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 practice 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.

The firm represented Asia Pacific Village Group in high court proceedings concerning the termination of its NZ$1.5 billion (US$1.04 billion) acquisition of Metlifecare. The dispute generated significant media attention in New Zealand and overseas due to its commercial significance and its potential precedential impact.

In an ongoing matter, the team is providing counsel to ASX-listed 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 IPO of formerly NZX-listed Intueri Education Group. This is one of the most significant class actions currently underway in New Zealand and has received considerable media coverage.

The firm is also representing the Electricity Authority in a judicial review proceeding brought by Trustpower, challenging its decision to publish the transmission pricing methodology guidelines in June 2020. The issue is highly contentious within the electricity industry given the commercial significance of any change in the way Transpower’s costs are to be allocated.

During the research period, the firm promoted Blair Keown and Kirsty Dobbs to partners.

Core clients of the firm include Frucor Suntory New Zealand, Fruit Shippers, Genesis Energy, The Fletcher Construction Company, UDC Finance and Worldwide Leisure.

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 Sebastian Bisley, David Broadmore, Sherridan Cook, Willie Palmer, Kelly Paterson and Susan Rowe.

In the commercial and transactions space, 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 another highlight, the firm is acting for New Zealand Steel in defence of a claim seeking an injunction requiring New Zealand Steel 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 acted for New Zealand Steel on all aspects of the dispute, and it appeared as lead counsel in the High Court and Court of Appeal.

In a high-valued and complex construction matter, 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.

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

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.

Lindsay & Francis

Timothy Lindsay founded his boutique litigation firm in 2017, and it has quickly grown in size and reputation. In 2021, the firm embarked on a new journey with the joining of new partner and commercial and regulatory disputes specialist, Kim Francis. He was formerly a partner at Meredith Connell. The firm, now named Lindsay & Francis, also houses three associates. The firm specialises in corporate and commercial disputes, with a focus on securities and competition litigation, and regulatory defence.

The team, led by Timothy Lindsay, had a victory in defending Wesfarmers-owned Bunnings, one of Australia and New Zealand’s largest retailers, in one of the largest prosecutions by the New Zealand Commerce Commission in recent years. Following a six-week trial at the start of 2021, in July 2021 the court dismissed all 45 charges against Bunnings. The Commission did not appeal. 

In another novel and complex matter, the team acted for the former chairman and other independent non-executive directors of CBL Corporation. The civil proceeding was brought by New Zealand’s Financial Markets Authority (FMA), alleging breaches of fair dealing and continuous disclosure obligations prior to the collapse of CBL. This is the first time the FMA has ever brought proceedings against a company and its directors under these charges. In a rare example of parallel regulatory and civil proceedings, in addition to the FMA proceedings, two separate third-party litigation-funded shareholder class actions have also been filed. This suit in itself is a first-of-its-kind shareholder class action alleging breaches of New Zealand’s securities laws, including IPO, fair dealing and continuous disclosure obligations by CBL and its directors.

Recent key clients include AC3 and Bulletproof Group, AFT Orphan Pharmaceuticals, Enviro Waste Services, Fujifilm, Green & McCahill Holdings, PBL Solutions and Trendsetter Vulcan Offshore.

Client feedback

“The firm provides high quality, timely advice and excellent support as instructing solicitors to barristers.” – Commercial and transactions

“The firm is excellent as instructing solicitors. It is thorough, prompt and the lawyers have excellent legal and commercial acumen.” – Commercial and transactions

“Regular and concise information, great communication with the client and those not experienced in the litigation process. They are very professional.” – Commercial and transactions

“Good case strategy and experience, focus on deadlines, high-quality analysis. Very thorough.” – Commercial and transactions

“The team provided very thorough and careful advice. It was well prepared and dedicated to all aspects of the work. The lawyers gave intelligent and high-quality advice and solidly prepared for trial.” – Competition and antitrust

“Excellent understanding of the law, fearless yet commercial and ethical in approach and great strategy preparation as part of case management.” – Competition and antitrust

Kim Francis

“Kim is an excellent lawyer. He has sharp commercial judgment, a can-do attitude and outstanding problem-solving skills. He is my go-to instructing solicitor.”

“Kim is a very intelligent and hard-working lawyer with good judgment.”

Timothy Lindsay

“Great communication, regular updates, impeccable knowledge of the law and strategy implementation.”

Morrison Mallett

A new entry into the into the Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific rankings in this edition, 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 Queen’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 the international debt recovery of substantial sums hidden in New Zealand following alleged fraud in Malaysia; advising Guiseppe Zandona on its recovery of funds from NF Global in complex liquidation proceedings; advising Wanaka Medical Centre on a dispute regarding heads of agreement to design, build and lease a medical centre; and advising Farmers’ Trading Company on an application to the High Court for orders relating to employee shares trust.

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

Client feedback

“Communication is excellent; Response time for advice is great; and their advice is always comprehensive.” – Commercial and transactions

“Smart strategic thinkers. Cut to the important issues in an efficient and cost-effective way. Excellent knowledge of company and insolvency law in particular.” – Government and regulatory

Michael Morrison

“Excellent knowledge of corporate law. Pragmatic and strategic thinker.”

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 ten disputes-related partners, including Chris Curran and Polly Pope.

In a highly complex case, the firm is acting as NZ counsel to KPMG as liquidators. The matter involves the liquidation of a trans-Tasman brokerage with A$250 million in funds claimed by over 11,000 investors and two of the Australian company's shareholders. The fund is commingled and deficient and requires coordinated hearings between the Federal Court of Australia and the High Court of New Zealand.

In a class action suit funded by Omni Bridgeway, the firm led a product liability claim against certain manufacturers of alucobond and vitrabond polyethylene core cladding products. Litigation funding and funded class actions are not common in New Zealand.

The firm was triumphant for its client, The Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation (Guardians), in successfully defending a judicial review proceeding alleging a breach of its governing statute. This was the first case to judicially review Guardians and its investment decisions in relation to the NZ$47 billion New Zealand Superannuation Fund that it manages. It has potential precedential value for the investment of Crown funds beyond Guardians and for claims related to responsible investment.

Over the past 18 months, the firm has been at the forefront of legal developments as they arise with respect to COVID-19, both in relation to the economic consequences and the impacts of governmental policy and law-making.

Key clients in the past 12 months include Bath Street Capital, Calibre Partners, Credit Suisse, Lendlease Capital Services and TSB Bank.

Marika Eastwick-Field

“Marika is an excellent technical lawyer, but for me, her communication skills and ability to calmly traverse any hiccup are the things that set her apart. Marika is also genuinely appreciative of us as a client and makes us feel important and valued.”

Tompkins Wake

Headquartered in Hamilton with offices in Auckland, Rotorua and Tauranga, Tompkins Wake’s litigation team is recognised for conducting high level commercial and private client litigation and arbitration, including relationship property. The firm has etched itself a formidable niche in the New Zealand legal landscape with its concentration in representing plaintiffs in the areas of dairy industry regulation, agribusiness, insurance, and property.

Commercial litigation specialist James MacGillivary is often sought for his expertise in alternative dispute resolution processes such as arbitration and mediation. Partner Kate Cornegé has considerable experience working for clients in the agriculture, energy and local government sectors.

The firm represented IBC Japan in a NZ$38 million claim against NZ entity Autoterminal New Zealand. The dispute has resulted in nine separate High Court proceedings and a number of judgments in relation to an application for leave to bring a derivative action, an interim injunction to restrain the sale of cars, an interpleader dispute over a NZ$10 million fund, a protest to jurisdiction, and a caveat action. The firm successfully obtained a judgment for its client for NZ$38 million. Autoterminal was put into voluntary liquidation by its director and its business was acquired by one of IBC’s subsidiaries.

In the construction space, the firm represented Hamilton City Council in a construction defect dispute which involved crossclaims between co-defendants. This was a highly complex proceeding due to the numerous crossclaims between co-defendants, limitation defenses, and numerous complex legal and factual issues as to party liability and quantum.

The firm hired Chen Jiang as partner in October 2021. He focuses on dispute matters related to contracts, trusts and estates, property and insurance.

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 NZ$80 million commercial dispute with Auckland Council and Auckland Transport over the design and construction of a new town centre in West Auckland. The firm also continues its involvement in the landmark Feltex case, where it is acting for one of the director defendants in the second stage of the litigation. This case has been one of the most high-profile claims against directors in recent times and has already materially clarified domestic securities law.

The team represented Napier City Council in relation to an indemnity dispute over building work certification. The key issue hinges on the meaning of an exclusion clause which the indemnifier claims enable it to avoid liability entirely.

Longstanding clients include Cargill Ocean Transportation, the Gambling Commission, Living Streets Aotearoa and Vodafone New Zealand.

Client feedback

“Very good with clients, hardworking and good judgment.” – Competition and antitrust

“Responds promptly and clearly to queries.” – Government and regulatory

Chris Boswell

“Communicates promptly and clearly.”

Ian Denton

“Ian is great at managing client relationships. He has strong technical skills and is good at leading his team.”