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James MacGillivray

James MacGillivray


To make an appointment, please contact Bronwyn Thompson bronwyn.thompson@tompkinswake.co.nz

Qualifications : BA, LLB, LLM University of Auckland.


Chambers James MacGillivray    Recommended Lawyer for Bios 2032    Best Lawyers Logo5         

A highly-regarded and accomplished litigator, James regularly represents clients in the higher courts, including the Supreme Court, and in alternative dispute resolution processes such as arbitration and mediation.  With particular expertise in commercial litigation, James brings a wide range of advocacy and advisory skills to any dispute.

James specialises in finding strategic commercial solutions to client's problems. His clients value his ability to communicate complex legal problems clearly and his pragmatic approach to devising effective litigation strategies has been recognised in his inclusion as a recommended lawyer by both Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500 Asia Pacific.  

James was the recipient of the Fowlds Memorial Prize for the most distinguished Honours or Masters student in the Auckland University Faculty of Law while completing his Master of Laws in 2019.

Client feedback:

  • "James McGillivray is a standout litigator. Calm, perceptive and patient." - Client feedback, The Legal 500, Asia Pacific Region, Dispute Resolution 2024
  • "James MacGillivray and Kate Cornegé are first-class litigation solicitors in every aspect, from dealing with clients in a litigation setting to analysis and preparing and presenting arguments." - Client feedback, The Legal 500, Asia Pacific Region, Dispute Resolution 2022

Areas of expertise

  • Building Disputes - Leaky Homes
  • Commercial and Property Disputes
  • Commercial Arbitration
  • Construction and Building Disputes
  • Consumer Law
  • Dairy Industry
  • Electricity Industry
  • Insolvency
  • Insurance Disputes
  • Telecommunications
  • Tender Disputes
  • Local Government Advisory
  • Judicial Review Proceedings
  • Aviation Law Disputes

Other Credentials

  • Listed in The Legal 500 Private Practice Arbitration 2022 Powerlist
  • Named as a 'Recommended Lawyer' in the 2022 Doyles Guide for Insolvency
  • Ranked in Chambers and Partners, Asia-Pacific Guide 2021, 2022, 2023 & 2024 | Dispute Resolution | Band 3
  • James has been selected by his peers to be included in the 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025 editions of the Best Lawyers in New Zealand in the practice of Dispute Resolution & Litigation.
  • Chairman, Waikato Link
  • Tompkins Wake, Board of Partners
  • Tompkins Wake, Risk Committee
  • Recommended Lawyer, Dispute Resolution, The Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024

Professional history

  • Tompkins Wake, 2004 - present
  • Freshfields, Bruckhaus & Deringer, 2000 - 2003
  • Bell Gully, 1995 - 2000

Recent Experience

  • Newfoundworld Site 2 (Hotel) Ltd v Air New Zealand Ltd - Co-counsel for Air NZ with Nathan Gedye QC in the High Court and Court of Appeal successfully claiming the recovery of mistaken payments under a crew accommodation contract.

  • Air New Zealand Ltd v BP Oil New Zealand Ltd - Co-counsel with Nathan Gedye QC in the High Court where the Court laid down principles for determining how to determine contract terms in the absence of a written contract.

  • Open Country Dairy Ltd v Commerce Commission – Acted for Open Country Dairy to clarify the appropriate process that Fonterra should follow in setting the farm gate milk price and how the Commerce Commission should carry out its obligations to review and report on Fonterra’s processes.

  • GC16/20 Re SKYCITY Casino Management – Acted for Hamilton City Council in its submissions to, and appearance before, the Gambling Commission in its successful opposition to SKYCITY Hamilton Casino’s application to substitute 60 electronic gaming machines for three blackjack tables.

  • Pure Elite Holdings Ltd v Bodco Ltd – Counsel for two of the directors of Bodco successfully defending a multi-million dollar claim examining the extent to which fiduciary duties automatically arise from a joint venture.

  • Dovey Aviation Consulting Ltd v Attorney-General – Counsel for the Attorney-General (representing the Minister of Defence) defending negligence claims against the A-G and RNZAF personnel in relation to damage to an aircraft at the Warbirds Over Wanaka Air show.

  • Counsel in the Supreme Court for a large pharmaceutical company opposing an appeal against the earlier decision of the Court of Appeal to strike out a claim based on use of a particular product on the basis that it was a treatment injury and therefore covered by ACC. 

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