Otago University Law School outlook for 2014

Dean: Professor Mark Henaghan

Founded: 1873

The first university to begin teaching law in New Zealand, Otago University’s Law Faculty is bringing new ideas in both research and courses in 2014. Professor Henaghan looks ahead:

2013 has been notable for the many achievements of both student and staff at the Otago Law Faculty.

Otago law students showed strong representation in competitions with Alec Dawson making it through to the grand final of the World University Debating Championship in Berlin and being a member of the winning team in the Colgate Intervarsity debating team in New York.

Jayne O’Connell and Matthew Mortimer won the Mahony Cup in the NZ Law Foundation National Family Law Moot while Tom Jemson and Henry Benson-Pope won the Buddle Findlay Negotiation Competition and will now represent New Zealand at the International Negotiation Competition in South Africa in 2014.

Stephen Thompson and Will Cheyne won the Legal Research Foundation Award for student research in 2012, an award Otago Law students have won every year since 2007.

Alongside these successes, eight Otago law students have been appointed as judge’s clerks, three in the Supreme Court, two in the Court of Appeal and three in the High Court.

Staff achievements were also prevalent with Jacinta Ruru winning the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) 2013 New Supervisors Award and Jessica Palmer receiving an OUSA teaching award.

Cambridge University Press has formally agreed to publish Michael Robertson’s Book Stanley Fish on Philosophy, Politics and Law: How Fish Works while a new book co-edited by John Dawson and Kris Gledhill, New Zealand’s Mental Health Act in Practice, was published in November to mark the 21st anniversary of New Zealand’s mental health legislation.

Law Dean Mark Henaghan was grateful to receive the honour of becoming only the second academic to be admitted as an Associate Fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML), a worldwide association of practising lawyers recognised by their peers as being among the most experienced and skilled family law specialists in their respective countries.

In 2014 the Otago Law Faculty will introduce several initiatives with strong benefits for both students and evolving areas of law.

The faculty will implement a newly taught Masters in Law and Emerging Technology for next year. This will build on the work of the New Zealand Law Foundation Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technology and the new multidisciplinary research Centre for Society, Governance & Science. Both centres, which are in the Law Faculty, are undertaking multidisciplinary research into the impact of new scientific technologies (nano-technology, medical, neuro-scientific, digital information, cyber-technologies and genomics) on our society and whether we will have the legal and regulatory frameworks that maximize the benefits for society.

Also the Legal Issues Centre has a major project under way, the first of its kind in New Zealand, to track in detail the progress of civil cases through the court system in terms of what harms and hinders progress, whether it is human, technological or system factors. This project is essential if New Zealand is to have a legal system that delivers justice in a consistent and reliable manner. A strong, efficient, robust justice system not only protects rights but encourages investment in New Zealand.

For students to prepare for legal areas in current and emerging industries the Law Faculty is introducing two new courses.

Based on a strong demand from students and industry we are introducing the “Animals and the Law” course, taught by Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrero. It reflects our rural economy and will help to raise industry standards. Rex Adhar will teach “Law and the Sports industry” with Otago Law graduate, and one of New Zealand’s leading sports lawyers, Warren Alcock giving lectures in the course.

Otago Law students who were founders of Generation Zero have also established “Law for Change” and developed a handbook as a resource for major student initiatives nationwide so Law students are at the vanguard as advocates for positive change.

Speaking of Generation Zero, one of its founders, Louis Chambers, became the Otago Law Faculty ’s 11th Rhodes scholar, and is now commencing his studies at Oxford University while another student, Charlotte Greenfield, received a Fulbright General Graduate Award to attend Columbia University and won an Yvonne A M Smith Charitable Award.

This article was first published in LawTalk 832, 22 November 2013, page 9.