New appointment a mix of theory and reality

02 December 2010

Internationally-renowned constitutional lawyer Mai Chen, The University of Auckland Business School's new Adjunct Professor in Commercial and Public Law, will bring invaluable industry experience and insight, and offer top quality teaching skills to students.

Business School Dean Professor Greg Whittred, in announcing the new appointment today, says Ms Chen will enrich the School's understanding of not only the public law issues affecting New Zealand's economy and businesses, but of what expertise new graduates need to be effective in addressing those issues.

"We are absolutely delighted to announce Mai's appointment, as she has a worldwide reputation and a dedication to the promotion of sound constitutional law values and standards in New Zealand," Professor Whittred says.

"We are aggressively endeavouring to link even more closely with business conditions at ground-level in this difficult economic period, and Mai's addition to our stable of international educators will enable us to offer students the wisdom and experience of a respected and knowledgable expert."

"Mai is also an expert at Government's interface with business, and that will be of great benefit to the School."

Ms Chen, a founding partner of law firm Chen Palmer New Zealand Public Law Specialists, says she is excited at returning to teach part-time within the Department of Commercial Law, while continuing to lead Chen Palmer.

"I started life as an academic and absolutely loved teaching," she says. "In fact, I never stopped loving the academic endeavour, because it's about new ideas. There has to be a better way, and as a creative and strategic problem-solver, I believe innovation and research is the best way to find it.

"After 16 years leading the firm, I'm going to give some time offering students my insights which blend the theory and the reality of public law at the business coalface, and in 2011 I'm going to publish a book which will be a marriage of academic theory and real world private practice experience.

"As Albert Einstein said, 'In theory, theory and practice are the same'. In practice, they are not. My book will fill that gap."

Born in Taiwan, Ms Chen moved to New Zealand in 1970 at age six, and later topped her class with a first class honours law degree at the University of Otago. In 1986, she was admitted to the Bar, and in 1988 completed a Masters degree from Harvard University, where she won a prize for the best LLM Thesis.

In 1992, she became the youngest senior lecturer in law in New Zealand at that time, and wrote her first book on discrimination against women, followed by a co-authored book on Public Law in New Zealand for Oxford University Press. She is a fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Management, president of the New Zealand Harvard Law Alumni Association, chair of New Zealand Global Women, has sat on the Securities Commission, and served various board positions within private and public entities.

Chen Palmer this year won the premium award for boutique law firm of the year at the New Zealand Law Awards, and the company has clinched the best public law firm award for the past four years the category has existed.

"I am excited at bringing to the Business School expertise in teaching students how to convert what they learn into value-add and effective problem-solving in the marketplace."