Judge Andy Nicholls

1998-2021, Competition and Regulatory Team & Managing Partner, Wellington
Current role: Wellington District Court Judge

Tell us about your time at Chapman Tripp.

I joined Chapman Tripp in January 1998. I was a young lawyer having just finished judges clerking. I was hired into the litigation team by Helen McQueen, who had recently been made partner and was focusing on competition law litigation. It was a litigation team that included Jack Hodder and Pheroze Jagose, among others. I finished up at Chapman Tripp at the end of 2021.

Somewhere in between those two dates was a brief foray as a public-sector lawyer in a legal team at MED, the precursor to MBIE, which lasted about 18 months before I came back to CT.

Most of my time was spent with the Competition and Regulatory team in the Wellington office (the team now led by Lucy Cooper and Simon Peart). I loved it.

What is the highlight from your time at the firm?

One highlight was the quality of the conversations that happen around the office. Moments when Chapman Trippers would stop briefly to help each other with a problem, or catch up on how things are going and take an interest in what was going on for people. They are important investments in team building, and building connection and trust. When you look back over 20 years, as I now do, you appreciate how good CT is at it, and how it rises to the top when someone asks you for highlights. 

Tell us about your current role and location.

I am a District Court Judge based in Wellington. I do most of my work in the Wellington, Porirua, Hutt Valley and Masterton courts. I mainly sit in the criminal court, with a sprinkling of civil work.

What has been your biggest career achievement since leaving the firm?

Taking the plunge and starting again learning a new craft and a new role. I do think my time at CT helped with this – it has a culture of trying new things, not expecting that it will be easy straight away and knowing that a high standard will take practice and work, and the support of the team around you. That mindset and skillset is a real strength of CT and I have benefited from it. On that last point – the support of the team around you – the folks in my new ecosystem, criminal lawyers, police prosecutors, court staff, have been very supportive as I found my feet.

What else have you achieved since leaving the firm?

And not falling flat on my face in my first year, that was good too.

What is the best thing about your current role?

A lot of the work that goes on in the District Court is problem solving. A very large number of New Zealanders have very tough lives. Most of the time the New Zealander in front of me is taking responsibility for making a mistake by pleading guilty, and the conversation is about understanding how things got to here, and how to influence their path from here. You can’t change the world from where I sit, but hopefully, kiwi by kiwi, family by family, you can help.

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