Chen Palmer senior partner to launch specialist public law chambers

Mai Chen heads to the bar effective 5 September to indulge her "first and greatest love"

Chen Palmer senior partner to launch specialist public law chambers

Chen Palmer senior partner Mai Chen is set to launch specialist chambers Public Law Toolbox Chambers as she heads to the bar effective 5 September.

“Public law backs into so many other specialist areas of the law but the focus of these chambers will always be at the interface between public law and other specialties whether it be commercial law, employment law, or criminal prosecution by regulators and white-collar crime,” Chen explained. “The Public Law Toolbox Chambers will be a home for barristers who are experienced experts in using the public law toolbox to solve problems for clients.”

She confirmed that the chambers welcomes both barristers who concentrate on “upstream” work like “policy making, and law drafting and making submissions to influence law making and the select committee process,” and those who focus on “downstream” work such as “judicial reviews and declaratory judgments when litigation has become necessary as a last resort.”

“I am looking forward to working with instructing solicitors and learning from other barristers. I am looking forward to expanding my colleague base and spending my time on solving complex public law problems, which remains my first and greatest love in the law,” Chen said.

The office of Public Law Toolbox Chambers will be established in Auckland, but the chambers is open virtually to barristers outside the area as well.

“Public law practice promotes the upstream building of systems and processes to promote access to justice. Public law also promotes providing legal advocacy for individuals whose access to the law or voice before the law has been hindered or denied. Barristers in these chambers will be committed to promoting and upholding the rule of law – the notion that all are equal before the law,” Chen explained.

She pointed out that public law covered matters such as Te Ao Maori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi issues, the NZ Bill of Rights Act, discrimination and Royal Commissions, reviews and inquiries.

“I took a leap of faith from academia and a big law firm to co-found Chen Palmer as NZ’s first boutique public law specialist firm. Now I feel like I am taking a leap of faith again in sacking myself from a very successful boutique law firm and a great job to start Public Law Toolbox Chambers as a barrister sole,” Chen told NZ Lawyer.

She credited QCs and barristers with helping her to make the transition to the independent bar.

“It has been almost 10 years since I shifted to practise law in Auckland, so it is time for a new challenge as I force myself out into new pastures. But this time, I feel like I am coming ‘home’ – I have travelled full circle and have realised that I love complex public law problem solving and litigation best and being able to think deeply about the law,” Chen said.

Mai Chen was recently named among NZ Lawyer’s Most Influential Lawyers for 2022.

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