NZ Asian Lawyers announces inaugural board of directors

The establishment of the board is a crucial step in building the organisation's influence

NZ Asian Lawyers announces inaugural board of directors

New Zealand Asian Lawyers has announced its inaugural board of directors in what has been described as “a critical step” to bolstering the organisation’s influence within the legal profession.

“Drawing on the exceptional talent and experience within New Zealand Asian Lawyers’ ranks, we have curated a diverse board reflective of professional experience, gender, cultural backgrounds and balance,” said president Mai Chen, who is a senior partner at Chen Palmer.

“Culturally, Asians tend to keep a more modest profile in society and just work away, but given the significant numbers in our profession, and growing, it is important that we make our contribution visible.”

The board includes representatives from various areas of the legal profession, including in-house lawyers, members of the academe and private practitioners. In addition to Chen, the board members are as follows:

  • Takeshi Ito (secretary) – vice president (legal), Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand Limited and CDL Investments New Zealand Limited
  • Anshuman Chakraborty – principal counsel (legislation), Reserve Bank of New Zealand
  • Anita Chan QC – barrister
  • Augustine Choi – barrister, Bankside Chambers
  • Alison Dymond – senior associate, Schnauer & Co. Limited
  • Gehan Gunasekara – associate professor, Department of Commercial Law at the University of Auckland Business School
  • Leo Huang – senior associate, Chen Palmer
  • Mei Fern Johnson – partner, Russell McVeagh
  • Karun Lakshman – barrister, Wellington
  • Karen Ngan – partner, Simpson Grierson
  • Dr Michelle Q Zang – Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington

The members of the board will sit for one year, and their terms will be reviewed after that period. Ito and Choi have been tasked with spearheading the formalisation of a standalone structure for the organisation.

“All of our board members have had different pathways in the law and all of them have their own Kiwi and Asian stories which they draw on to help their work.  It’s a board I am proud to chair,” Chen said.

The organisation has received support from Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann, Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu, Chief Employment Court Judge Christina Inglis and Chief Maori Land Court Judge Isaac. Chen also highlighted New Zealand Asian Lawyers’ link with notable legal bodies like the Law Society.

“We have really appreciated NZLS’s interest in New Zealand Asian Lawyers from the start and particularly from its current President Jacque Lethbridge and immediate past President Tiana Epati,” she said. “We also look forward to working with the regional law societies in due course to broaden our outreach and to continue the dialogue we have had with several of them to further promote diversity and inclusion.”

Chen confirmed that New Zealand Asian Lawyers was looking to build on its working relationship with the bar association.

“With one in nine of the legal profession identifying themselves as Asian, the role that New Zealand Asian Lawyers has to play now is vital to ensuring that the talents and expertise of these ethnically diverse Kiwis are fully utilised for the benefit of their clients, the justice system, government, business and the not-for-profit sectors of New Zealand,” she said.

At present, New Zealand Asian Lawyers operates under the banner of the Superdiversity Institute for Law, Policy and Business.

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