Andrew Charles Beck
It was with great sadness that the New Zealand Law Society Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa learned of the passing of one of the prominent members of our profession, Andrew Beck.
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Andrew’s contribution over 35 years as an advocate, law teacher and legal writer impacted countless New Zealanders through his pragmatic and sensible approach to the law. Andrew made a substantial contribution to the Law Society, including being a member of our Civil Litigation and Tribunals Committee from 1997 to 2021. He was the convenor of this Committee from 2006 to 2019. Andrew represented the Law Society on the Rules Committee from 2005 to 2020, he also supported and worked with our CLE team on various courses/seminars.
“As recounted by his sixth son, Isaac, in his eulogy for Andrew, in August 1986 University of Transkei students rioted,” said Jason McHerron, who was a Law Society representative on the Rules Committee with Andrew for several years.
“They opposed the Government’s attempts to curb free speech. Andrew was a member of the University’s staff association executive, which supported the students’ right to protest. This led to Andrew being deported from Transkei without any opportunity to defend himself. Unsettled by this experience, Andrew and his young family left South Africa for New Zealand.
“[Andrew’s] knowledge was honed through his own litigation practice, scholarship and prolific legal writing. This included three decades of authorship of McGechan on Procedure. Andrew’s co-authors will miss his warmth, intellect and devotion to that publication.
“Motivating his writing, his advocacy, and his Law Society activities was Andrew’s desire to help people obtain the protection of the law. He often assisted less fortunate litigants by working for free or at a reduced fee.
“While on the Rules Committee, Andrew helped ensure the rules enabled litigants of all backgrounds and means to obtain a fair hearing in court.
“Andrew’s abiding concern, cemented in his own life’s experience, [was] to ensure rules of procedure are not used to silence those who may lack representation or the ability to present a worthy claim coherently.”
The Chief Justice, the Rt Hon Dame Helen Winkelmann, commended Andrew for his “great service to the profession and the law through his work on civil procedure.”
“As a fellow [Rules] committee member, I remember Andrew as a feisty debater. He would challenge anyone’s reasoning if he thought it was wrong. He was an advocate for simplicity in the rules, arguing against tinkering with them, identifying the clutter and confusion this can bring. He was always focused on how rules and procedures work to support just outcomes.
“On his retirement from the Committee, I referred to the immeasurable contribution he had made. That was no exaggeration, and I am not the only one to note it. Former Attorney-General Chris Finlayson described Andrew’s contribution to our civil procedure as “immense”. I believe that is right.
“Others will speak of the extraordinary contribution Andrew made through his articles and other legal writing. What I add to that is how much judges valued the insights, and even the criticisms of case law to be found in that writing.”
Pam Davidson, Andrew’s colleague at Lambton Chambers, where he had been in chambers since 2002, said, “Andrew was a valued colleague, fully participating in Chambers activities and events even after he and his family moved to the Wairarapa. He had a wide-ranging practice, and he has appeared as counsel in all levels of the Courts and tribunals in matters as diverse as tax, health law and estate and trust disputes.”
During Andrew’s time on the Civil Litigation and Tribunals Committee (CLTC), he contributed to countless Law Society submissions and other law reform and advocacy initiatives.
“Andrew’s contribution to New Zealand’s civil procedure is profound, and in the same echelon as that of Justice McGechan,” said Daniel Kalderimis, CLTC convenor.
“In addition to his technical expertise, Andrew was a committed and fearless advocate, often working, from his home in Greytown, for uncelebrated clients who needed help navigating the corridors of our civil justice system, which Andrew knew so well. He was a lawyer through and through.”
From everyone at the Law Society and the wider legal profession, we send our condolences to Andrew’s whānau and friends.
At Andrew’s last meeting before his retirement from the Rules Committee in September 2020, his contribution was recognised in the minutes of the meeting:
1. Vote of Thanks to Mr Andrew Beck
The Chief Justice and Mr McHerron proposed that the Committee record a vote of thanks for Mr Andrew Beck’s many years of faithful service to the Committee ahead of his departure from the Committee before its next meeting. It was noted that Mr Beck had been involved in the work of the Committee for so long that it was difficult to ascertain the exact date of his appointment and has made an immeasurable contribution to the Committee’s work during the period of his involvement. In particular, the Chief Justice asked that the minutes record her thanks for Mr Beck’s many years of service; his willingness to contribute his likely unrivalled knowledge of New Zealand’s civil procedure to discussions; and the vital, necessary, and often robust character of his contributions to discussions. The Committee agreed with her assessment that Mr Beck’s departure will be a great loss, and hope that he will continue to make available his expertise. A vote of thanks for Mr Beck’s inestimably valuable contributions to the Committee’s work during the period of his appointment was carried by acclamation.