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Ethel Benjamin Scholarship for outstanding women lawyers announced

11 May 2017


The 2017 New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin scholarship for outstanding women lawyers has been awarded to Johanna McDavitt.

The award honours Ethel Benjamin, New Zealand’s first woman barrister and solicitor, who was admitted to the bar in 1897.  It supports postgraduate research in law that will protect and promote the legal interests of the New Zealand public.

Johanna will use the scholarship to study her LLM at Harvard Law School, focusing on the regulation of commercial conduct, for example through competition law and financial markets regulation.

She says, “I plan to undertake a comparative analysis of New Zealand's civil pecuniary penalties regime. My research will consider whether the level and nature of penalties imposed in the New Zealand regime is effective at deterring illicit conduct, without deterring legitimate business conduct; and whether regulatory defendants receive appropriate protection from the coercive powers of regulators.

“The ultimate aim of my research is to contribute to the discourse in New Zealand, and internationally, about how to design the most effective penalty regime for commercial conduct.”

Last year Johanna was awarded the New Zealand Law Foundation's Cleary Memorial Prize (2016), awarded to one or two New Zealand lawyers each year who were admitted to the Bar in the last three years and who show the most promise of service to and through the profession.

Johanna is a solicitor with Simpson Grierson’s competition and regulatory team.

She is a former Dux (Valedictorian) of St Mary’s College Wellington (2008), following which she completed a LLB Hons at Victoria University of Wellington, majoring in international relations.

The Scholarship is awarded to postgraduate women who hold a law degree and have been accepted into a postgraduate law course in either New Zealand or overseas.

The award is administered by Universities New Zealand on behalf of the New Zealand Law Foundation.  Universities New Zealand administers over 40 undergraduate and postgraduate awards worth over $2million each year.

Applications for the Ethel Benjamin scholarship close on 1 March each year. Information about the scholarship is available at

Last modified: May 11th, 2017