NZ Lawyer’s 2021 Rising Stars

24 Feb 21

Article published on the NZ Lawyer website, and featuring Melissa Hammer on 24 February 2021.


NZ Lawyer celebrates 39 young legal professionals who rose to the occasion in a year of unprecedented challenges.

The new decade started off with a bang – but not quite the bang people were expecting as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe early in 2020, transforming the way the world operated.

This was no less true for New Zealand’s legal industry. When the country was placed under Alert Level 4 lockdown in March 2020, courts were pushed to go virtual, adopting audio-visual link technology and electronic documents in proceedings. Capital raisings became common transactions, as did sales and acquisitions. Moreover, pandemic-prompted changes to operations altered the landscape of employment law.

In spite of these obstacles, many young lawyers rose magnificently to the challenge, working together with their organisations to deliver strongly in 2020.

Service delivery in remote work
While COVID-19 restrictions gradually eased in New Zealand, the pandemic essentially defined 2020, and adaptability to COVID-19-driven changes in work arrangements proved crucial to the measure of performance.

Lawyers, both those working in-house and those operating from within law firms, had to adapt to remote work, providing advice to clients from behind computer screens. They faced the challenge of delivering services effectively without being able to meet in person. Lawyers’ comfort level in using technology to achieve their ends became key to how well they could, for instance, represent in court, especially in the face of client concerns.

“The legal profession and the courts’ agile response with new technologies and adapting to virtual hearings, electronic filings, and witnessing has made day-to-day working practice – beyond the lockdown – more efficient and sustainable and is a significant change for the better,” says Melissa Hammer, a litigator at Anderson Lloyd and one of this year’s Rising Stars. “The remote work setup had many benefits – particularly more time in the day with less travel and distractions.”

While Hammer acknowledges the reality of ‘Zoom fatigue’ and the difficulty of shifting from work to home life, she believes that many practitioners benefited from the increased flexibility and the lifting of the stigma around remote work.

While some had to adjust to remote work on the fly, there were also those who made the shift more easily, having already trialled working from home to some extent. One example was Rising Star Luke Bowers, a senior associate at Chapman Tripp, who had been working primarily from a home office in Hamilton since 2018.

Nonetheless, the necessity of remote work created a new obstacle for those who were just making strides in their careers, such as Rising Star Mary Rozeboom, who joined independent trustee company Perpetual Guardian right as the pandemic hit in March 2020.

“No one expected a new starter to come on board and have to contend with COVID-19 lockdown and the restrictions of Level 3,” says Theresa Donnelly, legal services manager at Perpetual Guardian. “While Mary had the full support of the team, there was a lot she simply had to work out for herself.”

COVID-19’s industry impacts
Over the past year, the pandemic crippled economies all over the world, and virtually no sector was safe from its effects. As a result, many companies have had to scale back their operations and have needed top-notch legal advice to carefully navigate employment agreements.

In-house employment lawyer Anna Nathu, one of this year’s Rising Stars, works with Air New Zealand’s pilot management team as workplace relations advisor. Among her responsibilities in 2020 was to help the airline respond to the crisis quickly while still meeting its obligations with union partners. During this time, she saw heightened collaboration amongst employment lawyers.

“There was a positive level of information-sharing across the profession as the pandemic response unfolded,” Nathu says. “Employment lawyers around the country were considering and advising on similar questions in various contexts. It seemed to me that the profession was quick to exchange ideas and help each other out.”

In-house counsel also found themselves having to step up their game as more than legal advisors.

“As a legal team supporting our business in a fast-evolving situation, we had to guide colleagues while keeping a cool head and focusing on the legal issues,” says Kristy Redfern, GC and company secretary at AIA New Zealand. “We were integral in the business response to the pandemic, advising our board, supporting the industry response, and keeping our regulators updated on our response and emerging issues.”

For lawyers in private practice, expertise in employment law also played a role in a number of significant deals in 2020. For instance, when global firm DLA Piper advised media giant Discovery on its acquisition of MediaWorks’ TV business, the firm called on employment law specialist Julia MacGibbon, one of this year’s Rising Stars, to conduct the necessary employment due diligence.

Scaling back has also meant divestment for some companies, which helped to boost M&A activity starting in the second half of 2020. Many firms stepped up their work in the commercial space in this time, in many cases completing transactions while coordinating with clients from home. International experience was valuable as well, as there were many cross-border deals on the table last year.

The new landscape for law in 2021
While New Zealand has returned to a semblance of normalcy, the landscape of the legal industry has undeniably changed. Thus, the support lawyers have extended to one another continues to be valuable.

“We checked in on each other regularly, not only to keep across and on top of work priorities, but also informally for a coffee or chat,” Redfern says. “It was great to have the benefit of a wide support network, both internally and externally, to discuss and resolve common issues and manage

the workload. We remain optimistic for 2021 with the vaccine roll-out and the continued containment of the virus in New Zealand; however, we expect there to be continued economic challenges for some.”

Nathu echoes the opinion that the developments in COVID-19 vaccination will impact the profession this year. “I predict that health and safety will be front of mind for many employers in 2021, from issues around mental health to safe work environments for increasingly remote workforces and the implications of being – or not being – vaccinated for COVID-19,” she says.

Meanwhile, Rising Star Ed McGimpsey, a senior associate at Buddle Findlay, has observed how New Zealand’s containment of COVID-19 has spurred increased demand in some practice areas.

“I think 2021 will be a busy year,” he says. “In my area – construction and projects – there seems to be strong appetite to get on with projects and make the most of the unique position that New Zealand finds itself in. More generally, I hope that firms will continue to embrace and lock in the progress we have made with new technology and flexible working arrangements.”

As we head into a new year, NZ Lawyer celebrates 39 young lawyers who, early in their careers, have grasped the opportunity to stand out amongst their peers. In a time when training became a difficult prospect, they took initiative to either educate themselves or to mentor others. They also adapted to technology to continue to deliver excellent service to clients despite being unable to meet in person.

These 39 young lawyers have received the admiration of their fellows in the field, making them worthy of recognition by the greater industry. Read on to find out which young New Zealand lawyers are ready to take the world by storm.


    1. Aasha Foley – Partner/director, iClaw Culliney Partners
    2. Anna Cherkashina – Associate, Norling Law Limited
    3. Ashton Goatley – Senior associate, Webb Henderson
    4. Georgina Sanders – In-house counsel, Mainfreight Limited
    5. Jenny Turner – Partner, Wynn Williams
    6. Renika Siciliano – Executive director, McCaw Lewis
    7. Shane Campbell – Partner, Wynn Williams
    8. Tyler Bellingham – Senior Associate, Rice Speir
    9. Alastair Espie – Senior associate, Duncan Cotterill
    10. Alice Wood – Legal counsel, Kiwibank
    11. Anna Nathu – Senior workplace relations manager, pilots Air New Zealand
    12. Brad Ward – Senior associate, Bell Gully
    13. Caleb Hensman – Partner, Russell McVeagh
    14. Charlotte Evans – Associate, Dentons Kensington Swan
    15. Chris Jury – Employment relations specialist, Canterbury and West Coast District Health Boards
    16. d McGimpsey – Senior associate, Buddle Findlay
    17. Hayden Roberts – Senior associate, Bell Gully
    18. Holly Hill – Partner, MinterEllisonRuddWatts
    19. Jeremy Jones – Legal counsel, AIA New Zealand
    20. Julia MacGibbon – Senior associate, DLA Piper
    21. Kate Tidbury – Senior associate, Simpson Grierson
    22. Ling Yan Pang – Senior associate, Banking and Finance, Russell McVeagh
    23. Louise Trevena Downing – Associate, Dentons Kensington Swan
    24. Luke Bowers – Senior associate, Chapman Tripp
    25. Mary Rozeboom – Solicitor, Perpetual Guardian
    26. Matthew Morgan – Legal business partner, Spark
    27. Matthew Prendergast – Senior associate, Simpson Grierson
    28. Melissa Hammer – Senior associate, Anderson Lloyd
    29. Morgan Evans – Solicitor, Buddle Findlay
    30. Natasha Cannon – Senior associate, Wotton + Kearney
    31. Olivia Lund – Partner, Duncan Cotterill
    32. Olivia Welsh – Senior associate, Anthony Harper
    33. Rachel Brown – Senior associate, Anderson Lloyd
    34. Rosa Winter – Senior lawyer, Friends of the Earth
    35. Sam Holden – Senior associate, Chapman Tripp
    36. Simon Davies-Colley – Director, WRMK Lawyers
    37. Tom Cleary – Senior associate, Chapman Tripp
    38. Tom Gillespie – Senior associate, Russell McVeagh
    39. Tom McLaughlin – Senior associate, Dentons Kensington Swan


In November, NZ Lawyer invited law firms and in-house legal teams to nominate outstanding young professionals in the New Zealand legal industry for the second annual Rising Stars list. Nominees had to be age 35 or under (as of 31 January) and must have shown leadership qualities and recorded significant achievements early in their careers. To ensure the focus remains on emerging talent, past winners were not eligible to enter again. The NZ Lawyer team asked for submissions to be supported with both qualitative and quantitative data where possible.

The team received nominations from across the board, including top-tier law firms and the in-house legal departments of leading companies. The team evaluated more than 80 high-quality submissions from specialists in a variety of practice areas, including employment and corporate law, and considered the recommendations made by their superiors and colleagues. After examining each nominee’s leadership and achievements, the team whittled down the list to the 39 most promising young lawyers in New Zealand’s legal industry.


Read the article on the NZ Lawyer website here.

For more information contact:

Melissa Hammer