Family law specialist appointed QC

Anita Chan is all smiles after her silks ceremony in the High Court at Dunedin yesterday. Photo...
Anita Chan is all smiles after her silks ceremony in the High Court at Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Linda Robertson.

Dunedin barrister Anita Chan has become the first person of Asian descent to be appointed Queen's Counsel.

Ms Chan was surrounded by family and supporters as she was sworn into the Inner Bar during a silks ceremony in the High Court at Dunedin yesterday.

The appointment ''felt like a very momentous thing'', she said.

Ms Chan was the second woman appointed Queen's Counsel (QC) in Otago after Judith Ablett-Kerr and only the second QC appointed in Otago since 1998.

''It's been an extraordinary experience and I feel extremely honoured by the appointment,'' she said.

''But the thing that has meant the most to me is the overwhelming amount of energy that has poured in from friends, family, judges, colleagues here and overseas and it's been deeply humbling.''

She was ''encouraged by a number of people'' to pursue the honour.

''Last year, I bought a normal barrister's gown which if I knew I was going to be appointed I wouldn't have bought,'' she said, with a laugh.

''They are quite expensive and I now kick myself.''

She joins Colin Withnall, Judith Ablett-Kerr, Dr Royden Somerville and Trevor Shiels as Otago-based Queen's Counsels.

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias said the appointment was ''not a prize'' but recognition and acknowledgement of Ms Chan's standing in the legal fraternity.

''All Queen's Counsels are leaders of the Bar,'' Dame Sian said.

Ms Chan had received ''national and international recognition'' for expertise in family law, she said.

''This is an area of specialisation in an area of specialisation and Ms Chan, you have made it your own.''

Ms Chan's appointment to the Inner Bar was ''warmly looked upon'' by judges of the family court, she said.

Ms Chan graduated from the University of Otago with an LLB in 1984 and worked in several Dunedin law firms, dealing with criminal, civil and family law and tribunals.

She joined Barristers Chambers in late 1997, later helping establish Princes Chambers, where she still practises.

She chaired the New Zealand Law Society's family law section in 2000-01.

She was one of 14 Queen's Counsels appointed in June.

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