyers are encouraged to participate in our wider pro bono programme,” says Brown. “Our pro bono programme is an important way for us as a firm and as individuals, to give back to the community and to assist people and organisations who would not otherwise be able to access legal advice. It’s a good thing to be able to use our skills and expertise in this way.”
Brown believes legal professionals are particularly generous with their time when it comes to pro bono work, even though it’s not always visible to the wider community and says her firm has taken some strong steps in recent years to ensure that work continues.
“Bell Gully has recently established a legal corporate social responsibility network which is aimed at ensuring that New Zealand law firms work together to spread their pro bono and community support as far and wide as we can,” she says.
When it comes to her own practice
, Brown says a focus on building and maintaining relationships has been the key to her success.
“A lot of my work is very relationship based and so I’ve needed to maintain those relationships, including during my periods of parental leave,” she says. “I have been privileged to work for some fantastic clients doing really interesting work. I feel very lucky to do the work that I do and grateful to those clients for putting their trust in me.”
Brown was born and bred in Wellington and started her career in a small firm before moving on to a stint at Kensington Swan. She’s been at Bell Gully since 1999.
Brown's recent work highlights include:
- Acting for Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu and other Ngai Tahu entities on various issues relating to the interpretation of the Ngai Tahu Deed of Settlement and settlement legislation, including the application of the relativity mechanism.
- Acting for a number of iwi settling with the Crown in challenges to their mandates in both the Waitangi Tribunal and the Courts, and related proceedings including Waitangi Tribunal and High Court proceedings for Tuhoe and a High Court trial for Te Arawa which addressed fiduciary obligations.
- Advising PHARMAC regarding public law obligations and employment issues, and appearing as counsel for PHARMAC in mediations and Court cases (including, in 2011, litigation regarding the funding of asthma pharmaceuticals and, in 2008, regarding the funding of the breast cancer drug, Herceptin).
- Acting for providers in the health sector on issues relating to the application of Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act regarding the transfer of “vulnerable” workers, the Minimum Wage Act, and the Sleepover Wages (Settlement) Act.
- Providing several clients with advice regarding the application of the Official Information Act and the Privacy Act, and assisting clients dealing with the Ombudsmen.