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Legal Issues Centre | About us

Our goal

Conducting independent, high quality research on New Zealand’s justice system that will inform and influence policy and practice for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

Our values

  • Quality and excellence. We adhere to international best practice in research design, conduct and reporting.
  • Professionalism and Integrity. We are committed to conducting peer reviewed research and hold all staff and students to the highest standards of honesty, respect and professional ethics.
  • Teamwork and Partnership. We foster interdisciplinary, collaborative research within the University and we encourage and develop research relationships with public policy makers, the judiciary, legal profession, non-governmental organisations and the wider community in furtherance of our mission.


The Legal Issues Centre is an interdisciplinary research centre based at the University of Otago. It undertakes research on access to justice with the goal of working towards a justice system that is accessible, affordable, efficient, fair and just for all New Zealanders. We conduct independent, world-leading research on New Zealand’s justice system in order to inform and influence policy and conduct, for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

The Legal Issues Centre was established in 2007 by a generous donation from Marilyn and Grant Nelson (The Gama Foundation) and the University of Otago Foundation Trust. Mr and Mrs Nelson experienced a lengthy and expensive civil court case that they ultimately won in the Court of Appeal, however, the Nelsons saw firsthand the negative effects of protracted litigation. They established the Centre in order for research to be conducted on how the legal system can be made more accessible, affordable, efficient, fair and just for all New Zealanders.

The Centre investigates different aspects of New Zealand’s justice system in line with the Centre's Charter.

Key extracts from the Legal Issues Centre Charter (PDF 76KB) 

Other Activities

Legal Issues Centre Inagural Public Event

On 7 June 2018 the University of Otago Legal Issues Centre hosted Frances Joychild QC and Sarah Sparks in a candid conversation with Centre Director Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin.

Sarah is a self-represented litigant who talks about her experiences, such as what its like to prepare briefs of evidence at the kitchen table in preparation for appearing against senior lawyers in NZ's highest courts. Frances Joychild is a Queen's Counsel who talks about receiving phone calls every day from people needing help when they can't afford lawyer's hourly rates or even court filing fees, and the changes that are needed to our justice system.

The video is available on our YouTube channel for viewing here.

2017 LSAANZ Conference

The Legal Issues Centre successfully co-hosted the 2017 Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand (LSAANZ) Conference that took place place in Dunedin 6-9 December 2017.

The conference theme was A Meeting Place for Interdisciplinary Explorations of Justice and it brought together academics and postgraduate students from around the world who were interested in exploring an inherent component of the law and society discipline: justice.