Today, legal advice, along with dispute resolution that avoids courtroom disputes, makes up the central focus of Miriam’s legal practice.
More than 35 years of experience acting for corporates and regulators in commercial dispute resolution shape her legal advice and advocacy, which are grounded in sound legal analysis and a practical, common-sense approach to problem-solving.
Ranked in the top 20 dispute resolution providers at the New Zealand bar in the 2014 Chambers and Partners Survey, Miriam is noted by survey participants for her “terrific brainpower”, “strength in strategic issues and negotiations” and “smart, measured and easy to use [style]”.
Hand in hand with her broad commercial dispute resolution experience goes a particular specialty in competition, consumer and regulatory law. Miriam has represented clients in a diverse range of industries, including electricity, airports, airlines, credit card companies, banking, building, insurance and real estate. She has advised, and acted as counsel, in many significant corporate developments, including the early dairy company mergers, the merger of Carter Holt Harvey and New Zealand Forest Products, and the power company wars of the 1990s.
She has been involved in many seminal cases, including:
- Genesis & Others v Electricity Authority (2013) (a challenge to the Authority’s decision to reset wholesale prices after other power companies had to buy electricity at above-average market prices)
- Commerce Commission v Air New Zealand and Others (2012) (price-fixing claims in relation to freight charges)
- Commerce Commission v Visa and Others (2009) (interchange fees)
- Commerce Commission v ANZ & ING (2010) (alleged misleading selling of ING products – settled without the need for proceedings)
- Securities Commission v Midavia (2006) (Tranz Rail insider trading case)
- Commerce Commission v Koppers (2006) (price-fixing claims in relation to wood preservatives)
- GPG v Perry Corporation (2003) (dispute over disclosure of equity swaps)
- Brambles v Commerce Commission (2002) (successful challenge to the Commission’s refusal to allow the merger of competing suppliers of crates to carry fresh New Zealand produce)
- Commerce Commission v Carter Holt Harvey (2001) (predatory pricing allegations involving Pink Batts).
Miriam has contributed to the following publications:
- Laws of New Zealand: Competition
- Brookers: Gault On Commercial Law
She earned a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Waikato), an LLB (Hons) (Auckland) and LLM (Harvard) before beginning her career in Auckland, during which she has enjoyed a number of legal firsts. She was the first woman to be made a partner at law firm Russell McVeagh (1987) and the first woman to be appointed president of the New Zealand Bar Association (2011-12). She is a former co-chair of the International Council of Advocates and Barristers.
Miriam was made a Queen’s Counsel in 2004, and a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in 2011 for services to law and business.
In 2018, she was made a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Waikato.
Smart, measured and easy to use
—Chambers and Partners Survey 2014
Mediation & Arbitration
Miriam has a particular interest in resolving disputes outside the courtroom.
She was instrumental in forming the group LEADR New Zealand (Lawyers Engaged in Alternative Dispute Resolution) in the early 1990s. Now part of the Resolution Institute, this group was influential in encouraging the use of mediation to resolve disputes.
Having trained with LEADR, Harvard and CDR Associates in Boulder, Colorado, Miriam is able to bring to her mediation (and facilitation) work the benefit of many years’ experience in commercial litigation and governance roles. This, in turn, gives a full understanding of the pressures clients are under to resolve disputes, the options open to them and the likely outcomes if a dispute is not resolved.
Arbitration, again with a mainly commercial focus, has become a more recent addition to her portfolio. Miriam’s approach to arbitration offers clients flexibility while still producing sound, fast and cost-effective results. In her experience, contract interpretation disputes particularly lend themselves to tailored arbitration procedures.
Inquiry and investigative work enables Miriam to use her combined skills to manage a team, identify core issues, marshall complex facts, report concisely and recommend creative but practical improvements.
She has been involved in several government inquiries.
In 2013, she chaired the Government Inquiry into Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Incident (the Fonterra botulism scare). This required a detailed investigation of the dairy industry regulatory system, as well as an examination of the causes of the incident and the responses of the various parties concerned.
The inquiry produced two reports, both of which were delivered on time and within budget. The Government accepted all 29 recommendations in the first report and all nine in the second.
In 2012, Miriam chaired the Dean-Cochrane review of the role of the Solicitor-General and Crown Law. The review examined, among other things, the statutory duties of the Solicitor-General and the functions of Crown Law. It made recommendations to the Government on seven key areas of operation. Recommendations included that the Solicitor-General’s advisory role take precedence over his or her advocacy role and that a dedicated prosecution group be established within the Crown Law office.
Other Government-related review work includes Miriam’s appointment by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in late 2015 to review a report by Acclaim Otago (Inc) into the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) dispute resolution processes. The report’s broad range of recommendations to improve those processes were largely adopted by both ACC and the Government.
Also in 2015, Miriam facilitated post-earthquake discussions with Christchurch engineers over options for the repair, restoration or replacement of Christchurch Cathedral, reporting on the outcome to the Government (through Ministers). A large measure of consensus was reached.
In 2009, Miriam was a member of the Independent Electricity Technical Advisory Group appointed by the Minister for Energy and Resources. That review led to changes to the electricity market industry, including the reallocation of state-owned enterprise assets to encourage greater competition between generators, and the establishment of a Security and Reliability Council to monitor security of electricity supply.