New Zealand's Leading McKenzie Friend
Vinay Deobhakta is the pioneer of the McKenzie Friend concept within New Zealand. With a legal career spanning 20 years, he has also been a highly successful businessman and entrepreneur
The Early Years
Vinay immigrated to New Zealand from Uganda, Africa in 1971 as a 5 year old. His father was State Attorney of Uganda at the time the notorious General Idi Amin came to power and expelled all Indians from Uganda.
Although the Deobhakta family had been financially successful in Uganda, they had to flee Uganda and arrived in Auckland with a suitcase each! However, they were very happy to be alive and Vinay’s father Avinash, promptly re-qualified and practised as a criminal barrister in Auckland CBD until the late 1970’s.
In 1981, Vinays father was appointed a District Court Judge to sit in Auckland with a jury warrant. He was the first Judge in New Zealand of Indian decent and stayed on the bench until he retired in 2010 - an amazing achievement.
Following In The Footsteps
Vinay graduated with an L.L.B degree from Auckland University in 1990. He went on to enjoy a glittering career as a lawyer, both here in NZ and UK. He started off by working as a commercial lawyer in one of New Zealand’s largest and prestigious firms. He then travelled to UK and worked for an international firm and qualifying as a Solicitor in UK and Wales. Vinay took an active part in a number of major mergers and acquisitions and high profile bankruptcies, liquidations and receiverships when in Europe.
Returning To New Zealand
When Vinay returned to NZ in the late 1990’s he surprised his peers in Auckland by relocating to the Bay of Plenty region to gain “as much trial and criminal jury experience as possible”. Vinay credits this career move as the ‘quantum leap’ which rounded off his legal and litigation skills, giving him an innate knowledge of courtroom/tribunal systems and procedures. After approximately 200 trials “I developed a sense of how things (should) work – and this is something one cannot learn by text book. You need to be taught it by using a system of high level supervision and mentoring."
In 2004 Vinay sold his Bay of Plenty law firm (DMQ Lawyers) and became a barrister sole. He acted in many serious and some high profile cases. However, in 2009 Vinay experienced difficulties with the Law Society over a complaint made by a former client. These difficulties (experienced between 2009 and 2015) lead to Vinay realising the legal system was no longer geared to assisting those without money to have a lawyer look after them. More details of his experience with the NZ Law Society are given by Vinay in the workshops.
These and other personal hardships led to Vinay discovering the McKenzie Friend law in 2010. He began studying it to an in-depth level when asked by the Crafar Farms family to assist them in their high profile battle against the banks and receivers. The dispute involved over $200M of prime NZ farmland and, because he did not have a practicing certificate, Vinay successfully asked the High Court to accept and appoint him as the Crafar Farms official McKenzie Friend. This was agreed, and a confidential settlement was eventually brokered between the Receivers and Crafar Family.
Since Crafar Farms, Vinay has acted as a Professional McKenzie Friend for many Self Litigant clients before the various courts and tribunals in NZ (for example Family, District and High Courts, Taxation Review Authority, Disputes and Tenancy Tribunals, Employment Relations Authority, Real Estate Disciplinary Tribunal and more). Vinay appears in arbitrations and mediations and all other areas of work not specifically reserved for lawyers.
Besides the Crafar Farms litigation, Vinay has also appeared successfully as a McKenzie Friend in the High Court in support of ‘Lionman’s’ mother Patricia, in the litigation which took place over the Zion Wildlife Zoo in Whangarei which appeared in the successful TV series. (Patricia is now one of Vinay’s Accredited McKenzie Friends.)
Making A Genuine Difference
Vinay’s passion is to impart as much of his legal practice and procedural knowledge onto training self litigants and those who wish to become a McKenzie Friend Professional.