Restating the connection between law and justice, this new lecture series brings community and legal profession together for good.
WORDS NICKY ADAMS
Mackenzie Elvin Law, in partnership with Waikato University, have spearheaded a series of annual public lectures, held at the impressive new University lecture theatre in Tauranga and attended by professionals, students and the general public. Breaking new ground in this space, the first talk was delivered last year by the Hon. Justice Susan Glazebrook, the second in August by The Right Honourable Dame Helen Winkelmann, Chief Justice of New Zealand, who spoke on Access To Justice.
Dame Helen, addressing what could only be called a full house, noted that when she was asked to speak, it had been suggested that she revisit a topic of a talk she gave in 2014. That lecture, she joked, “was a little bit facetiously” titled “Access to Justice: Who Needs Lawyers?” She then went on to clarify the reasons she agreed to discuss this topic at the presentation in Tauranga: “First, because I believe the need to preserve social cohesion makes securing access to justice more pressing today than it ever has been. And secondly, as Chief Justice, I’ve had many opportunities to reflect upon access to justice issues within a broader framework and I’d like to share the perspectives that I’ve gained in that role. And finally, because recent developments give cause for optimism that we can make progress in this area, and we all need a little hope.”
Trying to create pathways for access to justice are exactly the reasons that Mackenzie Elvin has sought to introduce the lecture series to Tauranga. On the night itself, partner Marcus Wilkins explained the reason the law practice wanted to put on the lecture was because now, with a campus in Tauranga and Waikato University offering a four-year law degree, the firm believed it had an obligation to support the faculty, the University and an independent judiciary. Furthermore, he added later, “We understand and defend the critical importance to the liberty of all of us that comes with an independent and fearless judiciary, and equally independent and fearless legal profession. Access to Justice is vitally important for the maintenance of trust and confidence in our democratic institutions and civil society.”
Deeply intertwined is the desire by Mackenzie Elvin to engage with the local community about the issues of law and justice through these lectures – by bringing eminent speakers to the city, to talk about the things that matter to a strong and healthy society, the partners of the law firm are giving back to the community they have been a part of and served for over forty years. As founding partner Fiona Mackenzie explains, “We wanted to provide an opportunity for the public to engage in these issues as they’re not just for the legal profession and academia… We consider we carrya responsibility to do this.”
Vitally, Fiona goes on to point out, “New Zealand’s Chief Justice being willing to come and speak within the space we’ve created is significant. It makes the connection between life on the ground and structural application to our lives and those who have the mandate to ensure that those structures are occurring and happening. I think it indicates that it is no longer the preserve of the professionals.” Moreover, “it gives us the opportunity as a community to grow, and our civil society to develop and deepen as organs of justice are fundamental to a healthy society.” Of her role at Mackenzie Elvin, Fiona says, “Making knowledge available is really important – how we share that and ensure people have access to that information affects them in terms of their everyday lives.
Lecture available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PanzlWuiEkk