Fellowship gives recipients a mid-career boost



Winners of the Law Foundation’s International Research Fellowship credit the award for lifting their legal careers in a surprising variety of ways.

Some early winners say their Fellowship research led to direct career benefits, while others say that the connections they made through their research, or even the prestige associated with the award, had been helpful to them.

The Fellowship is New Zealand’s premier legal research award, worth up to $125,000 annually. It enables recipients of high ability to pursue research, either in New Zealand or overseas, that aims to make a significant contribution to New Zealand law.

Applicants are typically experienced legal practitioners, academics, judges or government officials who have demonstrated high ability in their chosen research fields.

Professor John Dawson 2002 NZLF International Research Fellow

Professor John Dawson 2002 NZLF International Research Fellow

Professor John Dawson of Otago University Law Faculty was the first Fellowship winner in 2002. A prominent mental health lawyer, Professor Dawson travelled to Europe, Canada and Australia in 2003 to study legal aspects of compulsory community psychiatric care.

His 2005 report, Community Treatment Orders: International Comparisons, evaluated other countries’ approaches and made recommendations for New Zealand.

He says the research and overseas connections he made had pushed his publishing to a higher international level: “As a result of this sustained publishing, I was awarded the LLD degree by the University of Otago in 2011, a significant milestone in my career.”

The Fellowship led to wide citation of Professor Dawson’s research in professional literature. The close connections he established with English experts led to writing commissions and collaborations, including with Tom Burns, Professor of Social Psychiatry,University of Oxford, on a major empirical study of the efficacy of the English Community Treatment Order regime.

“I am therefore most grateful for the lift the Foundation’s fellowship gave to my career. From my perspective the Fellowship certainly met its stated aim of giving a significant boost to the research of a person in mid-career,” he says.

Professor Alexander Gillespie 2003 NZLF International Research Fellow

Professor Alexander Gillespie 2003 NZLF International Research Fellow

Professor Alexander Gillespie, international environmental law expert of Waikato University Law School, won the 2003 award. His research examined the legal principles, policy and science of biodiversity, wildlife and ecosystems within international law.

The Fellowship enabled him to produce two volumes, Protected Areas and International Law, published in 2007, and Conservation, Biodiversity and International Law, published in 2011.

He says the Fellowship gives recipients credibility: “That credibility opens doors; it means people notice you.”

The award had been a stepping-stone for him, contributing to his becoming a Professor at Waikato.

“The Law Foundation straddles the profession and academia, that gives it credibility. The Fellowship is practical, not purely blue skies…it’s something that the profession understands more than many other fellowships, which is really valuable,” he says.

Dr Alex Conte 2004 NZLF International Research Fellow

Dr Alex Conte 2004 NZLF International Research Fellow

Dr Alex Conte was a senior international law lecturer at Canterbury University when he won the Fellowship in 2004, to study the interface between counter-terrorism and human rights and identify lessons for New Zealand.

His study involved comparative analysis of Austalian, Canadian and United Kingdom legislation, commentary and case law. The result was his book, Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights in New Zealand, published in 2006.

Dr Conte, now Director International Law and Protection Programmes at the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva, says he enjoyed several career benefits flowing at least partly from the Fellowship.

The Fellowship was “instrumental” to his being appointed Reader in International Law at the University of Southampton in 2006. After that, he worked at the OECD before joining the ICJ – his promotion to his current position in 2013 was “certainly in part due to the expertise and reputation I have in the field of human rights and counter-terrorism law, which grew in no small part as a result of the Fellowship,” he says.

The expertise and contacts gained through the Fellowship had led to ongoing teaching positions, UN consultancy work, publishing and speaking engagements, he says.

Dr Matthew Palmer 2005 NZLF International Research Fellow

Dr Matthew Palmer, now a barrister, was Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of Law at Victoria University when awarded the Fellowship in 2005. His study of the legal status of the Treaty of Waitangi resulted in his book, The Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand Law and Constitution, published in 2008.

The book has become a leading authority and reference on Treaty matters. At the launch, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias said the work “was of the greatest practical importance to our society and its future direction.”

Dr Palmer says that while attending the 2013 Supreme Court hearings of the challenge to the privatisation of Mighty River Power on Treaty grounds, he noticed that each counsel appearing for the parties had a copy of his book on the table: “That gave me a sense that it was contributing to legal knowledge on this subject.”

He says the book had given him credibility on Treaty issues, and had been valuable to his career.

“The opportunity to get an in-depth understanding of the topic gave me a lot more knowledge and understanding about it…I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the Fellowship, he says.

“The fact that the book is still regarded as authoritative has meant that people come to me. It has bought business to me. More importantly, I think that the book has had some influence – some of the core concepts in it are referred to in academic literature.”

· Professor John Dawson: Community Treatment Orders: International Comparisons, Otago University Press, 2005 (can be downloaded at: http://www.otago.ac.nz/law/otagoCTO/publications/index.html)

· Professor Alexander Gillespie: Protected Areas and International Law, Brill, Netherlands, 2007. Conservation, Biodiversity and International Law, Edward Elgar, London, 2011.

· Dr Alex Conte: Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights in New Zealand, New Zealand Law Foundation, 2006.

· Dr Matthew Palmer: The Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand’s Law and Constitution, Victoria University Press, 2008.

The NZ Law Foundation International Research Fellowship is worth up to $125,000 and is awarded annually.  Applications close on 1 September each year.


Full list of Fellowship winners.

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