Barrister & Employment Law Specialist
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Barrister and Employment Law Specialist

Graeme can assist you to resolve employment law issues expertly, promptly, professionally, cost-effectively and realistically.

Graeme can assist you to resolve employment law issues expertly, promptly, professionally, cost-effectively and realistically.


Over 40 years of experience in the field of employment law.


As a lawyer and former judge in the field of employment law for more than 40 years, Graeme can assist you in one or more of the following areas of his practice.

  • As a barrister giving opinions and/or drafting pleadings, by applying his accumulated and current expertise independently and frankly; by ensuring that legal advice tendered is protected from subsequent disclosure by legal professional privilege.

  • As a mediator or arbitrator of employment disputes, a focus on legally-compliant, practical and sustainable outcomes; an empathetic, fair, committed and fully confidential process and outcome; and by reaching practicable and innovative solutions that are beyond the limited range of these offered by litigation. Graeme is an Associate Member of AMINZ and is a member of its mediation and arbitration panels for employment disputes.

  • As an independent employment investigator, by providing a fair, legally-compliant, strategic and efficient process to enquire into and reach conclusions about employment relationship problems; to work cooperatively and purposefully with parties, their representatives and witnesses; to report on the issues under investigation; and thereby to contribute either to an early resolution of these, or to provide a sound and transparent basis for subsequent decisions that may be tested in litigation.

Graeme's experience and reputation enables him to work harmoniously and cooperatively with all participants in the employment law arena, employers (both private and government sector), employees, and unions.

Graeme's practicing certificate as a barrister enables him to accept instructions to be a mediator or an arbitrator, directly from parties. However, when acting as a barrister providing legal services (including giving legal advice, and opinions, drafting pleadings, acting as counsel in mediations or arbitrations, and undertaking employment investigations), he must be instructed by a solicitor. Graeme appreciates that these requirements are technical and complex and is happy to discuss what the rules mean in any particular case. As a former judge, Graeme adheres to the convention of not appearing as counsel in courts or tribunals.


Graeme Colgan graduated LLB(Hons) from the University of Auckland in 1976 and was admitted to the bar in the same year.  Graeme practiced as a barrister and solicitor in the fields of employment law, family law, criminal law and general civil litigation until 1987 when he joined the independent bar as a barrister in Southern Cross Chambers in Auckland.
Graeme’s practice continued in the same fields of law until 1989 when he was appointed as a Judge of the Labour Court of New Zealand.  At 35 years of age he was the youngest appointee to that Court or its predecessors. In 1990 the Labour Court became the Employment Court and, in 2005, Graeme was appointed as Chief Judge of that Court.  He retired from judicial office in 2017 after 28 years on the bench, the last 12 as the Chief Judge. Graeme is the longest-serving judge of that Court and its predecessors. He has presided over cases dealing with significant issues of employment law and practice.  He has also presided over numerous Judicial Settlement Conferences (in effect mediations) resolving difficult and sometimes notorious cases confidentially and without need for a public hearing and judgment.
Graeme’s experience has not only included being a judge of the specialist Employment Court, but has encompassed lecturing to undergraduate and graduate classes at the University of Auckland, Waikato University, Victoria University of Wellington and AUT University in Auckland. He has delivered papers and presentations to numerous NZ and overseas employment law conferences. Graeme has lectured at the Royal School for Judges in Cambodia and chaired an ILO project for the reform of the labour laws of Cambodia.

Graeme has been and remains a member of New Zealand and international organisations including LAWASIA, the Australian Labour Law Association, the NZ Labour Law Society, and the Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of NZ, of which he is now an Associate Member (AAMINZ). Graeme is a member of the (North American) Association of Workplace Investigators and is the holder of a Training Certificate (AWI-CH) from that body.  He is also an active member of the Australasian Association of Workplace Investigators and its Auckland Circles.

Graeme is a member of the NZ Football Appeals Committee. He has made numerous submissions to Parliamentary Select Committees considering employment-related legislation.

Graeme is also a member of the Editorial Board of Butterworts Employment Bulletin (LexisNexis) and a contributor to Mazengarb's Employment Law, a leading New Zealand textbook.

Graeme is currently a member of the New Zealand and Auckland District Law Societies and of the New Zealand Bar Association.

In 2018 Graeme was elected by the General Assembly of the United Nations as a UN Appeals Tribunal judge for a term of seven years. This will involve sitting for approximately six weeks per year, starting July 2019.