Winners of the 2023 NZ Law Awards unveiled

The stars of the NZ legal profession shone on an unforgettable night

Winners of the 2023 NZ Law Awards unveiled

The cream of the crop in the New Zealand legal profession was revealed last night in the unforgettable star-studded affair that was the 2023 NZ Law Awards.

Members of the industry glammed up for a black-tie gala held at the Cordis Auckland to celebrate the top law firms, lawyers, in-house legal teams, arbitrators, mediators and service providers across 27 categories.

Event partner LexisNexis sponsored the Boutique Law Firm of the Year award, while event sponsor Resolution Institute looked to recognise the Mediator of the Year. James & Wells put their stamp on the In-house Lawyer of the Year award, while Russell McVeagh looked to honour the In-house Team of the Year.

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Fluid Legal Recruitment sponsored the Employer of Choice (<100 Lawyers) award. LEAP Legal Software sought to award the Mid-Size Law Firm of the Year, while Robert Walters looked to recognise the Large Law Firm of the Year.

NZ Lawyer also celebrated the Excellence Awardees that made judging this year’s awards extremely difficult, showcasing the breadth and depth of legal talent in the country today.

The winners and excellence awardees are as follows:


Debt Market Deal of the Year 

Winner: Financing for Igneo’s acquisition of Waste Management NZ

Lead firms: Bell Gully, Simpson Grierson 

All other Organisations that worked on the deal (Firms, Banks and Accountants): ANZ Bank New Zealand, Craigs Investment Partners, MUFG Bank, Hong Kong Branch, Natixis, RBC Capital Markets, Royal Bank of Canada

Judges' comments include: " A complex deal due to the nature of the syndicate and the breadth; A novel approach identified to convert to green loan.; Large, complex and innovative transaction that allows for ESG improvements over time."

Excellence Awardees 

Auckland Council Sustainability-Linked Loans 
New Zealand sovereign Green Bond Framework and first green bond issuance
Senior Debt for Tourism Holdings Ltd as part of merger with Apollo Tourism and Leisure

Syndicated funding for Allegro’s acquisition of fuel retailer Gull NZ 
Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira Inc senior debt facilities to fund the purchase of properties from the Crown

Equity Market Deal of the Year 

Winner: $2.2-billion Recapitalisation of Air New Zealand

Lead firms: Allen & Overy, Bell Gully, Chapman Tripp, Russell McVeagh 

All other Organisations that worked on the deal (Firms, Banks and Accountants): Baker & McKenzie, Calibre Partners, Citibank, Citigroup, Craigs Investment Partners, Deloitte, Forsyth Barr, Goldman Sachs, Herbert Smith Freehills, KPMG, Sidley Austin, UBS, Vorigo Advisory

Judges' comments include: "A novel, impressive, complex deal with many facets to manage, undertaken in uncertain market conditions; A worthy winner.; High value, high stakes and public interest - perfectly executed; Significant size and complexity of the transaction at a critical point for the company; This deal meets the judging criteria in all respects."

Excellence Awardees 

Heartland Group Holdings $200 million equity raise
Ryman Healthcare $902.4 million capital raise

Project Finance Deal of the Year        

Winner: Financing of special purpose vehicle to fund infrastructure and urban development projects in Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty

Lead firms: Bell Gully, Buddle Findlay 

All other Organisations that worked on the deal (Firms, Banks and Accountants): Bank of New Zealand, Chapman Tripp, Crown Infrastructure Partners, Deloitte, KPMG, Mafic Partners, Simpson Grierson, Tauranga City Council, Westpac New Zealand 

Judges' comments include: "Complexity of navigating the application of existing funding arrangements to a new regime together with the innovation involved make this deal notable.; First transaction under the IFFA, requiring the lawyers to create documentation that will no doubt be used by all others going forward.; Novel legislation and transaction."

Excellence Awardees 

Financing of Lodestone Energy Solar Project 

M&A Deal of the Year  

Winner: Crown takes 100% control of Kiwibank with purchase of NZ Super Fund, Accident Compensation Corporation and NZ Post stakes               

Lead firms: Chapman Tripp, MinterEllisonRuddWatts, Simpson Grierson, Webb Henderson 

All other Organisations that worked on the deal (Firms, Banks and Accountants): Cameron Partners

Judges' comments include: "A particularly complex transaction constrained by regulatory requirements demonstrating strong innovation and breadth across multiple regulatory areas.; Innovative response to a transaction that was challenging from a regulatory perspective."

Excellence Awardees 

Acquisition of Partners Life by Dai-ichi Life 
Acquisition of Z Energy by Ampol             

Futureverse roll-up and Series A capital raise
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board’s acquisition of 70% stake of Spark NZ’s passive mobile infrastructure business
Sale of One NZ (formerly Vodafone) Passive Mobile Towers to InfraRed and Northleaf Capital Partners

Insolvency and Restructuring Deal of the Year         

Winner: Liquidation of CBL Insurance Limited

Lead firm: Anthony Harper 

All other Organisations that worked on the deal (Firms, Banks and Accountants): CMQ Law, DLA Piper, Duncan Cotterill, Gilbert Walker, GlaisterEnnor, Harmos Horton Lusk, Hesketh Henry, King's Counsel, LeeSalmonLong, Lindsay & Francis, McElroys, McGrathNicol, Meredith Connell, Simpson Grierson

Judges' comments include: "Complex and high value case; First choice for many reasons, including the complexity added due to multi party proceedings involving criminal, regulatory and civil issues as well as innovative use of TAR.; Multi-jurisdictional, multi-party and numerous legal representatives - a complex transaction and settlement, worthy of this award."

Excellence Awardees 

Financial Restructuring and recapitalisation of Kurow Duntroon Irrigation Co.
Receivership of Optic Security Group Limited and Related Sale of Subsidiary

Mid-Market Deal of the Year  

Winner: Sale of Trustpower retail business to Mercury Energy 

Lead firms: Chapman Tripp, Russell McVeagh  

All other Organisations that worked on the deal (Firms, Banks and Accountants): Deloitte, Forsyth Barr, PwC 

Judges' comments include: "A complex and technically difficult transaction in a highly regulated industry at the top end of the size for this category.; A transaction that had it all for the legal advisers to manage and negotiate their way through; The complexity and breadth of this transaction make it stand out, including restructures, High Court and NZCC approval and the different sectors involved."

Excellence Awardees 

Acquisition of Eastland Network by Igneo Infrastructure Partners
Acquisition of the Better Health Company by Nestlé New Zealand 

AMP Sale of Collimate Capital
Fisher Funds purchase of Kiwi Wealth 

Next Capital sale of New Zealand's largest urban bus operator to Kinetic NZ Holdings


Young In-House Lawyer of the Year (35 or under)

Winner: Claude Smith, Meridian Energy

Judges' comments include: "A standout candidate with a very impressive list of achievements.; Proven to be a truly exceptional lawyer with a strong work ethic.; Shows all the key attributes of a great leader, including resilience, diligence, and empathy."

Excellence Awardees 

Amir Ansari, Tourism Holdings
Lisa Cameron, Meta

Charlotte Foster, Warner Bros. Discovery
Angus Haines, DB Breweries 
Nerida Kennedy, Datacom
Penny Kitto, Metlifecare
Marcus Playle, Lion

James & Wells In-House Lawyer of the Year

Winner: Jason Nichols, Fonterra Co-operative Group 

Judges' comments include: "An impressive array of challenges and achievements over the relevant year; The quality of Jason's innovative work and leadership skills are impressive; Highly complex, big dollar deal work."

Excellence Awardees 

Melissa Anastasiou, Spark New Zealand
Penny Bower, Waste Management NZ
Paris Bree, New Zealand Oil & Gas 
Kirsten Clayton, Contact Energy 
Justine Hollows, Winton
Juliet Jones, One New Zealand (formerly Vodafone)
Jack Lynskey, Wealthpoint 
Beth McKay, Crown Infrastructure Partners 

Sponsored by James & Wells


Financial Services In-House Team of the Year

Winner: IAG Legal Team

Judges' comments include: "The team has clearly delivered a lot of important strategic and innovative work; A team who are 'on their game' and across all aspects of the business delivering in a challenging environment"

Excellence Awardees 

MAS - Medical Assurance Society

Partners Life Legal team
Perpetual Guardian - Legal

Energy In-House Team of the Year

Winner: Meridian Energy

Judges' comments include: "A good submission showing the achievements over the judging period.; Strong focus of the team and organisation"

Excellence Awardees 

Genesis Legal Team
Lodestone Energy

Telecommunications In-House Team of the Year 

Winner: 2degrees

Judges' comments include: "Huge achievements to be proud of; The transactions and how the legal team dealt with them demonstrate the legal team's ability to handle matters of high significance, complexity, and innovation"

Excellence Awardees 

One New Zealand 
Spark New Zealand
Tuatahi First Fibre Legal & Regulatory Team

Russell McVeagh In-House Team of the Year 

Winner: 2degrees 

Judges' comments include: "Huge achievements to be proud of; The transactions and how the legal team dealt with them demonstrate the legal team's ability to handle matters of high significance, complexity, and innovation"

Excellence Awardees 

Air New Zealand 
Crown Infrastructure Partners 
Fonterra Legal Team
IAG Legal Team 
Meridian Energy 
SkyCity Entertainment Group 
Waikato-Tainui In-House Legal Team
Waste Management New Zealand 

Sponsored by Russell McVeagh


Young Private Practice Lawyer of the Year (35 Or Under)

Winner: Bradley Aburn, Russell McVeagh

Judges' comments include: "An outstanding submission- a demonstrated commitment to the law and the institutions that surround it. Surely a long and illustrious career lies ahead.; Great to see a lawyer contributing in so many ways to the legal profession and the public. Relevant achievements well articulated; Strong external recognition."

Excellence Awardees 

Shane Campbell, Wynn Williams
Zac Fargher, Simpson Grierson
Tayla Johnston, MinterEllisonRuddWatts
Zac Kedgley-Foot, Bell Gully
Rosa McPhee, Chapman Tripp
Jade Magrath, Rice Speir 
Samuel Moore, Wolfe Street Chambers
Jacob Nutt, DLA Piper New Zealand
Elizabeth Ogle, Webb Henderson

Employment Law Specialist Firm of the Year

Winner: Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law

Judges' comments include: "A well rounded submission showcasing internal and external achievements while also demonstrating the breadth of the expertise of the firm."

Excellence Awardees 

Black Door Law 
Copeland Ashcroft Law
McBride Davenport James
Richard Upton 
Watermark Employment Law

Litigation & Dispute Resolution Specialist Law Firm of the Year

Winner: Gilbert Walker

Judges' comments include: "An impressive list of work, with high calibre and complex client types.; Excellent testimonials and awards received. Clearly known for its dispute resolution practice; Submission is well thought out and covers the achievements of the firm well throughout the judging period."

Winner: Wilson Harle  

Judges' comments include: "Impressive range of work and expertise demonstrated.; Professional and compelling; Submission demonstrates the breadth of practice expertise across the firm; Very impressed with this firm's progress - as a relatively new law firm which has quickly become a force to be reckoned with."

Excellence Awardees 

Norling Law
Russell Legal

Intellectual Property Specialist Law Firm of the Year

Winner: AJ Park

Judges' comments include: "A very strong and compelling submission.; Very impressive work- especially the number of applications filed.; The firm delivers responsive client service and high-quality, actionable advice."

Excellence Awardees 

Henry Hughes IP
James & Wells
Zone Law

Property & Construction Specialist Law Firm of the Year

Winner: TBB

Judges' comments include: "A demonstrated market leader in the commercial property field with a team comprising respective and high calibre lawyers serving clients in major projects.; Submission showcases not only deals done by the firm but also identifies key awards received by employees and celebrates their contributions."

Excellence Awardees 

Convey Law
Domain Legal 
Kate Sheehan Lawyers

Insurance Specialist Law Firm of the Year

Winner: Wotton + Kearney Lawyers

Judges' comments include: "Clear evidence of expertise, thought leadership and innovation; Well articulated internal and external achievements.; Impressive track record of representing high profile clients in complex and high-value litigation. Calibre lawyers."

Excellence Awardees 

Darroch Forrest Lawyers
Gilbert Walker

LexisNexis Boutique Law Firm of the Year

Winner: Webb Henderson

Judges' comments include: "Strong client highlights; The list of clients and work is impressive; Deep expertise in corporate, M&A and finance transactions and a rapidly growing competition law practice, involved highly complex transactions; Very impressed with the depth and breath of work this firm undertakes."

Excellence Awardees 

BlackmanSpargo Rural Law 
Dixon & Co Lawyers
Flacks & Wong
Juno Legal 

Sponsored by LexisNexis

Fluid Legal Recruitment Employer of Choice (<100 Lawyers)

Winner: Lane Neave

Judges' comments include: "impressive array of programmes and investment in their people; Great submission putting people transformation at the heart of the business."

Winner: Wynn Williams

Judges' comments include: "All rounded approach to supporting employees; impressive range of initiatives; People clearly are very important in everything they do"

Excellence Awardees 

AJ Park
Juno Legal 
McCaw Lewis
Norling Law 
Norris Ward McKinnon
PwC Legal
SHIFT Advisory 

Sponsored by Fluid Legal Recruitment

Employer of Choice (>100 Lawyers)

Winner: Simpson Grierson

Judges' comments include: "A comprehensive and wide range of programs; Impressive D&I policy, pro bono programme and authentic treatment of pro bono hours; Really solid and building on their impressive foundation with initiatives that evolve with the times; All relevant criteria addressed cohesively."

Excellence Awardees 

Anderson Lloyd
Anthony Harper
Bell Gully 
Chapman Tripp
Russell McVeagh
Tompkins Wake

LEAP Legal Software Mid-Size Law Firm of the Year

Winner: Mayne Wetherell

Judges' comments include: "A top tiered mid-sized firm with an impressive list of clients and projects. Traditionally regarded as a Banking and Finance boutique firm, the depth of expertise that the firm now has will give big sized law firms the run for their money.; Very impressed with this firm and its achievements"

Excellence Awardees 

Cooney Lees Morgan
Harmos Horton Lusk
K3 Legal
McCaw Lewis

Sponsored by LEAP Legal Software

Robert Walters Large Law Firm of the Year

Winner: Russell McVeagh

Judges' comments include: "Expertise across a range of practices and an impressive list of projects.; The D&I strategy refresh deserves special recognition; A serious investment in people and culture.; The firm continues to execute quality work."

Excellence Awardees 

Anthony Harper
Bell Gully 
Buddle Findlay 
Chapman Tripp
DLA Piper New Zealand
Simpson Grierson
Tompkins Wake

Sponsored by Robert Walters

Resolution Institute Mediator of the Year

Winner: Wi Pere Mita, Laidlaw Law and Consultancy

Judges' comments include: "Large quantum of high-quality work, including pro-bono, across many areas, provision of scholarships and training means great knowledge sharing and upskilling for future professionals.; CSR initiatives deserve special praise.; Standout community contribution; Very impressive submission."

Excellence Awardees 

Simon Roughton, Orb Solutions Ltd
Sue Smith, Te Kāhui Tika Tangata | Human Rights Commission

Sponsored by Resolution Institute

Law Firm Leader of the Year (≤100 Lawyers)

Winner: Tim Walden, James & Wells

Judges' comments include: "Admirable bandwidth and results achieved for and with the firm; Impressive overall approach to leading.; Well rounded with achievements well articulated across the judging period."

Excellence Awardees 

Glenn Forster, McCaw Lewis
Sam Hood, Norris Ward McKinnon
Matthew Jones, Wynn Williams
Helen Mackay, Juno Legal
Sally Morris, Morris
Edwin Morrison, K3 Legal
Brent James Norling, Norling Law

Law Firm Leader of the Year (>100 Lawyers)

Winner: Allison Arthur-Young, Russell McVeagh

Judges' comments include: "A great range of impressive leadership activities.; Vision and energy to take the firm forward from difficult times; The accolades and testimonials as well as the awards that Alison has received is a testament of her leadership qualities and skills.; Compassionate leader with a number of important focuses during the judging period"

Excellence Awardees 

Jon Calder, Tompkins Wake
Jennifer Caldwell, Buddle Findlay
Malcolm Hurley, Anthony Harper
Kerry O'Donnell, Anderson Lloyd
Laura Scampion, DLA Piper New Zealand
Hayden Wilson, Dentons


Diversity & Inclusion Initiative of the Year

Winner: Laidlaw Law and Consultancy

Judges' comments include: "A long list of achievements aimed at access to justice during the judging period.; Hugely impressed with this firms investment in D+I; Strong impact in helping other organisations to build on tikanga practices"

Excellence Awardees 

Anderson Lloyd
Buddle Findlay 
DLA Piper New Zealand
Russell McVeagh
Simpson Grierson

The full list of winners can also be found here.

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