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Ethel Benjamin Scholarship winners Harvard bound

13 June 2024 | media

The New Zealand Law Foundation along with Universities New Zealand Te Pōkai Tara are delighted to announce that Madeleine (Maddy) Nash and Hannah Yang have been awarded the 2024 New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Scholarship.

Both Maddy and Hannah have chosen and been accepted into Harvard Law School and, with additional financial assistance from other scholarships, will be taking up their studies in August this year.

Maddy Nash

Maddy graduated with an LLB (Hons) from Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington in 2019, receiving the Victoria Medal for first in her cohort. Following study on exchange, Maddy graduated with a BCom (econ/fina) in 2020. She clerked for the Hon Justice William Young at the New Zealand Supreme Court | Te Kōti Mana Nui o Aotearoa, and, since 2022, has worked across commercial ligation, regulatory law and criminal prosecution at Meredith Connell, the Office of the Crown Solicitor in Auckland.

Although Maddy is interested in many areas of law and wishes to maintain a broad practice, she will focus on developing expertise in competition law, financial markets law, consumer law and white-collar crime through her overseas study. Maddy is confident that studies at Harvard Law School will enable her to significantly increase her knowledge of these areas as well as build a strong international network with others who practice or research them. 

“My chosen focus areas appeal to my enjoyment of solving complex problems that draw on my interests and previous study in law, economics and finance. The United States has lots of regulatory activity in these areas, especially recently. They are also areas in which New Zealand draws a lot on overseas approaches. I am looking forward to immersing myself in a different environment and bringing back what I learn.”

Maddy greatly enjoyed the part‑time roles she held at university clerking at Te Aka Matua o te Ture | Law Commission and tutoring public law at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University. When she returns home, she looks forward to sharing what she’s learnt and contributing to law reform and teaching in Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as through her practice.

Hannah Yang

Hannah graduated with a BA/LLB (Hons) from the University of Auckland Waipapa Taumata Rau in 2019, before working as Clerk to the Hon Justice Williams at the New Zealand Supreme Court | Te Kōti Mana Nui o Aotearoa. She is currently a Junior Barrister at Thorndon Chambers in Wellington where she has acted as junior counsel in a range of cases involving public, constitutional, human rights, climate change and Tiriti o Waitangi law. She has been praised for her intellect, high degree of empathy, and exceptional ability to bring both a wide-angle systems lens and a case-specific microscope to problem solving.

Hannah has broad legal interests, one of which is the evolution of public law in Aotearoa New Zealand and the increasing incorporation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“Greater recognition of the Treaty as a constitutional document in our law is long overdue, seeing as it is the basis upon which the modern New Zealand state was founded. There are questions, however, as to how such recognition should be effected, and whether it is legitimate for development to continue solely through the courts.”

Hannah intends to use her time at Harvard Law School to do further study into constitutional and democratic theory, so that she can consider the bases for legislative and judicial authority, how New Zealand’s unique history affects those justifications, and what this means for how the Treaty ought to be incorporated in New Zealand law. In doing so, she hopes to contribute meaningfully to New Zealand’s Treaty jurisprudence and the direction in which the law is headed in the near future.

The Ethel Benjamin Scholarship was established in 1997 by the New Zealand Law Foundation to mark the centenary of the admission of Ethel Benjamin as the first woman barrister and solicitor in New Zealand, and only the second woman in the British Empire to become a lawyer.

For over 25 years, this award, valued at up to $30,000, has supported postgraduate research in law that aims to protect and promote the legal interests of the New Zealand public.

Applications for the Ethel Benjamin scholarship close on 1 February each year.

More information about the scholarship is available on the Universities New Zealand - Te Pōkai Tara website here. Information about past recipients is available at the New Zealand Law Foundation.

For more information about this year’s recipient or to arrange an interview, contact or +64 27 636 5050