LLM, LLB (Hons), BA, GDipBusStud (Dispute Resolution)
Sonja is the principal of Cooper Legal. Starting her career as a family lawyer and a Youth Advocate (a lawyer working with young offenders), Sonja has undertaken a wide range of litigation work, including employment law, medico-legal work, privacy law, accident compensation work and general civil litigation. Sonja has appeared in all levels of the Courts, including the Supreme Court.
Sonja and her team are part of a small group of lawyers who act for those who have suffered abuse in care (including State care), and are developing the law in historic abuse claims. Sonja has a strong focus on human rights issues, access to justice and the resolution of disputes. In that context, Sonja was a District Inspector of Mental Health for nine years. Sonja was also a member of the New Zealand Youth Justice Committee for some years, as well as local Law Society Committees.
Amanda has been working as a lawyer for 13 years. She began her legal career as a graduate with Cooper Legal before working in an insurance and commercial litigation team and as an in-house employment lawyer. Amanda rejoined Cooper Legal in August 2014.
Amanda works on historic abuse claims against the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Education and various Churches, as well as entities contracted by the government to care for children. Amanda can advise on privacy issues and has a growing practice in the area of prisoner rights, seeking compensation for breaches of the rights of prisoners or people detained by the Police. In addition, Amanda can assist with discrimination claims and employment issues. Amanda has volunteer roles with the youth organisation InsideOut and with the Mother's Project at Arohata Prison.
LLB, BA (Criminology (Hons)(First Class))
Megan joined Cooper Legal in September 2018 as a Senior Associate.
She was admitted to the Bar in 2005 and her first paid legal role was at the Hawkes Bay Community Law Centre as a solicitor/legal educator. Megan then joined John Gwilliam and Co (now Main Street Legal) in March 2007. She left the firm to backpack around Europe and South-East Asia for four months in September 2009. In 2010 she returned to New Zealand and worked at a private law firm in South Auckland. When this partnership disbanded she joined the Public Defence Service (PDS) in October 2010 in Manukau. In September 2011 Megan transferred to the Wellington PDS and worked there until May 2018. Megan then completed her Masters full-time before joining Cooper Legal.
She has volunteered at the Wellington Community Law Centre since 2003 and is on the Volunteer Sub-Committee. Megan has also just been appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Law Centre. She was awarded best community contribution at the In-House Lawyer Awards in 2016 for her work with the Community Law Centre. She has been on the criminal law and parole law committees, and was on the Council of the Wellington Branch of the District Law Society in 2016.
She has undertaken all of her tertiary studies at Victoria University of Wellington. She received her LLB/BA in 2004. She received her BA(Hons) (First Class) in criminology in 2016 and studied part-time while working at the PDS. She completed her MA in criminology in 2018 and undertook this full-time after winning two scholarships and top-up funding from the Victoria University of Wellington Scholarship Office.
Megan has a particular passion for social justice and in expanding opportunities to access justice which is reflected in her commitment to legal aid work and volunteer legal work. This was also reflected in her Honours and Masters study which looked at environmental justice. This was also the reason she has joined the team at Cooper Legal who are committed to social justice and providing high quality legal services to those most in need of them. She undertakes criminal, parole, and human rights work. She is an experienced lawyer with category 3 legal aid provider status in criminal and civil legal aid with extensive court experience in the District Court including judge-alone and jury trial work. She is also an experienced duty solicitor and has PDLA status. She is also available to take private instructions.
In her spare time Megan enjoys spending time with her partner Tony, cat Manaia, and their friends, running, travelling in New Zealand and overseas, getting out into nature, enjoying Wellington’s café scene and reading.
LLB, BA (International Relations and Political Science)
Toni graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with a LLB and BA in International Relations and Political Science. She started out at Cooper Legal in August 2015, as a law clerk. Since being admitted to the bar in December 2015, Toni has continued at the firm as a solicitor.
Toni has volunteered at the Wellington Workers’ Rights Service as an Employment Advocate. She has co-lead a training session at Community Law about historic abuse claims.
Toni works on the residential special school, Health Camp school, psychiatric hospital and Department of Social Welfare historic abuse claims. She is a Legal Aid Lead Provider for civil historic abuse claims.
In her spare time, Toni enjoys being with friends and family, going for long walks, reading and travelling.
LLM (Merit), LLB, Dip Jour, Dip Jour - Radio/TV, Dip Jour - Broadcasting
Lydia holds a Bachelor and Master (with merit) of Laws from Victoria University. She also holds a number of qualifications in journalism from the New Zealand Broadcasting School.
Lydia joined Cooper Legal in mid-2016, after working for a number of public and private entities. This includes working as a journalist and translator for the Human Rights-focused broadcaster, De Human in the Netherlands and as a lawyer at the Public Defence Service.
Lydia is currently a member of the Women in Law Committee and the NZ Animal Law Association. She has also volunteered for Dress for Success and the Refugee and Immigrant Legal Advice Service, through the Community Law Centre, in the past.
At Cooper Legal, Lydia works on general Social Welfare claims, focusing on clients who were at the Whakapakari Programme on Great Barrier Island. She also deals with clients who have suffered abuse at the Dingwall Trust.
When not at work, Lydia enjoys horse riding, reading and yoga.
LLB, BA (Criminology and Spanish)
Esther graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Law and Arts (majoring in Criminology and Spanish).
She joined Cooper Legal in 2016 and is a current Legal Aid Lead Provider for civil litigation. Esther works on historic abuse claims against the Ministry of Social Development, as well as various other entities responsible for the care of children. She also works on matters of privacy and human rights breaches, with a focus on the rights of prisoners and detainees.
Outside of work, she is involved with volunteer organisations such as the Mothers Project, connecting incarcerated mothers with their children.
Olivia completed a BA/LLB conjoint degree at the University of Auckland. Her work experience includes volunteering with YouthLaw Community Law Centre, interning at the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, conducting human rights-related research for criminal barristers, and working as a legal officer in Uganda, providing support to refugees.
Much of Olivia’s work at Cooper Legal focuses on claims against the Ministry of Social Development and Church organisations, but she has also been involved in judicial review cases and other areas of law.
Olivia enjoys painting, creative writing and seeing friends and family in her spare time.
LLB, BA (Criminology and Philosophy)
Steph graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with an LLB and a BA in criminology and philosophy in 2018. She joined Cooper Legal shortly afterwards in July 2018.
During her studies, Steph volunteered at the Women and Employment Law Sessions at the Lower Hutt Community Law Centre.
In her spare time, Steph enjoys reading, roller skating, and travelling.