News Item

November 2011

2011 Cleary prize-winner announced

David Turner has packed more into his 24 years than most people do in a lifetime – but he’s only just getting started.

A straight-A law student, David is a Supreme Court Judge’s clerk with a raft of legal prizes to his credit. He balances professional success with extensive professional and community work – he’s involved with the Wellington Young Lawyers’ Committee, Professional Pathways, the Red Cross, UN Youth New Zealand, debating, singing, drama and performance.

David is this year’s winner of the New Zealand Law Foundation Cleary Memorial Prize, awarded to young lawyers who show the most promise of service to, and through, the legal profession.

He plans to use the prize to help fund study for an LLM at a major American university – and beyond that, a career in law, and maybe politics.

“I’d like to attain real success in law – as well as practising, I’d like to help develop policy, shape law and do law reform work, perhaps as a member of Parliament,” he says.

The Cleary Prize honours the memory of Sir Timothy Cleary, past President of the Wellington District and New Zealand Law Societies and a Court of Appeal Judge until his death in 1962. It recognises the example Sir Timothy’s own life set for young people entering the profession.

“I’m honoured and humbled to be awarded the prize. It recognises the promise that young lawyers show, and their future potential – so it’s both an honour and a real challenge to make good on that promise,” David says.

“I really appreciate that it doesn’t just recognise academic achievement – it’s also a recognition of broader community engagement and activity.”

David is clerk to Supreme Court Justice Blanchard, assisting him with many significant judgements.

“The more I learn and practice law, the more I appreciate how much law impacts on people’s daily activities – the precedential values that can affect the individual and collective rights of New Zealanders as a society.”

He says legal knowledge has greatly assisted with his community work – this has included mobilising young Wellington lawyers to raise $10,000 in a street appeal for the Christchurch earthquake, as well as greeting Christchurch earthquake “refugees” at the airport and ensuring they were looked after.

While he won’t know for some months whether he’s been accepted to Harvard or Yale, David says the Cleary Prize lends both financial support and prestige to his application, by showing that his many achievements have been recognised by New Zealand’s legal community.

In 2008, the Law Foundation took over administration of the award from the New Zealand Law Society who had administered it since 1964. The original intent of the prize was retained and the value increased to $5,000.

Applications are open to any barrister and/or solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand admitted during the three year period ending on 31 August of the year of the award.

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