Briefing a Barrister in NZ

This page contains general information about barristers and the legal profession in New Zealand, as well as the process to directly instruct a barrister, which has been permitted in this country since 2015.

The New Zealand situation is more flexible than what lawyers/clients in Britain or Australia may be familiar with, where the separation between barristers and solicitors is more rigid.

Are barristers separate to solicitors in NZ?

All lawyers in New Zealand initially qualify as both barrister & solicitor, described as a “fused” profession. Solicitor-advocates have always had rights to appear in court, and so becoming a barrister is mainly a case of more experienced disputes lawyers choosing to specialise over time. Gary works in specialist areas of law.

Gary was admitted as a barrister & solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand in February 1996, after a year’s law clerk training.  Following 20 years as an employee or partner within leading law firms, he moved to hold a practising certificate as a barrister sole in 2016. He was previously an equity partner in a leading boutique law firm, approved by the NZ Law Society to practice on his own account since 2011.

Briefing a barrister
Do barristers only do court work?

Barristers’ work will usually focus on legal representation in disputes – court litigation, tribunals of various kinds, and mediation, arbitration or other resolution methods.  But not always.  They also provide advice, strategic guidance, and commercial opinions on many legal issues in their specialist fields. Almost half of Gary’s work is strategic advice to keep clients out of court, or resolve a situation, or settle disputes by negotiation.

In many of those other situations, apart from once formal court litigation has been commenced, Gary can be briefed directly, if that is in the client’s best interests.

What is a Chambers?

Each barrister is an independent lawyer, although they tend to work within Chambers as a collegial framework to share office facilities, knowledge and legal resources.  Barristers are not in partnership (like a law firm), cannot be employed within a law firm, and do not hold money for clients or run a trust account. Gary and colleagues at Britomart Chambers share resources in a collegial environment, but are technically each independent sole traders.

Unlike some countries, barristers in New Zealand are highly approachable and do not negotiate briefings through chambers “clerks”.  If you would like to instruct Gary or have a preliminary discussion about your case, you can contact him directly.

Can I directly instruct a Barrister?

Traditionally, a barrister was asked to act for a person or corporate client (i.e. “instructed”) through an instructing solicitor, meaning another lawyer with a practising certificate.  This situation has changed, such that some barristers are able to receive instructions directly in a number of areas (i.e. without need for an instructing solicitor). Gary is one of those approved by the Law Society to take those direct briefs.

A legal team can, therefore, be assembled in different ways, depending on the type of case and scale of work needed. The critical element is to select the best expert for your particular legal issue.  Gary can work collaboratively in the traditional model being briefed by law firms, or directly alongside an in-house counsel team, or on a direct briefing from a client outside the legal profession.

When is a solicitor firm needed?

Some legal work is often more efficient with a direct briefing – tribunal representation, expert advice/ opinions, mediated disputes, for instance.  On the other hand, large litigation with heavy document disclosure is the opposite scenario, where an instructing solicitor is necessary.  Once court papers are filed to begin litigation, in most cases a solicitor will be needed under NZ Law Society rules. That person could be your usual lawyer/firm, or Gary can help you find the right solicitor.

An overseas lawyer or in-house counsel is able to instruct a New Zealand barrister directly if they have a valid practising certificate in their home country.

What are the advantages of dealing with a Barrister?
  • Independence – Gary’s duty is to you as the client, not to any partners or billing targets as in a law firm. His job is to fearlessly advocate your interests.
  • Objective advice – excellence and experience are key attributes, so a barrister can apply clear thinking and truly independent advice. That can on occasion involve a duty to tell a client what they may not wish to hear– to ensure they understand the realities of a legal situation.
  • Specialist subject skills – Gary’s core fields involve regulatory investigations and cases of many kinds, especially competition, financial, insurance, technology, privacy/media, transport and infrastructure. He has strong relationships with all the main commercial regulators, and deep experience dealing with government agencies.
  • Advocacy and negotiation skills – since a barrister handles matters in court (often, as last resort when other resolution has failed) they are ideally placed to see strategies to help keep clients out of court as well. Gary can bring expert evaluative skills to bear early in a dispute, against a backdrop of knowing how a Judge, arbitrator, or regulator would be likely to approach the issues.