New Zealand


Dispute resolution
Bell Gully

Top full-service law firm Bell Gully is home to one of the largest and most respected dispute resolution teams in the country, with 12 dedicated litigation partners. The firm encompasses a full range of practice areas and sectors, at all court levels, and utilises all forms of dispute resolution including arbitration and mediation. The firm regularly features in the country’s most complex and landmark contentious matters. Its class action, insolvency, construction, regulatory and insurance specialties are noteworthy. The firm also boasts a strong Iwi and Maori practice.

The litigation team heads are Wellington-based Rachael Brown and Auckland-based David Friar. They lead a team of nearly 50 qualified dispute resolution lawyers.

In a significant matter that has attracted media attention, the firm is acting for Genesis Energy in defending novel claims concerning its alleged responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions brought by a private individual. This is the first time a private law claim has been brought in New Zealand in respect of the greenhouse gas emissions of private businesses.

In another ongoing matter that is pending at the Supreme Court, the firm is acting for several commercial accommodation providers in an application for judicial review of a decision by Auckland Council to impose a targeted rate, solely on property used for commercial accommodation, to fund 50% of the tourism promotion and major events budget of the council’s relevant economic agency, Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development. The matter is significant because it directly concerns the threshold for challenging rating decisions in New Zealand, from both administrative law and statutory perspectives.

The firm is also representing Australian investment company AWN Holdings and its director Kevin Chin in defending a high-profile class action brought by Frances Fullarton on behalf of investors in the Initial Public Offering (IPO) of formerly ASX and NZX-listed Intueri Education Group. The claim has attracted significant media attention due to its commercial relevance and precedential value for future class actions.

During the research period, partners Simon Ladd departed the firm.

Core clients of the firm include ANZ Bank New Zealand, Carter Holt Harvey LVL, CDL Investments New Zealand, Frucor Suntory New Zealand and PwC.

Client feedback

“Keep you informed regularly particularly when determining strategy.” – Commercial and transactions

“Just simply a first-class firm. The lawyers on this job, Kirsty, Matt and Eloise, have been superb all the way along. They are practical and solutions-focused and very strategic. All great people and they work very well together. They keep us informed and up to date on all matters.” – Technology and telecommunications

Kirsty Dobbs

“Technically brilliant, very strategic and solutions-focused.”

Brad Ward

“He is proactive with his communications.”

Buddle Findlay

Buddle Findlay has an experienced and consistent dispute resolution team, with seven partners permanently based across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Having leading litigators stationed in all three of the country’s city centres gives it a competitive advantage in its relationships with judges and senior practitioners in each area. In addition to a strong commercial litigation practice, the team is known for its insolvency work.

Scott Barker heads the dispute resolution group that includes specialists David Broadmore, Sherridan Cook, Willie Palmer, Kelly Paterson and Susan Rowe.

In the commercial and transactions space, the firm is acting for New Zealand Steel in defence of a claim seeking an injunction requiring the company to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The claim is a novel claim in which negligence, public nuisance and an inchoate cause of action are alleged. The firm has acted for New Zealand Steel on all aspects of the dispute, and appeared as lead counsel in the High Court and Court of Appeal.

In another highlight, the firm continues to represent Southern Response in its defence of a class action brought by claimants who wished to revisit their previously settled insurance claims. The proceeding considered the novel question of whether an opt-in or opt-out class action model should be favoured in the country. New Zealand has never had an opt-out class action. The Law Commission is currently considering the class action landscape in New Zealand and whether it needs a legislative framework.

In a high value and complex construction dispute, the firm acted for the Department of Corrections in a dispute worth in excess of $100 million regarding its nationally significant modular prison build contract with Decmil Construction NZ. Following the High Court's judgment, a payment of approximately $12 million was made to the Department of Corrections.

The firm promoted Olly Peers to partner in January 2022. Seb Bisley retired from partnership in June 2022.

Key clients include AgResearch, Bank of New Zealand, Eleonora Sport, MB Technology, New Zealand Industrial Park and Zespri Group.

Client feedback

“Responsiveness and commercial advice received in a straightforward way.” – Insolvency

Scott Barker

“He is always available, and he provides high-quality advice.”

Gilbert Walker

Auckland-based Gilbert Walker is a specialist dispute resolution firm offering a full suite of litigation services for complex commercial disputes and regulatory matters. It often features alongside and against the leading full-service firms and top Queen’s Counsel. During the research period, the firm was active in at least half of the key litigations that dominated press headlines.

Partners and commercial and corporate disputes specialists Matthew Harris, Iva Rosic and Martin Smith lead the team. Recently, they were appointed to a panel as part of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions in Aoteoroa, New Zealand.

K3 Legal

Litigation boutique K3 Legal offers a broad range of litigious representation in tandem with its brand partners K3 Accounting and K3 Consulting. Based in Auckland, the law firm focuses on civil and commercial disputes, but has noteworthy experience in contentious insolvency, property, construction, resource management and relationship property disputes. It is also active in the criminal litigation space. A unique trait of the firm is its growing Chinese clientele, as it has five lawyers, including two directors, and four legal assistants who are fluent in Mandarin.

The four main directors of the disputes practice are James Nolen, Edwin Morrison, Toni Brown and Jeff Walters.

Morrison Mallett

Morrison Mallett is a specialist commercial law advisory practice with operations in Auckland and Wellington. The firm’s litigation team acts for clients on a wide range of commercial litigation matters, including appearing in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. In addition to regularly acting as lead counsel in court proceedings, the team also works closely with senior barristers and King’s Counsel to provide litigation support to enhance client outcomes.

The firm’s lead litigation partner, Michael Morrison, is regarded as one of the country’s pre-eminent private practice litigation specialists. Morrison also appears before arbitrators and tribunals and regularly represents clients in mediations.

Notable commercial disputes include the firm advising Mudajaya Group in relation to international debt recovery of substantial sums hidden in New Zealand following alleged fraud in Malaysia; advising Evan Williams and related entities on complex dispute regarding development of plaintiff’s land in Weiti Bay, Auckland; acting for Warkworth Retail, a shareholder/secured creditor in the defendant company, Warkworth Holdings, in successfully seeking urgent appointment of an interim liquidator by order of the High Court; and advising Farmers Trading Company on resettlement of trust assets. 

In June 2022, the firm hired Oliver Gascoigne from Buddle Findlay as partner.

The rest of the clients the firm worked with during the research period are confidential.

Oliver Gascoigne

“Oliver Gascoigne provides clear strategic insight coupled with a hard-working and effective approach to complex disputes.”

“Hard working, effective and insightful.”

Russell McVeagh

The dispute resolution group at Russell McVeagh enjoys an excellent market reputation. Its litigators are known for their involvement in complex commercial litigation and crisis management, class actions, construction disputes and insolvency litigation. The group recently expanded through the hiring of three senior associates, a special counsel and a partner.

Senior litigators Malcolm Crotty and Matt Kersey lead a team of 10 disputes-related partners, including Chris Curran and Polly Pope.

In a significant matter, the firm acted for New Zealand's largest life insurer AIA in relation to proceedings issued by the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) in June 2021 for alleged breaches of the ‘fair dealing’ provisions under the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013 (FMCA). The matter is significant to the development of the law in New Zealand. It is only the second proceeding brought under the fair dealing provisions of the FMCA. The case has therefore created important precedent for any proceedings involving the provisions, and the negotiation of pecuniary penalties with the FMA.

Another case sees the firm acting for the building owners in High Court proceedings against the manufacturer and distributors of the aluminium composite panel product, Alucobond. The claim focuses on the combustible nature of the product. The proceedings have been filed in the High Court in Auckland.

The firm is also defending the Earthquake Commission (EQC), a Crown Entity providing natural disaster insurance to residential homeowners, in two separate intended class action representatives. The matters are novel because they assert a novel duty of care (Mathias) and breach of statutory duty for delayed payments causing financial loss. The matters are important because if successful, they would have significant repercussions for the natural disaster fund and how EQC would administer that fund, which will impact the New Zealand public.

In a class action that resulted in a landmark proceeding in New Zealand, the firm successfully defended Credit Suisse, a global investment bank and financial services firm, against claims from approximately 3,600 shareholders/investors for its role, as issuer and promoter, in the initial public offering of shares in Feltex Carpets in 2004. The shareholders/investors alleged the prospectus for the IPO was misleading and sought approximately NZ$200 million ($124 million) damages.

Key clients in the past 12 months include Calibre Partners, KPMG, Lendlease Capital Services and Winton Property Investments.

Client feedback

“Russell McVeagh's attention to detail, quality of client service, depth of thinking and strategic/commercial acumen is world class and sets them apart from other law firms in the New Zealand market.” – Commercial and transactions

“Client service and management (ensuring we were well informed of the process, steps and effectively participating in the decision process) and high quality of the legal advice, including legal analysis of issues, evidence preparation and court submissions.” – Government and regulatory

“The lawyers are excellent managers of the process – it goes without saying that they are experts in the field, but their communication and management is excellent.” – Real estate

Chris Curran

“Clear communication, excellent client management and high-quality legal advice. I was very comfortable that we were in safe hands throughout the process. He kept us well informed on the process and issues as they arose, and it was a seamless client experience.”

Marika Eastwick-Field

“Friendly, smart and proactive. Manages the twists and turns of litigation and looks to avoid going down rabbit holes.”

“Marika is really impressive. She is a skilled lawyer in her field, but the attributes we appreciate most are her communication skills and particularly the fact that she understands our business, takes an approach that matches our way of working. Marika is consistently available, regardless of her busy schedule.”

Joe Edwards

“Joe's commitment to client service is exceptional. He is reliable and always provides strategic and clear advice within very short timelines. His ability to respond to client needs and pressures is unmatched, and he has quickly become a key part of our broader team.”

Wilson Harle

Disputes boutique Wilson Harle has a stable, respected offering that focuses on high-end commercial litigation. It is known for handling complex and high-value trust disputes, defamation and media litigation, and contentious commercial regulation matters. Its offering covers the full spectrum of industry sectors, from media, insurance and telecoms to construction and healthcare. The firm frequently receives referrals from other top-tier players in the market.

Four partners are key figures at the firm: Chris Browne, Ian Denton, Allison Ferguson and Felicity Monteiro.

The firm represented the New Zealand Retail Property Group in a commercial dispute with Auckland Council and Auckland Transport over the design and construction of a new town centre in West Auckland. The firm is also currently representing Napier City Council in a proceeding issued against its indemnifier seeking judgment for indemnity in relation to a breach of statutory duty claim in respect of building work certification. The issue turns on the scope of a weathertightness exclusion clause which the indemnifier claims enables it to also avoid liability for non-weathertightness building defects. The matter has significant precedential value for the liability insurance industry as non-weathertightness defects are a common feature of ‘leaky building’ proceedings which are a significant source of liability for both local authorities and the construction industry across New Zealand. Most local authorities have the same exclusion clauses in their liability insurance policies, and commercial insurance policies include similarly worded exclusions.

The firm’s recent client roster includes C&R Construction, Living Streets Aotearoa, Maungaiti, Sequitur Hotels and Vodafone New Zealand.

Client feedback

“They have a good breadth and depth of knowledge, have excellent client relationship skills and are very responsive.” – Competition/antitrust

“Wilson Harle does everything well. They are incredibly thorough and employ only the best and the brightest.” – Government and regulatory

Ian Denton

“Very good client skills and good technical knowledge.”