Dr Petra Butler


Professor of Law

Deep academic experience and knowledge based on being a fully qualified German lawyer as well as a New Zealand qualified barrister enables Petra to provide tailor-made strategic advice to public clients, solicitors, and fellow barristers in her areas of expertise.  Her clients benefit from her sound judgement and depth of experience in early negotiations, dispute resolution matters or when embarking on law reform.

Petra has over twenty years’ experience working in academia and law reform and nearly twenty years providing barristerial advice. Her career started in Germany where she was admitted to the bar and worked at a law firm and a research institution. She started her New Zealand career as a legal advisor at the Ministry of Justice before joining Victoria University of Wellington over 20 years ago.

Petra has advised on many of New Zealand’s pertinent human rights issues. The commentary on the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 she co-authored has been regularly cited by the courts. Petra also has a love for (international) commercial law, including cross-border contracts and dispute resolution and unjust enrichment and has advised clients in her areas of expertise. As a fully qualified German lawyer she is often asked to provide advice on German law issues.


LLM, Victoria University of Wellington, 1992
Fully qualified German lawyer, 1996
PhD, Georg August Universität Göttingen (Germany), 1998
Admitted as Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand, 2003


Professor, Victoria University of Wellington, 2000
Director, Institute of Small and Micro States, 2018
Director, Forum for International Conciliation and Arbitration, 2020

Awards and memberships

Honorary Senior Fellow, British Institute of International and Comparative Law
Visiting Professorships at Universidad de Navarra (Spain) and Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia),
Victoria University Honours’ List for Contribution to Research, 2020
Visiting Professor, Queen Mary University, London, 2018-2020
Victoria University Honours’ List, Contribution to International Arbitration, 2015
Scholar in Residence, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, London, 2015 & 2018/2019

For a full list of Awards, see people.wgtn.ac.nz/Petra.Butler

Moderator, OGEMID listserv
Member, ICC Institute of World Business Law
Member, European Law Institute
Fellow, Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand (FAMINZ)
Member, Deutsches Institute für Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit
Member, New Zealand Association of Comparative Law
Associate Member, International Academy of Comparative Law
Member, New Zealand Bar Association | Ngā Ahorangi Motuhake o te Ture

For more information regarding Affiliations, see people.wgtn.ac.nz/Petra.Butler

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act: a commentary, Lexis Nexis Butterworths, 2nd ed 2015 (co-authored with Andrew Butler)

The World of Small States (Springer), series co-editor

“Conflicts of Laws” in Di Matteo/Schulz/Janssen/Magnus (eds) International Sales Law:Practice, Contracts and Principles (2nd ed, Beck, Nomos & Hart, 2021) 1035

“The CISG as the Tool for Successful MSME Participation in Global Trade” 38 (2020) Journal of Law & Commerce 207

“Contractual Realities of SMEs – Access to Commercial Justice” 2020 Austrian Yearbook on International Arbitration, 466 (with Christina Geissler)

“40 Years Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG) – Even More Important Today than 40 Years Ago to Encourage Trade?” 118 (2019) Zeitschrift fuer Vergleichenende Rechtswissenschaft 231

“Human Rights in the Fijian, Tongan, Vanuatu, and Samoan Courts” 2019 Comparative Law Journal (special issue) Tony Angelo and Jennifer Corrin (eds) Small States: Selected Essays 109

“Kastom – A Public Policy Exception Under The New York Convention On The Recognition And Enforcement Of Foreign Arbitral Awards” 7 (2018) Indian Journal of Arbitration Law, 104-119 (with Christoph Katerndahl)

“Bilateral Arbitration Treaties: An Improved Means of International Dispute Resolution” UNCITRAL Yearbook 2017 (co-authored with Gary Born)

UN Law on International Sales, Springer 2009 (with Professor Peter Schlechtriem)

For a full list of Publications, including editorships and review activity, see people.wgtn.ac.nz/Petra.Butler

Civil and Commercial Law

In addition to her academic work in the area of (international) commercial law, Petra has substantial experience in providing advice in the areas of (international) commercial law, private international law, unjust enrichment, and German law. Representative advice includes:

  • Advising a Government department on the recovery of monies acquired by fraud and deposited in foreign bank accounts (private international law, unjust enrichment)
  • Advising a Government department on German civil procedure.
  • Advising a Government department on German contract law.
  • Advising a company on a damages’ claim under the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods.
  • Advising private clients on German succession law.

Human Rights Law

Petra has a deep experience in human rights law not only as an academic (she has co-authored the leading text on the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act) but also by advising on NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 and general human matters. Representative advice includes:

  • Challenges brought in regard to the Samoan 2021 election
  • Discrimination challenge under the Human Rights Act 1993, settlement, 2020
  • New Health Ltd v South Taranaki District Council [2018] NZSC 70 on the right to refuse medical treatment
  • Boscawen v Attorney-General [2009] NZCA 12, Electoral Finance Act compatibility with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

Law Reform

Petra is a law reform specialist and has for the last two decades advised the New Zealand Government and international bodies, including the Commonwealth Secretariat and the EU Commission regarding law reform in her area of expertise. The examples include:

  • Lead expert, Commonwealth Study on Challenges to Accessing Arbitration Across the Commonwealth and Potential Solutions, 2020
  • Review of the summary trial system, Ministry of Defence, advice on the application of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, 2019
  • Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) – providing advice regarding anti-discrimination law and policy in New Zealand, 2019 & 2013
  • Co-drafting Code of Ethics for an intergovernmental organisation, 2018
  • European Commission Study on Discrimination– providing advice regarding law and policy in New Zealand, 2006