New Zealand Law – The Legal Aid ‘Rich List’ – Who’s Earning What With NZ Legal Aid?

Legal Aid may be for the little guy lawyers, but it was a Big Law firm that has taken the largest slice of legal aid monies over the past 18 months, figures obtained by legal news and law job site reveal.

Kensington Swan has been paid over $3.6 million in the past 18 months, including over $1.3 million in the six months until the end of last year.

Second on the so-called ‘Legal Aid Rich List’, is Wellington lawyer Sonja Cooper, who has been suing the government on behalf of psychiatric patients for the past several years, at a cost of over $2.8 million to the taxpayer for the 18 month period.

The figures, obtained under the Official Information Act, show payments made to hundreds of lawyers, mainly barristers, and reveal that the top-earning legally-aided lawyers are substantially the same as in recent years. These include Auckland Maori law chambers of Charl Hirschfeld (over $2.8 million for the 18 months), Wellington’s Rainey Collins, who also handle substantial Maori claims work, (over $2 million), Rotorua’s Rangitauira & Co ($1.6 million), Wellington barrister Greg King, presently defending the accused in the Stanlake ‘hands’ murder ($1.4 million), ‘retired’ Victoria University lecturer and Wellington ‘good citizen’ award winner John Miller ($1.3 million).

Interestingly, the highest level of regional payments over the past six months went to the Waikato/Bay of Plenty region, with the top ten recipients receiving over $3.8 million in legal aid fees.

By contrast, the Canterbury ‘Top 10’ for the same period took only $1.7 million.

The full list may be obtained by downloading the report from

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