Judge Craig Coxhead

BSocSc, 1992; LLB(Hons), 1995; LLM(2000; Distinguished Alumni 2020 Māori Land Court Judge, Chief Justice of Niue

I chose to go to the University of Waikato to follow in my brother's footsteps, and ended up studying law more by accident than anything else. My final year of completing a Bachelor of Social Science was the same year that Te Piringa - Faculty of Law opened. Having only three papers to do until the completion of my degree, I decided to enrol in law as well as Māori.

I enjoyed my study experience at Te Piringa which I think was made special by the people who also studied law at the time along with the lecturers. The law school was so different, new, developing and challenging, which excited and motivated me. My favourite papers were my honours directed studies, which provided me with an opportunity to research areas that I was interested in. Having someone like Ani Mikaere supervise me was such a privilege - to be taught by one of the leading minds in terms of tikanga, the first law of New Zealand. Ani Mikaere, and Stephanie Milroy, were amazing lecturers.

For a year during my law degree I was co-president of Te Whakahiapo, the Māori Law Students’ Association. Throughout my time at university I was also a member of Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato Kapa Haka group. I was fortunate to be one of the group members who received a university Blues Award when the university extended the award beyond sports teams to include cultural groups.

After graduating, I began my legal career as a solicitor at McCaw Lewis Chapman, specialising in Treaty of Waitangi matters, Māori land issues and litigation. I then returned to the University in 1997 in an academic capacity with Te Piringa, and have been a lecturer since 2008.

In 2008, I was appointed to the bench of Te Kooti Whenua Māori (the Māori Land Court) and am currently the Waiariki District Judge. Since being appointed to the bench, I have carried out judicial functions for the Māori Appellate Court and undertaken the role of a presiding officer for Te Rōpū Whakamana i te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Waitangi Tribunal) in the Te Paparahi o Te Raki Inquiry.

In 2011 I was appointed a High Court judge in Niue, before being sworn in as the Chief Justice of Niue in 2018. I am also a Justice of the High Court of the Cook Islands and on the executive committee for the Pacific Judicial Strengthening Initiative as the representative for the Chief Justices of Polynesia.

I am committed to developing the next generation of lawyers, and over the years I have maintained my links to the University of Waikato as a guest lecturer and volunteering as a judge for the national Kaupapa Māori Mooting Competitions.

Joe Donald

LLB, BA, 2011 Associate, Braun Bond and Lomas Lawyers, Hamilton

I was 14 when I decided I wanted to be a criminal lawyer. At the time I was attending Saint John’s College in Hamilton, right next door to the University of Waikato. After completing college in Auckland and working in Wellington, I returned to the Waikato to study thinking that my network and connections here would be an advantage in finding my first legal roles.

University in general is a great time and Te Piringa – Faculty of Law was an awesome place to have that experience. I particularly enjoyed the papers law and societies, crimes, and dispute resolution. Al Gillespie was always a crowd favourite in his classes, as was Wayne Rumbles in crimes and evidence. I found equity and succession the most challenging of all the core subjects, which ironically now forms a core part of my practice. My arts papers in history and politics were sometimes a welcome distraction from the law and I thoroughly enjoyed the being able to indulge in that passion while completing my law degree.

I was a member of the executive of the Law Students’ Association in 2009, and have great memories of several law balls. Outside of my studies I played social cricket and was fortunate enough to have a part-time job in a café on campus. I was also able to take advantage of Te Piringa’s international student exchange network, completing my final semester at the University of Copenhagen which was probably the highlight of my student career.

After graduating I made steady progress in my career from acting on mostly legal aid matters in employment, family and criminal law, through to higher-end family and civil litigation in my current role as an Associate at Braun Bond and Lomas Lawyers in Hamilton.

If I could give any advice to students studying law now it would be: you‘re unlikely to receive a $100,000 salary straight out of law school, but stick at it – it gets better. The legal fraternity in Hamilton is very collegial and it is a great place to practice.

Sam Fellows

Sam Fellows

MSpLS, LLB(Hons)/BSpLS, 2013 Manager: Sustainability and Waste, Tauranga City Council

I was in my final year at Otumoetai College in Tauranga when I started thinking about tertiary study, and wanted to follow my interests in sports and law. I’ve always loved learning how things worked, and law because I was fascinated about how laws were made, how we interpreted them, and why as a society we followed them.

I reached out to a few universities to see if I could study both law and sports, and in the end only Waikato was able to pull them both together for me. That was the start of a really positive relationship with the University, and all throughout I felt supported and like they wanted to see me succeed.

I lived in Bryant Hall during my first year, then was an RA afterwards. I found the campus was great, like its own little village where everything was close to home. I made sure I took part in as much as I could, including joining the Māori Law Students’ Association, tutoring classes, refereeing rugby, and working as a student ambassador where I enjoyed sharing all the great things Waikato had to offer with prospective students. I also enjoyed spending time with my friends in the halls and with classmates, and going to events such as the law ball.

After graduating I spent three years in corporate law for Simpson Grierson in Auckland, before returning to Tauranga with my young family to work as a solicitor at Holland Beckett. I was then seconded to Tauranga City Council, before taking on the role of in-house solicitor. Now I’m managing the sustainability and waste team.

I was the first in my family to go to university and I see education as a massive privilege, and I’m very thankful for my experience at Waikato and the opportunities it has afforded me, which I believe have directly contributed to where I am now.

Kahlia Goss

Kahlia Goss

LLB(Hons), 2021 – Environmental Planning Solicitor, Tompkins Wake, Rotorua

I wanted to study law because I wanted to help people (as clichéd as it may seem), but my love of learning and being challenged also played a big factor. Law played to my strengths; I was articulate, had good time management, could juggle multiple things, good at communication, dealing with people, solving problems, and of course – I loved to argue.

I was originally sold on Victoria University but after attending Law Student for a Day at Waikato it completely changed my thinking. I saw how supportive Te Piringa was and how, despite being a smaller law school, still performed well academically. I also liked how Waikato incorporated the Treaty of Waitangi and Māori culture and customs into law papers, as this is a big part of understanding and applying New Zealand law and a major advantage of studying at Waikato.

I loved my time at Te Piringa, particularly that instead of being pushed to compete with one another, we were encouraged to work with our peers. I enjoyed Environmental Law and International Environmental Law (Professor Al Gillespie is an amazing lecturer), and also International Humanitarian Law and Treaty of Waitangi papers.

I made some of the best friendships during my time at Waikato. I was a law student ambassador, a member of Waikato’s Golden Key Honours Society, tutored an environmental planning paper, and umpired the University’s social indoor netball league.

I am now finishing my first year in the legal profession and I’m working to practice resource management law in the future.

Coroner Bruce Hesketh

Bruce Hesketh

LLB, 1995 (Waikato); LLM(Hons), Auckland Coroner, Rotorua

I had served in the New Zealand Police for nine years and was always attracted to the idea of completing a law degree. I chose to resign and dedicate full-time to my undergraduate degree when Te Piringa – Faculty of Law opened in 1991.

That first group of students in 1991 was very diverse. The philosophy of ‘law in context’ was a very pragmatic and helpful way of teaching the degree as it exposed us to the bigger picture of how New Zealand society was developing and embracing its own identity. I was very impressed with the way the law school exposed students to the local legal profession and the Judiciary as well.

Studying at Te Piringa was a real growth experience. My favourite subjects were crimes and evidence, and I particularly enjoyed lectures from Kaye Turner in contracts, now-Judge Peter Spiller, Margaret Evans in employment law, and Barry Barton, who made a very boring topic of land law as least boring as possible.

During my studies I was the first officially appointed chair of the Waikato Law Students’ Association. It was a turbulent year as there were many who saw the Association as a vehicle being used by the Faculty to control the activity and voice of the student body, which was of course not the case. However, universities are wonderful places for individuals to espouse the freedom of expression.

After finishing my masters, I spent 25 years practising in criminal and family jurisdictions, practicing in partnership and as a barrister sole. I was appointed to the Coronial Bench in 2009 and am now a coroner based in Rotorua and covering the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions.

I have enjoyed my time at the Bar, and met many wonderful people and battled in the courtroom with some of the best prosecutors (and judges) in the profession. The criminal jurisdiction is a tough place, but character building. Being recognised by one’s peers as worthy to be elevated to the Bench has been both humbling and rewarding.

My advice to students is to find an area of law that suits your personality, and don’t be afraid to challenge. The legal profession in all its forms is still an honourable one. Research and preparation is 80% of litigation, delivery only 20%.


Angela Kershaw

LLB, 2004 Director, Hamerstons Lawyers Ltd, Whaktane

At high school I always loved a good debate, though not always in the most constructive way! Law seemed like a natural fit for my personality and a way to channel my passion in a legitimate and positive way, and sixth form (Year 12) legal studies cemented my goal to become a lawyer.

I was born and bred in Waikato, so studying at Te Piringa – Faculty of Law was a natural choice. Unexpectedly, public law was my favourite subject during my studies. I vividly remember writing a paper on Te Tiriti o Waitangi as New Zealand’s grundnorm, and Dr Gay Morgan’s passion for the subject was infectious. I also have fond memories of the lifelong friends I made and the long hours in the library with last minute swot for exams.

After graduating I started as a family lawyer with Michelle Cecile in Whakatane, an amazing opportunity that catapulted me into my career as a family lawyer. Following a few years with Ms Cecile I moved to the UK and worked as a child protection solicitor at the Cambridge County Council, where I became responsible for the council’s legal work relating to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, which was amazingly rewarding and interesting. I was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales and regularly appeared before magistrates and county courts.

I returned from the UK to a position at Hamertons Lawyers Ltd in Whakatane where I became a Director in 2012, and remain today as the head of the Family Law and Estates team.

My life as a family lawyer has offered me a varied and diverse working life. I am an approved mental health lawyer, lawyer for child, lawyer for the subject person, a mediator providing family dispute resolution services (FDR) and a FDR voice of the child specialist. I also act in complex relationship property, trust and estate claims and regularly receive appointments as counsel to assist the court.

My advice to students considering law is to keep it real. If you have ambitions to work in the people’s courts, get involved in the community, play sports, work part-time in down to earth jobs. The ability to relate to people is everything – focus as much on that as getting the marks, because in the real world of you law you can’t get by without common sense and insight.


Judge Stephanie Milroy

(Tūhoe, Ngāti Whakaue) LLB (Auckland), LLM, 1997, Distinguished Alumni 2013 (Waikato) Māori Land Court Judge, Presiding Officer of the Waitangi Tribunal, former lecturer

After completing undergraduate law studies at Auckland University, I enrolled in a masters degree there but once I shifted to Hamilton it was easier to do at Waikato. I was also lecturing at Te Piringa, which made it easier still. I chose to study law because I wanted to help my iwi.

As a lecturer some of my strongest memories were concerned with the change in government in 1990. The National government came in and wanted to reverse the policy that led to the setting up of Te Piringa, and failing that they took away the establishment funding which was to support the law school in its first years. Margaret Wilson, the founding dean, had prepared extremely well for this possibility, but praise must also go to the rest of the University and Vice-Chancellor at the time, Wilf Malcolm, who supported the law school through a very tough time. I never once heard a complaint from the rest of the University about the restrictions they faced in order to keep the law school going.

The opening for the law school was also very special. We held it in the old law school courtyard with a powhiri attended by iwi leaders from the Waikato and the wider University catchment area.

Te Piringa was also committed to providing a bicultural and law in context programme for students – something very different from what was being provided by other law schools in Aotearoa at that time. In the first year of teaching in 1991 we held an induction programme for all the law students to introduce them to what a bicultural and law in context programme would look like, and again we were supported by staff from other disciplines in the University (such as Aroha Yates-Smith and Tuti Aranui) who gave Māori perspectives of the legal issues being looked at.

There are also staff members who have sadly died and it is important that they are remembered as part of Te Piringa’s history. Angela Armstrong was lecturing at the University and died in a car crash during the summer break, and staff held a memorial service for her in the old law school courtyard. The first law librarian, who later became a staff member, Anna Kingsbury died this year. Both Angela and Anna made significant contributions to the law school.

I came to Waikato to study and lecture after starting my career in legal practice, and after working on the resource management law reform and for one of the government departments. Following my time at Waikato I became a judge of the Māori Land Court and presiding officer of the Waitangi Tribunal. It is a great honour and responsibility to hold these positions.

The study of law is like learning a different language – it takes time, practice and hard work, but if you stick at it you may find that it is also fascinating, with a wide range of issues to work on. Legal practice is a difficult pathway to follow and not all people, no matter how clever they are, are suited to it. However, law offers many different pathways, not just legal practice. My main advice is to take the pathway that suits you best. You never know where it may lead.


Bolivia Newton

LLB, 2020 Deputy Registrar/Judge's Clerk, Hamilton High Court

I knew from a very young age that law was my calling. I began my Bachelor of Laws straight out of Year 12 at the tender age of 17 by way of discretionary entrance. My reason for studying law is simple: I am passionate about justice, and recognise that ‘justice’ stretches much further than the courtroom.

My mum studied at Waikato, and the University is also close to my home in Tauranga and I was able to complete my first two years in Te Piringa – Faculty of Law there. My favourite papers, much to my shock, were sports law and cyber law. I have no interest or knowledge in sports or anything cyber-related, but I do now have a passion for the law in both of these areas!

I was involved with the law students’ association (WULSA) in 2019 and 2020 as a careers officer and careers and education officer, and was also a member in the Dentons Kensington Swan mentoring programme in 2019 and 2020. Some of my favourite memories of studying are the people I met – I know they will be my friends for life.

In the final two years of my degree I worked part-time as a court security officer for the Ministry of Justice. It was an unconventional path to take, but I wanted to get creative and add as much as possible to my CV if I applied for a clerkship.

Upon graduating I became a deputy registrar in the Hamilton High Court, where I have remained since. I am the case manager for all of the civil files under the jurisdiction of a high court judge. I manage a large number of complex and sensitive files and spend most of my days in court and liaising with judges and counsel.

Recently I was given the opportunity to clerk for one of our high court judges. I undertake legal research and writing and the best part of all of this is realising just how much Te Piringa prepared me for this. In January 2022 I will be leaving the Ministry to join the Office of the Crown Solicitor at Hamilton as a crown prosecutor. This is nothing short of a dream come true and I am so excited to join the legal profession in a way that continues to serve my community. All of these amazing opportunities came about by taking a risk on an unconventional path – it has paid off 10 times over.

My advice to students studying law is to keep going – it does get better and the pressure and dedication IS worth it. Lean on those around you for support, this achievement simply can’t be done alone.

Grades are only part of the picture when you’re out in the ‘real world.’ You land jobs based off of your character, hard work and reputation, and there is always more than one way to get where you want to be.


Judge Terry Singh

LLB, 1994 (Waikato); LLM, 1996 (Queensland) District Court Judge, Waitakere, former lecturer

I left from Ngaruawahia High School as the only student from my year studying law.

In terms of my time as a student at Te Piringa – Faculty of Law, I remember it being a welcoming and embracing institution, something I know is still true today. I want to record my admiration for the strength and tenacity shown by the establishment Faculty to build what is a legal learning platform that has always been at the forefront of recognising how important Māori values and other perspectives are in shaping the direction of our legal system. In particular, my thanks go to Emeritus Professor Margaret Wilson, a trailblazer for championing those voices.

I began my legal career in 1996 in Northland with Palmer Macauley Connell Rishworth and then Webb Ross. In 2004 I became a senior prosecutor with NZ Police and after that spent time with Crown Law and Inland Revenue in Wellington. In 2011 I joined the Public Defence Service based in Hamilton, and then as the duty lawyer supervisor at the Hamilton District Court. In 2019 I was elected President of the Waikato Bay of Plenty branch of the New Zealand Law Society, serving until June 2021. On 19 November I was sworn in as a District Court Judge in Waitakere.

I want to extend my thanks to Te Piringa, which has in various ways, been an important part of my last 10 years. I enjoyed lecturing in criminal law and evidence, guest lecturing, judging competitions, mentoring students in national and world competitions, helping connect students through their courses to Court visits and providing advice around opportunities in the law. It is always a source of satisfaction to see Te Piringa graduates in the working environment making a difference!

I wish current Dean, Professor Alpana Roy, and her team the very best. Although I am leaving Kirikiriroa, I will take its very best traditions of respect for people and their backgrounds with me on my new hikoi, in my new role of Judge in the Waitakere District Court.

Michelle Urquhart

Michelle Urquhart

LLB(Hons – First Class), 2015 Associate, Tompkins Wake, Rotorua

It was the GFC that started my journey to law. I was running a small but growing business in Rotorua providing strategic and marketing support to other businesses, and working part-time for the local MP. The GFC came along, and my services were the first my clients cut. It gave me the opportunity to re-examine where I wanted to go long-term, and after much soul-searching and research, I decided I’d make a good lawyer.

My first two years of law I could study remotely, and in my final years the staff at Te Piringa were wonderful at working with students from outside Hamilton to structure tutorial times to minimise travel time. This, coupled with the strong tikanga focus and large cohort of mature students, drew me to Waikato.

I found my studies life-changing. I felt like I found my place, and was accepted just the way I was. Waikato celebrated difference, and sought to push boundaries. I was challenged and supported, and the fact I had a few more years of experience than other students was seen as an asset, not a problem. In particular I enjoyed lectures from Les Arthur in dispute resolution, Sue Wardill, and Doug Tennant in immigration law.

Some of my other favourite memories include Peter Spiller using songs in his lectures, Gay Morgan’s three humps of constitutional law, curly fries by the lake, lectures by amazing speakers at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, trying to stay awake in jurisprudence lectures, trying to find a seat in the library, and of course walking to Claudelands Event Centre with my graduating class in a light Waikato drizzle (and not caring!).

After working at the Disputes Tribunal for a couple of years, I am now an associate in Disputes Resolution at Tompkins Wake, where I offer immigration, employment and civil dispute resolution legal advice. I also sit on the Board of the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce.