NZ Lawyer's Hotlist 2014

by Aidan Devine24 Apr 2014
NZ Lawyer Hotlist 2014The 38 trailblazing lawyers changing the industry now

Who’s on the big deals? Who’s the talk of the town? NZ Lawyer presents an inside look at the hottest private practice lawyers in the New Zealand market

Legal practice is a game of mixed fortunes. In the deal environment, every year produces a series of winners and losers as certain lawyers and firms secure the most envied roles on the top deals.

What we seek to achieve in this feature is to take the pulse of the industry and discover which lawyers are being talked about by their peers. We will be taking a close look at the roles on the NZ Government’s mixed-ownership model, which has particularly dominated the deal landscape of late, and we will also identify lawyers who have come a long way in establishing a ‘personal brand’ for themselves. We’ll also be taking a look at nontransactional areas and noteworthy achievements in community and pro bono work.

First, a cautionary note. Being included in a listing such as this is a significant achievement, but we should remind ourselves that there are many lawyers who are worthy of accolades but for one reason or another have never received one.

So, in compiling this list of New Zealand’s hottest lawyers, we do so with a level of caution and respect for those lawyers who are not on the list. No industry survey can ever be entirely comprehensive in its listing of meritorious lawyers, and we do not purport to be exhaustive in our showcase of legal talent.

The selection of lawyers for this feature was based on submissions received from firms and, for the dealmaker sections, off-record interviews in which respondents were asked to nominate lawyers they respected not only within their own firms but also at rival organisations.

The opportunity to make submissions for this feature was also advertised on the NZ Lawyer website (

A familiar quality ascribed to corporate lawyers is their ‘commerciality’, something generally understood to be a desirable trait. We were thus intrigued when a source for this feature commented that a dealmaker was “commercial, and in a positive way”.

“It’s a compliment,” the source said. We then asked in what context being described as commercial would not be a compliment for a corporate lawyer. It turns out that, in some circles, describing a lawyer as “commercial” is a euphemism for “not keen on technical detail” or “trampling over the finer points of a transaction”. With this in mind, we adjusted our interview methodology to eliminate any possibility of firms slipping backhanded compliments about their competitors into the mix. ‘Commercial’ has no ulterior meaning as used in this feature.

The Hotlist:

Lawyers who headlined the deals environment following the partial privatisation of strategic government assets The NZ government’s Mixed Ownership Model or partial privatisation of key assets has certainly given the deals environment a much-needed jolt. Four asset selldowns have either already occurred or are currently in train: energy companies Meridian, Mighty River Power and Genesis, and national carrier Air New Zealand. In this section, we acknowledge some of the firms and lawyers who played key roles in these significant deals. Please note the listing of lawyers is not exhaustive – not all lawyers on these deals were included and some appear in other sections of this feature.
Name Profile Pic Firm
Brynn Gilbertson Brynn Gilbertson Bell Gully
Stephen Lowe Stephen Lowe Chapman Tripp
Tim Tubman Tim Tubman Chapman Tripp
Barry Brown Barry Brown Chapman Tripp
Graeme Quigley GraemeQuiqley Russell McVeagh
Mark Freeman Mark Freeman Bell Gully
Joe Windmeyer Joe Windmeyer Russell McVeagh


The pros so synonymous with big deals in their firms that they’ve become powerful personal brands in their own right

It’s a tough life running the marketing function of a top-flight corporate law firm. In theory at least the firm is a team; a collective in which the effort and kudos are shared in equal measure among the partners. The reality, however, can be somewhat different – every firm has a heavyweight dealmaker who is synonymous with that firm and seems to appear on all the significant deals. We asked the firms to nominate who they thought were the heavyweights at their competitors, and there was a notable consistency in the names that were proffered. Here’s what they had to say.

Name Profile Pic Firm
Gavin Macdonald Gavin Macdonald Bell Gully
Cathy Quinn Cathy Quinn Minter Ellison Rudd Watts
Mai Chen Mai Chen Chen Palmer
John Strowger John Strowger Chapman Tripp
Pip Greenwood Pip Greenwood Russell McVeagh
Kevin Jaffe Kevin Jaffe Simpson Grierson
Jeremy Johnson Jeremy Johnson Wynn Williams
Kathryn Beck Kathryn Beck Swarbrick Beck Mackinnon
Simon Vodanovich Simon Vodanovich Buddle Findlay
Martin Wiseman Martin Wiseman DLA Phillips Fox

Lawyers who have recently enjoyed notable and defining moments in their careers 

In this section, we pay tribute to the lawyers who have particular reasons to remember 2014 as a key point in their professional careers. The reasons may be obvious – for example, a significant anniversary – or more subtle, such as a coming of age in the eyes of the market; a sudden purple patch on the deals front; or overcoming a hurdle to success.

Name Profile Pic  Firm
Dave Wetherell Dave Wetherell Mayne Wetherell
Grant Kemble Grant Kemble Russell McVeagh
Roger Wallis Roger Wallis Chapman Tripp
Jeffrey Lai Jeffrey Lai Anderson Creagh Lai
Sarah Simmers Sarah Simmers Anderson Lloyd
Jason Rogers Jason Rogers James & Wells
Geof Shirtcliffe Geof Shirtcliffe Chapman Tripp
Jared Ormsby Jared Ormsby Wynn Williams
Hayden Wilson HaydenWilson Kensington Swan
Mark Stuart Mark Stuart Minter Ellison Rudd Watts
Neil Millar NeilMillar Minter Ellison Rudd Watts
Grant Dunn Grant Dunn Buddle Findlay
Michael Pollard Michael Pollard Simpson Grierson
Pat Bowler Pat Bowler Russell McVeagh

Recognising lawyers who made significant contributions to good causes

Thousands of hours are donated every year by New Zealand lawyers to good causes: from heritage conservation to community legal advice to the celebration of diversity. These lawyers get involved in such work because of a personal engagement with their cause. They’re not out to seek publicity, but just this once we’re going to put some of them in the spotlight and recognise their efforts.
Name Profile Pic Firm
Simon Collett Simon Collett Holland Beckett
Andrew Harmos Andrew Harmos Harmos Horton Lusk
Rachael Brown Rachael Brown Bell Gully
Nick Wells Nick Wells Chapman Tripp
Tamina Cunningham-Adams Tamina Cunningham-Adams Simpson Grierson
Jen Crawford Jen Crawford Anderson Lloyd
Andrew Butler Andrew Butler Russell McVeagh

To view the complete feature on PDF, please click on NZ Lawyer Hotlist 2014.