New way to be a ‘good lawyer’

Two Auckland criminal barristers have each begun a project to help sentenced people in different ways than defending them or providing legal services.

Susan Gray and Emma Priest, from the recently re-established Blackstone Chambers, aim to follow the words of Barbara Mikulski, who said: “Each one of us can make a difference. Together we make change.”

“As part of our practice we want to contribute to society in a meaningful way,” Ms Priest says. “We decided to create The Good Lawyer platform to do this.

“My first project is the Good Book Project. I want to fill New Zealand’s prisons with books.

“There is a chronic shortage of books in New Zealand prisons, particularly in minority languages. Reading allows prisoners to experience and think about new ideas, and human stories, both similar and different to their own. Either way, reading in prison can offer hope, knowledge and help pass the days and nights in a constructive way.

“So if you have a book (or several) to donate, please send me an email,, or drop them off to me at Blackstone Chambers at 14 Wyndham Street, Auckland.

“Susan’s first project is Shirt On Your Back, an initiative to provide shirts to people held in custody for jury trials or where the media will be present in court. [The aim is] to minimise prejudice based on their appearance.

“As criminal practitioners are aware, many defendants on remand do not have visitors, or access to a clean presentable smart shirt. This causes stress and inequality in the justice process.

“We have permission from the Department of Corrections to have the shirts available at Mt Eden Prison. They will be regularly laundered by Corrections. Discussions are under way to provide the same for women at Wiri Prison in Manukau.

“If you have any good condition shirts, men’s and women’s of all sizes to donate, please deliver them to Blackstone Chambers, 14 Wyndham Street, Auckland. They will be gratefully received. Or email Susan at”