Mai was born in Taiwan and immigrated to NZ in 1970 when she was a young girl speaking only Mandarin. She has a First Class Law Honours degree from Otago University, a Masters degree from Harvard Law School, is a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Management, and an Honorary Associate of Auckland University of Technology. She will be awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws by Otago University in December 2023.
Mai is one of NZ’s top constitutional and administrative law experts, specialising in central and local Government policy and legislation, and litigating major public law cases. Mai also specialises in evidential issues concerning cultural and linguistically diverse litigants. Mai is also a judicial review specialist. She is a Barrister with over 30 years of experience in Public and Administrative Law, Te Tiriti o Waitangi Issues, regulatory, judicial review, inquiries and reviews and employment law issues. She has also worked extensively in law and policy reform, as the cases below show, she has also had extensive advocacy experience from the Supreme Court down to various Tribunals. Mai Chen was recently named one of the three most influential lawyers changing the legal landscape in 2023 by NZ Lawyer.
Mai was named in the Top 50 Diversity Figures in Public Life in the Global Diversity List, supported by The Economist. Mai specialises in advising Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) parties in the Courts, especially in areas of regulatory breach and enforcement.
Mai advises on complex employment issues for boards and CEOs and has expertise on investigations and governance issues. She has acted for public and private organisations and is a top legal problem solver and litigator. She is known as a creative problem solver, often of last resort when conventional legal thinking has been tried and failed. She has a gift for settling difficult legal problems. She has a good strategic brain and can pretty accurately predict what is likely to happen and thus how best to prevent a certain decision or achieve a particular outcome. Mai is also a thought leader, a direction setter and a futures thinker.
Mai is approved by the New Zealand Law Society to take direct instructions from clients in certain situations.