Ex-senior lawyer training self-litigants
A legal expert is using his knowledge to help South Aucklanders navigate New Zealand’s justice system.
The struck-off lawyer, Vinay Deobhakta, is running workshops at Manukau Institute of Technology teaching people how to represent themselves, or support someone else, in court.
He runs the classes as part of his service McKenzie Friend Professionals. A McKenzie friend is a person who supports another individual in court and does not need to have legal qualifications.
Deobhakta says he teaches very little law in his workshops.
‘‘It’s mostly procedural and about how to navigate your way through tribunals or the Family Court. I motivate people to focus in on whatever issue is important for them, start dealing with it, and give them confidence to go on.’’
Deobhakta says his workshops can also benefit the justice system by increasing people’s knowledge of how it works.
He no longer works as a lawyer due to the NZ Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal ordering he be struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors in 2009.
According to the NZ Law Society, he was ‘‘found guilty of misconduct when he acted for a client who was being pursued by the Inland Revenue Department for unpaid tax’’.
He strongly disagrees with the decision to strike him off, but chose not to seek reinstatement.
‘‘I’m more interested in help- ing others through this training. I came up with the idea of tailormade training when I went through my own litigation with the Law Society.
‘‘I realised if you can’t afford a lawyer or have to do it yourself ... it’s pretty tough and even tougher to win whether you’re innocent or not.’’
Deobhakta says he had 20 years of practice in New Zealand and the United Kingdom under his belt by the time he ‘‘got into difficulty’’ in his career. Not being able to practice as a lawyer led to a ‘‘huge lifestyle change’’, he says.
‘‘I threw myself into counselling. It turned out to be really good for me and it made me realise there’s a lot of injustice in the system. I can help by teaching people how to get around complex procedural issues, especially with courts and tribunals.’’
Go to Facebook.com and search for McKenzie Friend Professionals.
Former senior lawyer Vinay Deobhakta, right, pictured with his business partner Savia Arbuckle, is running legal workshops for self-litigants.