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Our tribute to Telise Kelly

By Jacque Lethbridge - 20 Apr 2023 - 16 comments

It is with deep sadness that we acknowledge the passing of one of our dear colleagues, Telise Kelly who was a Senior Associate in our Litigation team. Telise passed away on 18 April 2023 as a result of a tragic accident that occurred minutes before she was due to appear in the North Shore District Court. This has left our entire firm at Martelli McKegg in shock and we are all in a state of mourning.

Telise was not only one of our brightest stars but one of the brightest stars in the law profession for her generation. Telise was full of heart and courage and greatly admired by all of her colleagues for the passion and skill she brought to the litigation she undertook. Telise was a true leader within our firm and was on the path to Partnership as the next litigation partner at Martelli McKegg. Telise undertook litigation across a broad civil practice but with a specialisation in Trust, Estate and Relationship Property law.

Telise had a great enthusiasm for every aspect of her life and this spilled over into her practice as a lawyer. She was somebody who touched every member of the Martelli McKegg team and was deeply respected by every one of us. We will hugely miss her presence, guidance and support, particularly the litigation team.

Telise's star was one very much on the rise after just 8 years in practice - she had every hallmark of a leader not only in our firm, in her practice area but more broadly in the law profession. Telise attended Auckland University where she obtained degrees in Law and Accounting before being admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court in 2015. Prior to joining Martelli McKegg in 2019 Telise worked in a boutique law firm before working with a senior relationship property and trust law Barrister.

Since January 2019 Telise has undertaken significant litigation principally in the Family Court and High Court and is held in high regard by senior members of the profession and judiciary. Telise is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), a global professional body for trust and estate practitioners including being recognised by STEP as a 'TEP', owing to her specialist knowledge and skill in this area. Telise volunteered her time within the profession including as a member of the ADLS Family Law Committee and was just elected as a member of the Council of ADLS, a position she was incredibly proud to hold.  Telise was a member of the Auckland Women Lawyers' Association and the New Zealand Law Society (NZLS) Family Law Section. Telise was called on to present seminars for other professionals on matters of import in the practice area of trusts, estates and relationship property, including Legalwise, ADLS and NZLS CLE.

Telise hailed from the coastal Far North and was very proud of her heritage. We believe she was one of their finest exports.

We wish to express our deepest condolences and sympathy to Telise's beloved husband Tim, her parents and wider whanau - as well as the whanau of friends she chose. Our hearts go out to you all and we stand with you at this difficult time. We also wish to acknowledge first responders, those members of the public and profession at the scene as well as the judges, staff and lawyers from the North Shore District Court. You have all shown incredible kindness and understanding.

We thank all of those firms, Barristers, members of the Judiciary and clients who have reached out to us and we wish to thank the New Zealand Law Society, Auckland District Law Society, the Meritas network for their immediate support and assistance over these last two days. We also acknowledge those clients affected by this sad event and thank you for your support.

He kōtuku rerenga tahi - a white heron's flight is seen but once. In every sense Telise possessed that rare combination of talent and heart, empathy and tenacity required of great advocates. More importantly, Telise was a great person - the light shone out of her with great radiance and touched everyone she came across. Her rays of sunshine will be greatly missed by us all. Rest in Peace our dear friend.


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To our colleagues at Martelli McKegg

The news of the tragic loss of Telise Kelly is heart wrenching. She was an absolute delight and a talented and impressive lawyer.

The Meritas community will miss her vibrant personality.

Our thoughts are with all of you and Telise's family at this extremely difficult and incredibly sad time.

Much love and thought
The staff of Swaab, Sydney

Mary Digiglioreply

Dear Jacque, thank you for writing this beautiful tribute. I was not lucky enough to have met Telise, but my colleagues at Swaab who knew her were all very upset, and this tragedy was discussed and acknowledged in our partners' meeting on Tuesday. Our thoughts are with all of you at the firm and with Telise's family and friends.

Julie Briscoereply

She was so warm and funny. She will be missed.


This is incredibly sad and shocking. Telise was a delight to deal with and is a great loss to the profession. My condolences to her family.

Jo Wickliffereply

Hello I was so saddened to read of this. I only met Telise last year when she joined the adls family law committee. She was instantly friendly and kind and I was not surprised to see her get elected to council. What a great loss to her family, friends, colleagues and clients. I wish you all strength at this difficult time.

Amy McCormick reply

May I add my sadness

I have just read of the tragic death of Telise. She was obviously not only a rising star in the profession but also a complete and wonderful human being - a loss to us all. My sympathies are very much with you all, her colleagues, and I thank Jacque for her wonderful tribute.

Roderick Joyce QSO KCreply

Telise was a bright star in our darkest days, an amazing barristor and we felt that with her guidance and assistance we got through the toughest times in our family.
I am lost for words on her passing and our heart aches for her Husband-Work Mates and Family.

Telise was part of our family in the sense that she helped us through a very difficult period and was absolutely AMAZING with her guidance and advice. Rest in Peace Telise- the world has one of the best.

Tina Leveridgereply

I read this mornings article in the herald with much sadness as a shining light has faded so soon. I did not know Telise, but have been touched by the tribute that you have left on your website. May her legacy always be remembered and wishing you all can take comfort at this difficult time in the memories you share with Telise, for loved ones will never truly die in our hearts.

Deborah Grace (Birkenhead)reply

Such true and beautiful words.
RIP Telise.


I am so very sorry to read this. It is a very sad time for the staff and partners of your firm as well as for Telise's family and friends. I am thinking of you all.

Joanna Holdenreply

Very sad indeed to hear of Telise's loss to your firm, the profession and her Whanau. Thank you for telling us about Telise in such a fulsome way. Please accept our condolences from the deep south. Telise is a loss to all of us. Te aroha hoki.

Michael Parker reply

What a beautiful tribute. Sincere condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and her work community.

Kaye Whittle, writer, editor, proofer, Hamiltonreply

I am deeply saddened and shocked by Telise’s passing. She was an incredibly vibrant, tenacious, considerate, compassionate, talented and respected lawyer. Her passing is a huge loss to the profession. A beautiful young woman taken well before her time who will be greatly missed. My condolences to you all and to Telise’s family.
Rest in Peace dear Telise.

Patricia Lavusreply

Life is just not fair . How can anyone not feel just empty that someone so talented and special is gone . My heart goes out to her husband and family

Chris rickit reply

A beautiful tribute.

Simon Tupmanreply

Sending my love and condolences to all. So heart breaking. Telise will be dearly missed

Kimberlee sweeney reply

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