Mingze Sun Joins Criminal Law Committee

Karun Lakshmnan, the Chair of our Criminal Law Committee, welcomes Mingze Sun into the Committee.

Mingze is a commercial litigator at Morrison Partners and an academic at the Auckland Law School where he is a doctoral candidate and was the Lead Tutor for the Law of Torts and Equity, as well as tutoring various papers including Public Law, Criminal Law, the Law of Contract and Commercial Law. Mingze serves as a Judge on the Moot Court of the Auckland Law School and is the 2023-2024 Editor-in-Chief of the Public Interest Law Journal of New Zealand. He was previously an editor for the Auckland University Law Review (AULR) and his Honours dissertation was published in volume 27(1) (2021) of the AULR. Before commencing private practice, Mingze was a Judges’ Clerk. Prior to law school, Mingze gained over a decade of senior management experience.

Mingze is the founder and CEO of CulturalWise; and UniWise. CulturalWise is a s 27 and psychological reports provider with one of New Zealand’s largest team of expert report writers. CulturalWise boasts a diverse team of exceptionally qualified report writers, featuring PhDs, highly experienced registered psychologists and a rich cultural mix. CulturalWise also maintains one of the most extensive pro bono services for s 27 reports.

UniWise assists university students in their academic endeavours, fostering success in their studies and beyond. UniWise’s current focus is empowering law students through early preparation programs, mentorship and scholarships to ensure academic excellence and success in the legal profession.

Mingze is a member of the New Zealand Bar Association; the Criminal Bar Association NZ; the New Zealand School Trustees Association; and Committee Member of the Law Association. Mingze actively contributes to the legal community as a volunteer solicitor and legal education presenter for Community Law Waikato.

Event Summary: Young Lawyers Committee | Networking Event 

With the support of MAS, on the 5th of October the Young Lawyers’ Committee hosted an networking event at Sweatshop Brew Kitchen in Auckland. This event had a great turnout and it was so nice to get together with like-minded Asian legal professionals and law students to blow off some steam.Pete Lycett from MAS also let everyone know about the wide range of insurance and kiwisaver options that MAS has for young professionals, so if you’re looking for an insurer – check out MAS here

Big thank you to everyone who came and supported us, it’s awesome to see our community grow.  Watch this space for details of our next networking event.

Event Summary: Asian Litigation Committee | Litigation Masterclass: Pleadings

On the 5th of October, 2023, the NZ Asian Lawyers Litigation Committee hosted their first session in the Litigation Masterclass series on pleadings at the Shortland & Fort Centre, sponsored by Tompkins Wake.

Expert panellists Brent O’ Callahan and Linda Hui took the audience through a myriad of practical do’s and don’ts, insightful anecdotes, and deep dives on difficult components of drafting and responding to pleadings.  There was also a thoughtful discussion on the nuances of pleadings for or against parties with a culturally diverse background and where the source documents exist in a different language.  Regardless of their background, a comprehension chasm often exists between a client’s understanding of their case and the technical rigour required for their lawyer to plead it properly.

Thanks to Tompkins Wake for their generous sponsorship of this event, the panellists who produced engaging and quality content, Leo Huang for chairing their joint presentation, and Yvonne Mortimer-Wang for putting it all together.

Keep your eyes out for more from the Litigation Masterclass series.

To see a live recording of this event, please click here.

Please see NZAL Masterclass on Pleadings – Linda’s outline final for an outline by Linda Hui of the key takeaways.

Asian Criminal Lawyers Committee Member Receives Pride of India Award

Congratulations to Anjeet Singh, a member of the Asian Criminal Lawyers Committee, for receiving the Bharat Gaurav Award (“Pride of India”) on 2 May 2023. Anjeet was recognised for her charitable work and community service. Anjeet was honoured to represent India (where her ancestors are from), Fiji (her birthplace), as well as New Zealand (her home).

Event Summary: Asian Women Lawyers Committee | Practical Tips on Career-Planning, Pay Negotiations & Reviews 



The NZ Asian Women Lawyer’s Committee held the Practical Tips Panel on 20 September 2023. The panel discussion had three speakers: Anand Ranchod (recruiter), Jo Stevenson (People and Culture Director at Simpson Grierson) and Jo Pidgeon (director of Pidgeon Judd). The event chairperson was Catharina Chung, Senior Associate of Tompkins Wake Lawyers. Thank you to Tompkins Wake for generously sponsoring this event.

Our attendees enjoyed a conversational Q&A style panel. They learnt that the main reasons for young lawyers moving to a different law firm, are usually to achieve a pay rise or because they want more mentorship. It was great to know how employee-lawyers are evaluated by their employer law firm; and how reviews are conducted. It is important for employees to be curious about how one gets evaluated and that HR team is open to have conversations with employees so that employees can plan ahead and achieve better.

A general message was, be proactive about work and your position; have open conversations with the firm when it is needed. One will be heard and responded.

It was very empowering for lawyers to have this information for their career planning.

Event Summary: Young Lawyers Committee’s First Wellington Event A Success

On the evening of 7 September 2023, the NZ Asian Lawyers – Young Lawyers Committee held an informal networking event in our Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington office.

The focus of this event was to bring together aspiring young members of the legal profession and build a supportive community and network. With one in nine of the legal profession identifying themselves as Asian, Pam Davidson, the Vice President of NZ Asian Lawyers, emphasised the importance of ensuring collegiality amongst Asian lawyers.

Nga mihi to everyone who came along and participated!

NZ Asian Lawyers Secretary a top Finalist in ILANZ Awards

Takeshi Ito

As always, the very well-attended ILANZ Conference 2023 held in Tauranga on 27 and 28 July provided a range of interesting and relevant speakers including Justice Whata speaking on tikanga issues, Diana Voerman-Tam from RBNZ speaking about lessons learned from a data breach and guest presenters including Dame Susan Devoy and journalist Jehan Casinader providing fascinating insights on thriving through multiple careers and seeking common ground respectively.

New Zealand Asian Lawyers Inc. Secretary Takeshi Ito attended and was a finalist for the ComplyWith Community Contribution Award having been nominated by NZAL President Mai Chen. Takeshi was pleased to meet with a number of Asian lawyers working in house who were aware of the work being done by NZAL and were very supportive. We encourage Asian in-house lawyers to join New Zealand Asian Lawyers Inc. and contribute to raising issues relevant to this important sector of the legal profession.

Event Summary: Is there a Bamboo ceiling in the profession, academia and the judiciary?

On Monday night, NZ Asian Lawyers was wowed by the amazingly challenging, and insightful viewpoint from Dean of Law at Oxford University Professor Mindy Chen-Wishart’s address at Russell McVeagh, on ‘Is there a Bamboo ceiling in the profession, academia and the judiciary?’ The short answer to this question is: it has gotten better, but there is still a bamboo ceiling.

She spoke on how there still exists subconscious, and in some cases conscious, racial biases. This is due to pervasive cultural and social stereotyping. There is a hierarchy for racial minorities, in which Asians are among the bottom. For instance, while some accents are considered “charming” – such as Irish or French accents – Asian accents such as Chinese or Indian are instead perceived as rendering the speaker to be “stupid”. Furthermore, many decision makers are not prepared to give opportunities to Asian minorities, as they have “never had one of them” doing the job, creating a vicious cycle in which few are afforded the chance to show that they can break the bamboo ceiling.

There is still much work to do before lawyers of colour and women lawyers and women lawyers of colour can be proud to be themselves and not regret the disadvantage of being born ethnic and female in Aotearoa New Zealand!

If you have experienced discrimination and bamboo ceilings as Asian lawyers, then please email Mai Chen at Mai.Chen@Maichen.nz or Pam Davidson at pam.davidson@lambtonchambers.co.nz or Takeshi Ito at takeshi.ito@millenniumhotels.com or any member of the NZ Asian Lawyers Board if you would like to share, and we will find a way to constructively compile these experiences. The first step to change is always to make the problem of discrimination visible – so others see the lives we live which is often invisible to them.

There was a great turnout, both in-person and online, including Justice Susan Glazebrook, Justice Matthew Palmer and Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

Thanks to Russell McVeagh for hosting this event, and to Lambton Chambers, Wellington, for sponsoring this event. Big thanks to Pam Davidson and to Mei-Fern Johnson!

Below are some photos from the event:

Amicus Curiae: First Wānanga

The latest issue of Amicus Curiae has been published and includes the special section, “Tikanga as the First Law of New Zealand Law: the need for a system-wide cognitive shift | Ko te tikanga Māori te mana tuatahi o Aotearoa: me tōrua marire te au whakaaro o te pūnaha ture nui tonu” .
To read the special section, please click here: https://journals.sas.ac.uk/amicus

The special section begins with Mai Chen’s paper on “the Increasing need for Cultural Experts in New Zealand”, which was written for the Euro-Expert Conference on Cultural Expertise in the Courts in Europe and Beyond: Special Focus on France and International Perspectives, held at the Universite Paris Pantheon Sorbonne on 6-7 April 2023, and is provided as a contextual introduction to the Wananga for those less familiar with the Tikanga development in New Zealand. Following this are the presentations of Justice Joe Williams, Justice Whata, Justice Powell, Chief District Court Judge Taumaunu, Acting Chief Judge Fox and Judge Doogan from the Wānanga on Tikanga and the Law, held on 3 May 2023, at Buddle Findlay’s Auckland office, with support of the New Zealand Bar Association. All of the presentations have been edited and embellished by the judges and should be considered a light-handed introduction to a very complex subject matter, that only expresses one view of Tikanga. The final article is by Justice Emilios Kyrou, a Judge of the Australian Federal Court and President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on “Cultural Experts and Evidence in Australian Courts”.


Amicus Curiae is the official journal of both the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London and its Society for Advanced Legal Studies. The journal is published three times a year and includes a range of articles that raise and explore important legal issues.

Second Wānanga on Tikanga and the Law Presentations

On Wednesday 7 June 2023, the New Zealand Asian Lawyers ran a second wānanga on “Tikanga and the Law”. It was an extraordinary combination of different expertise, experiences and viewpoints. The combination was very successful in helping to work through the difficult issues that tikanga and the law can raise, as well as providing insights into the richness that tikanga brings to the development of the common law and how statutes can be interpreted for the benefit of all New Zealanders, as well as Māori. There was an audience of 200 physically present and online.

Grateful thanks to Karen Feint KCAnnette SykesMatanuku MahuikaNatalie Coates and Kingi Snelgar for providing us with their expertise, experience and insights.

Huge thanks to Bell Gully and Buddle Findlay, who sponsored the event and ensured that the speakers were able to be present at the Wānanga. It was great to have all the speakers there.

The powerpoints will go up on to the Superdiversity website and the Public Law Toolbox Chambers website, as the NZ Asian Lawyers website is still being worked on.

We are currently working on capturing and publishing the many valuable insights that were shared – watch this space.

The first Wānanga will be published in the Amicus Curiae special section, “Tikanga as the First Law of New Zealand Law: the need for a system-wide cognitive shift: Ko te tikanga Māori te mana tuatahi o Aotearoa: me tōrua marire te au whakaaro o te pūnaha ture nui tonu” on the 26 June 2023. We will let you know when it is published Māori, te reo Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is limited. Some of us are migrants and are learning all of this anew. For all those practising within Aotearoa New Zealand, it is critical that we expand our understanding of tikanga to recognise when it is relevant in the cases we are arguing, and to respect and acknowledge tikanga when doing so.

We are delighted to publish the presentations of Karen Feint KC (Advocacy), Kingi Snelgar (Tikanga in criminal law), and (Tikanga and the Law).

Wānanga on Tikanga and the Law Presentations

On Wednesday 3 May 2023, the New Zealand Asian Lawyers hosted a wānanga on “Tikanga and the Law” with the support of the Ngā Ahorangi Motuhake o te Ture / New Zealand Bar Association, at Buddle Findlay. There was an overwhelming attendance at the event, with 80 people attending in-person and 360 online.

The reason for the wānanga was because of the importance of the issue – especially as the place of tikanga in the law of New Zealand has been reinforced by recent Supreme Court decisions including Ellis v R [2022] NZSC 114 and Wairarapa Moana Ki Pouākani Incorporation v Mercury NZ Limited and The Waitangi Tribunal and Ors [2022] NZSC 142.on by the University authorities.

For many of us, our understanding of tikanga Māori, te reo Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is limited. Some of us are migrants and are learning all of this anew. For all those practising within Aotearoa New Zealand, it is critical that we expand our understanding of tikanga to recognise when it is relevant in the cases we are arguing, and to respect and acknowledge tikanga when doing so.


We are delighted to publish the presentations of Acting Chief Judge Fox (Tikanga in the Māori Land Court and the Waitangi Tribunal) and Judge Doogan (Tikanga in Environmental Jurisdiction)

Event Summary: Lessons for My Younger Self – NZ Asian Lawyers Litigators Committee

On 19 April 2023, The NZ Asian Lawyers Litigators Committee, led by Augustine Choi, hosted a lively panel discussion and social function at Bankside Chambers.

Our panelists, Bankside barristers Christine Meechan KC, Julie Ding and Sam Lowery, and moderator Augustine Choi, shared their thoughts on the language, cultural and knowledge barriers often faced by Asian clients and parties when resolving disputes in New Zealand. They also discussed what to do as counsel or as the solicitor when those issues arise.

Event Summary: NZ Asian Young Lawyers Informal Networking Event

On 13 April 2023, NZ Asian Lawyers Young Lawyer’s Committee, led by Danielle Cooper, had its first social networking event at Dr Rudis.

The event was a great success, with a diverse range of Asian lawyers from many different practice areas joining to share drinks, nibbles and make new connections.

We would like to thank Pam Davidson and Takeshi Ito for sponsoring this event. 

Event Summary: Women in Law Panel – Asian Women Lawyers Committee

On Thursday night, 9 February 2023, the Asian Women Lawyers Committee of NZ Asian Lawyers led by Karen Ngan held its inaugural Women in Law panel discussion at Simpson Grierson.   Mai Chen (President of NZ Asian Lawyers welcomed the attendees to the first event in her life where Asian women lawyers were the overwhelming majority and talked about the unique contribution we had to make and the intersectional double disadvantage we sometimes experience in the law. She and Karen encouraged all to support and prefer one another where possible given these challenges.

This was followed by an engaging and insightful conversation between the panellists Seil Kimberley (criminal defence and prosecution), Lucy Luo (tech and start-ups, including First AML) and Lyn Lim (from partnership to governance), facilitated by Kitty Lin as moderator.  The event received hugely positive feedback, from the topics covered (including therapeutic jurisprudence, working with start-ups, board and governance, as well as more personal experiences that were shared honestly and openly by each speaker from mentoring, quitting law, fear of failures and relationship-building through “networking”) to the structure and venue of the event.

There was great energy in the room and the sense that the event, and what the speakers shared, really resonated with people in the room.  It sparked discussions that continued long after the panel session had formally ended. The event provided the opportunity for real connections to be formed, and highlighted the need for more interaction, support, and a general presence of Asian Women lawyers in the field especially for younger students and junior lawyers.  This will undoubtedly be reinforced in future events to come.

The committee, which includes Nova Huang aka event photographer, Alice Kim, Catharina Chung, Celina Chang, Christina Lee, Karen Ngan, Kitty Lin, Sarah Lee, Seil Kimberley, Susan Hur and Tina Hwang, is both pleased to have attendees volunteer to join the committee, and grateful for all the support and contribution that made the event successful, including from New Zealand Asian Lawyers and the team at Simpson Grierson.

Thanks to Karen, New Zealand Asian Lawyers board member, Yvonne Mortimer-Wang who attended in support, and to the current members of the Asian Women Lawyers subcommittee.

Event Summary: Marie Dyhrberg KC Webinar

On 17 November 2022, the NZ Asian Lawyers Criminal Law Committee led by Karun Lakshman held a webinar with Marie Dyhrberg KC, on how to recognise or identify and deal with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Clients (CALD) to ensure that they and their case is fully understood and properly dealt with and therefore their right to access to justice and to competent legal representation is not compromised. 

Marie’s presentation drew upon actual decided cases where the issue had arisen. Marie commenced by making some general comments, based upon her own experience, about practices that could enhance the art of being an effective advocate in court. These comments were particularly helpful because they were generic in that they applied equally to all lawyers who appeared in court, whether in criminal law cases or other cases.

On the specific topic for the seminar, Marie gave an overview about the importance of the role of interpreters. If the client sought legal advice while he was under detention or arrest and before he made a statement or video interview, it was important to identify the client’s correct language and dialect and match that with an interpreter who also spoke that language and dialect – as far as possible. For example, even though many people in India speak Hindi, there are many different languages and within them hundreds of different dialects. Therefore, if a person who speaks some Hindi but whose mother tongue is Gujarati, is detained or arrested and given the caution and BORA rights, he may not fully and properly understand his rights if a Hindi speaking interpreter is used rather than a Gujarati speaking interpreter. Further the Hindi that is spoken in India is different from the Hindi that is spoken in other parts of the world such as Fiji. Therefore, if the interpreter speaks Fiji Hindi the Gujarati detainee will have even more difficulty understanding the interpretation.

If the client sought legal advice after he was charged, it was necessary to carefully examine any police statement or interview that the client gave through an interpreter, to ensure that the interpretation was correct.

Marie emphasised the need to make a pre-trial application to exclude any police statement or interview that was incorrectly interpreted and prejudiced the client’s defence.
Marie discussed the importance of identifying the issue of, and applying for,   name suppression in the context of a client from a culture where publication of his name would have harsh effects on his family, including financial ruination. The necessary evidence must be provided to the court, and if that is done then the judge will normally grant name suppression.

Another issue for many immigrant clients is that the consequences of a conviction, even for a relatively minor offence, can destroy their and their family’s chance of obtaining residence in NZ. Therefore it was essential to seek advice at the outset, before a plea was entered, from an immigration lawyer about the complex and not infrequently- changing immigration laws and policies. Often it became necessary, upon a guilty plea or a guilty verdict following a trial, to apply for a discharge without conviction. The necessary evidence, including opinion evidence from the immigration lawyer, must be provided to the court and if that is done then the judge will normally grant a discharge without conviction.

Finally, Marie emphasised the importance of counsel being fearless in advocating for their client and in the conduct of their case, without of course breaching any of the rules of conduct or rules of court.

Event Summary: Justice Glazebrook – “Tikanga and Culture in the Supreme Court”


On 8 November 2022, at an event hosted jointly by NZAL and Russell McVeagh, Justice Susan Glazebrook, Supreme Court judge and President of the International Association of Women Judges, gave an address entitled “Tikanga and Culture in the Supreme Court”.

Justice Glazebrook discussed the recent Supreme Court decisions of Deng v Zheng [2022] NZSC 76 and Ellis v R [2022] NZSC 114.

In her vote of thanks to Justice Glazebrook, Pam noted the significance of these decisions in creating and shaping jurisprudence that reflects the values of a modern Aotearoa New Zealand.

Event Summary: Asian Litigators Committee Informal Gathering

Following the welcoming of Yvonne Mortimer-Wang (Barrister at Shortland Chambers) and Kavita Deobhakta (Litigation Partner at Morgan Coakle) to the New Zealand Asian Lawyers Litigation Committee, the Committee invited Asian litigators to an informal gathering at Shortland Chambers on the 20th October 2022. This event afforded members the opportunity to meet with Augustine Choi (Co-Chair), Yvonne and Kavita to get to know them in a relaxed social setting.

Event Summary: Asian Experiences in the Legal Profession – Young Asian Lawyers Committee

Mai Chen (Chair of NZ Asian Lawyers), Alison Dymond (Chair of the Young Asian Lawyers Committee) and New Zealand Young Asian Lawyers presented the “Asian Experiences in the Legal Profession” event at Meredith Connell in Auckland.

Attendees were invited to relax and mingle, as Danielle Cooper (Solicitor at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts) chaired the panel, consisting of Edwina Ma (Tax Director of KPMG), Michael Ip (Criminal Defence Lawyer at the Public Defence Service) and Kishan Gunatanga (Senior Solicitor at Chapman Tripp).

We would like to thank Max Hardy (Meredith Connell) for hosting this event.

Event Summary: Deng v Zheng Seminar

On 2 August 2022, the Honourable Justice Goddard, Mai Chen, Jacque Lethbridge and Paul Radich QC presented a seminar on the Supreme Court decision in Deng v Zheng: Guidance on bringing relevant social cultural information to the Court’s attention. This in-person and online event in Wellington had over 350 attendees.

This event was run in conjunction with the New Zealand Law Society, the New Zealand Bar Association and held at Buddle Findlay. 

Please keep an eye out for the forthcoming issue 2.4.1 of Amicue Curiae, which will feature the article by Mai Chen and Court of Appeal judge, Hon. Justice David Goddard titled “Putting a Social and Cultural Framework on the Evidence Act: Recent New Zealand Supreme Court Guidance.”

To view the video of the Deng v Zheng seminar, click here.

Event Summary: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Parties in Courts Seminar

On 17 February 2020, NZ Asian Lawyers and the New Zealand Law Society’s Auckland branch co-hosted a seminar on judges’ perspectives on representing culturally, linguistically and ethnically diverse (CALD) parties in court.

Judges of the Court of Appeal and High Court gave visibility of the issues and challenges raised by CALD parties and practical suggestions as to how these issues may be addressed to help those parties achieve equal access to justice before the Courts.

The participants were: Justices Gordon, Muir, Palmer, Venning, Courtney, Powell and Fitzgerald.

This session followed the launch of the Superdiversity Institute for Law, Policy and Business’s report “Culturally, Ethnically and Linguistically Diverse Parties in the Courts: A Chinese Case Study” (“the Report”) on 18 November 2019 – supported by the Ministry of Justice, the New Zealand Law Foundation, and the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation.

The writeup of this seminar can be found in LawTalk 938.