Feb 13 2020

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New Zealand > Insurance > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

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Leading individuals

  • Ian Denton –

Next generation lawyers

At Bell Gully, ‘the service is excellent, with appropriate and experienced resource to meet deadlines‘. One client notes that ‘the advice is always on-point and easily understood, and clients get the benefit of extensive depth of knowledge and experience across all legal disciplines‘. In Auckland, experienced litigators David Friar and Simon Ladd (who is ‘strategically very savvy; his advice is clear and well considered‘) co-lead the practice. Friar’s recent work included acting for Southern Response in a class action that included two High Court hearings and one Court of Appeal hearing. Ladd represented a panel of insurers, including Vero and AIG, in the defence of claims brought by Lincoln University arising from the Canterbury earthquakes. Glenn Joblin frequently advises insurance sector clients on M&A transactions and regulatory matters, as well as handling insurance issues for large corporates. For AIA International, he handled the acquisition of the Sovereign Life insurance business. ‘Intelligent and clear-thinking‘ commercial litigation partner Jesse Wilson is also recommended, having advised key clients including Tower Insurance.

Chapman Tripp acts for numerous large New Zealand and international insurers, including AMP and Tower, as well as a global multiline insurer. Its work focuses predominantly on difficult claims and complex commercial and regulatory matters for both insurers and corporates. This includes policy drafting, securities law issues, new product development and captive insurance arrangements. It is the primary legal adviser to statutory disaster insurer the Earthquake Commission (EQC). John Knight in Auckland and Garth Gallaway in Christchurch lead the practice. Commercial litigator Knight focuses mainly on insurance disputes, which recently has included his representation of AMP in a complex claim brought by a bankrupt claimant. He also leads the engagement with EQC on all aspects of its statutory natural disaster insurance obligations and earthquake-related insurance claims. Bruce Scott in Wellington also advises EQC and worked with Knight on the development of policies to settle novel and complex claims.

DLA Piper New Zealand is ‘superb, it is a pleasure to work with them‘, remarks a barrister. The firm acts for many of the leading New Zealand insurers and reinsurers, as well as for the leading international and local insurance brokers, among them AIG, Allianz, Aon, Chubb and DUAL. Key partner and experienced litigator Caroline Laband has ‘an excellent reputation in every respect‘ and one source refers to her as among ‘the best insurance solicitors in Auckland‘. She recently acted for IAG New Zealand in a test claim relating to earthquake damage to determine whether the reinstatement benefit under a residential property insurance can be assigned to a purchaser of the property. She also defended Allianz in a claim brought by QBE that resulted in a two-day High Court trial. Brad Cuff and special counsel Neil Beadle are also recommended. In Wellington, Peter Leman has ‘strong skills and an excellent reputation‘. Aimee Credin departed to join Wotton + Kearney. Crossley Gates also left the firm.

The lawyers are insurance specialists and deliver consistently thorough, accurate advice,’ say clients of Auckland-based insurance boutique Fee Langstone, and ‘their attention to detail is outstanding‘. One remarks that ‘the firm is amongst the top of its peers in insurance law‘. It has five partners who act for leading global insurers such as AIG, Allianz, Marsh and QBE. Key partner Philippa Fee is ‘very sharp, grasps the heart of an issue quickly and always goes the extra mile‘. Leading earthquake litigator Craig Langstone acted for QBE in a claim brought by one of its insureds for damage to the Pacific Tower in Christchurch. Of Cecily Brick, one client says ‘her ability with respect to technical points of law is exceptional and she has an amazing eye for detail; she is also a very effective advocate, able to argue persuasively‘. Marine insurance specialist Pauline Davies, professional indemnity expert Matthew Atkinson and ‘very smart‘ senior associate Virginia Wethey are also recommended.

Robertsons in Auckland provides ‘very strong advice, with a commercial focus; the lawyers are experts in their field‘, according to one client, while another describes it as ‘one of the best specialist insurance firms in New Zealand‘. ‘They know the industry well and are well organised and prompt‘, sources say of key lawyers Michael Robertson (who ‘has strong legal skills and is good with clients‘), ‘clever, personable and savvy‘ PI specialist Helen Twomey, ‘highly intelligent, very thorough and extremely well-organised‘ barrister and solicitor Rachael Woods and solicitor Jennifer Thompson, who is ‘excellent on strategy‘. ‘The firm is focused on clients’ needs and is very thorough, which results in no surprises‘. The firm has a lean team that punches well above its weight and its stellar caseload of clients, including QBE, Ando Insurance, Allianz, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, sees it climb the rankings. Robertson and Twomey successfully resisted an application for summary judgment in a case against financial adviser Crowe Horwath, having demonstrated that the claim was without merit prior to the hearing.

Insurance boutique Wotton + Kearney took over the New Zealand operation of DAC Beachcroft in late 2017, with six partners moving across. The firm provides ‘a good knowledgeable service in insurance litigation‘ and one client notes that it ‘shows strong business acumen and has never failed to provide timely, on-point advice‘. Managing partner Antony Holden in Wellington leads the practice and has ‘great insurance law expertise‘. He defended a reinsurer in a dispute with a leading insurer concerning adverse development cover. Richard Flinn (who is ‘practical and commercially sensible‘) focuses on professional indemnity, management liability and statutory liability claims, and senior associate Hugh King (who has ‘great technical knowledge‘) are recommended. Auckland is home to standout practitioners such as Sophie Lucas, who is ‘client-focused and gets great results‘; Matthew Francis, who defends civil liability and disciplinary matters; the ‘technically excellent, approachable‘ Mark Anderson, who leads the cyber risk and response team; and Rebecca Scott, who provides ‘cost-effective, sound strategic advice‘. Senior associate Kylie Bates is ‘knowledgeable, extremely efficient and achieves excellent results‘.

Specialist litigation boutique Gilbert Walker in Auckland routinely handles complex and high-value insurance and professional liability disputes. ‘The level of service is very good, the firm is very responsive and has good industry knowledge and experience, and it provides commercial and pragmatic advice‘, says one client. Martin Smith and Iva Rosic (who ‘has great industry knowledge and provides commercial and pragmatic advice‘) lead the practice. Smith and key partner Matthew Harris (who is ‘a really smart guy and a great lawyer‘) defended Tower Insurance in High Court proceedings brought by policyholders following the Canterbury earthquakes, in which three out of the 35 claims reached judgment last year. Associates Alexander Ho and Hamish McQueen also played key roles in those cases.

Auckland firm Hesketh Henry has a broad insurance practice that is best known for its work in liability matters, particularly professional indemnity claims against solicitors and engineers. ‘The firm has significant strength in insurance law; it excels in attending to detail and its skill and expertise in construction matters has proven very useful when dealing with earthquake claims‘. Head of litigation Alan Sherlock and senior litigation partner Brett Morley lead the insurance practice. Sherlock, who ‘brings a calm and considered approach to complex issues‘, acted for Vero Insurance and AA Insurance in the defence of High Court proceedings arising from claims for earthquake damage, one of which had a value of NZ$3m. Morley and Christina Bryant frequently advise AIG on professional indemnity matters, particularly solicitor negligence claims. Nick Gillies handles construction disputes including liability claims against contractors and engineers. Also recommended are marine and aviation insurance partner Simon Cartwright; Helen Macfarlane, who has ‘great expertise and a good eye for detail‘; and ‘very thorough‘ senior associate Stephanie Corban.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts advises on front-end policy design and drafting, as well as the full range of contentious and non-contentious matters for a client base that includes brokers Aon and Marsh, insurers AIG and Allianz, and numerous insureds. The firm also acts for international underwriters, including Lloyd’s syndicates. In Auckland, Andrew Horne leads the practice and has more than 20 years’ experience in insurance disputes. He acted for Medical Assurance Society New Zealand Limited, for which the firm is the sole provider of Canterbury earthquake claim resolution and litigation legal services, in several High Court cases. Experienced trial lawyer Zane Kennedy assisted Aon with a NZ$170m claim brought by Lyttelton Port Company Limited following the Canterbury earthquake. Financial services and investment partner Jeremy Muir has a significant practice in insurance prudential supervision. In Wellington, Stacey Shortall has experience in acting for insurers and insureds in contentious matters, including the defence of class actions. Special counsel Kara Daly is also recommended.

At Simpson Grierson, ‘the legal service is very good‘. The firm provides specialist expertise in life, general, public liability, product liability, professional indemnity, directors’ and officers’, statutory liability, health, trauma and income protection matters. The insurance practice sits with the larger corporate group and handles insurance claims, disputes, M&A, product liability management and regulatory issues. In Auckland, Robert Gapes is one of the practice co-heads and he is among the country’s leading practitioners for product liability matters. Litigator Jania Baigent also handles product liability claims, as well as defending insurers in a range of claims in several industry sectors. Practice co-head Helen Smith in Christchurch is ‘a real specialist in insurance and litigation, particularly in construction PI, and she does a great job‘. One client remarks that she ‘knows her professional indemnity work and has a strong construction law background‘. In Wellington, John Shackleton is highly recommended. He recently advised Wellington City Council in High Court proceedings against liability mutual fund Riskpool.

At Wynn Williams, practice head Jeremy Johnson, who works between Auckland and Christchurch, focuses predominantly on commercial, insolvency, equity and trust disputes, but works closely with the firm’s specialist insurance litigators to handle the firm’s growing caseload of earthquake and natural disaster claims, professional indemnity cases, and claims arising from fidelity, fraud, health, life and travel issues. Johnson has ‘a huge intellect and the client-handling skills to make a top-class litigator‘. Key partner Emily Walton in Christchurch ‘has a superb insurance practice – honed on a steady diet of Christchurch earthquake insurance matters – and she is a hands-on practitioner, always on top of her brief and close to her clients who trust her‘. She advised a building contractor involved in the construction of a school on a leaky building claim, in a case that raised important issues about the liability of co-defendants. ‘Personable, technically sound‘ associate Richard Hargreaves also plays a key role in the practice. In Auckland, key partner Richard Hern is ‘very practical and commercially sensible, particularly in real estate PI matters‘.

Russell McVeagh has a multi-disciplinary insurance practice that brings together expertise in corporate law, finance, litigation, regulatory matters and competition to advise corporate clients on large and complex claims. The firm is currently acting on a multimillion-dollar material damage claim arising out of the recent Kaikoura earthquakes. Key partner and practice head Marika Eastwick-Field in Auckland is leading that work and she has a strong reputation for commercial litigation, including financial markets and construction disputes. Eastwick-Field and corporate partner Joe Windmeyer frequently advise clients on the terms of warranty and indemnity insurance policies as part of M&A transactions. Key partner Sarah Armstrong handles insurance disputes as part of her broader litigation practice. She worked with corporate partner Pip Greenwood on a proposed insurance sector merger that was denied clearance by the Commerce Commission. In Wellington, finance partner Tom Hunt handles financial regulation matters for a broad client base of banks, insurers and corporates.

The four partners at litigation boutique Wilson Harle in Auckland handle insurance disputes as part of a broad range of commercial litigation work. The firm stands out because it does not primarily act for local market general insurers, so often receives referrals from other law firms and brokers in conflict situations. The practice acts for the New Zealand arm of international insurance broker Marsh, and its recent work also includes significant matters for overseas-based insurers or reinsurers, and for local life and disability insurer Fidelity Life Assurance. Ian Denton, Chris Browne, Allison Ferguson and Felicity Monteiro are all highly respected litigators. Denton frequently advises Marsh on contentious and non-contentious matters, and recently handled several high-value disputes for Fidelity. Ferguson acted for Napier City Council in proceedings issued against its indemnifier seeking a declaration on the meaning of an exclusion clause which the indemnifier claims enables it to avoid liability entirely.

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