"John was a staunch supporter of ADLSI and its independence," said the society's President Frank Godinet. "He was a legal luminary with a keen social conscience - a man who believed in truth and fairness, and a great fighter for justice."
Mr Haigh was "one of the profession's gentlemen," said NZ Bar Association President Miriam Dean CNZM QC. "He was someone both highly respected and popular amongst his peers. This was quite apart from his reputation as one of the country's leading silks in both criminal and employment law."
Stuart Grieve QC, Chair of the Bar Association's Criminal Law Committee, described Mr Haigh as "the consummate professional, a barrister who adhered to the highest standards of the bar both in terms of hard work, knowledge of the law in his specialist fields and sound judgment. He was respected and admired by his colleagues and loved by many of us as a much valued friend."
Mr Haigh was born and raised in Auckland and studied at the University of Auckland, following in the footsteps of his father, Frank Haigh, in choosing a legal career.
Frank Haigh was a lawyer who acted for trade unions, including at the time of the 1951 waterfront strikes. Mr Haigh senior also participated in protests against the 1960 All Black tour to South Africa, with his son John marching alongside him in demonstrations.
Mr Haigh went to the Bar in 1984 and was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1993. His specialties were criminal and employment law - he being the first New Zealand silk to specialise in employment law.
Like his father before him, Mr Haigh acted for numerous unions. He appeared at a number of Royal Commissions and Commissions of Inquiry, including the Parnell Fumes affair and the Marsden Point industrial disputes.
At the time of his death, Mr Haigh had been appearing at the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy. He also acted for the Ports of Auckland in the ongoing, bitter industrial dispute over the contracting out of jobs on the Auckland waterfront.
Mr Haigh had a high media and public profile throughout his legal career. He acted for former Labour MP and Minister, David Benson-Pope, when he was investigated over claims that he had during his teaching career required a pupil to sit with a tennis ball in his mouth.
Mr Haigh also represented former Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards at his rape trial following allegations of historical sexual abuse by Louise Nicholas. In 2007, Mr Haigh acted for "Lion Man" Craig Busch in a high-profile case in which the latter pleaded guilty to two charges of assaulting his partner and also, in 2009, represented retired judge, Michael Lance, who was charged with the wilful damage of a vehicle parked across the driveway of his apartment. Mr Lance was acquitted following a defended hearing in 2010.
Mr Haigh had extensive experience at all levels of the New Zealand court system, as well as four appearances at the Privy Council in London. Additionally, he was an animal lover, giving time to serve on the SPCA's Pro Bono Prosecution Panel and speaking in 2011 in a panel debate at the New Zealand Companion Animal Conference about improving animal welfare laws.
He and his wife Susan both practised yoga and Mr Haigh was also known to enjoy classical music and a drop of whiskey. Mr Haigh and his wife attended a Criminal Bar Association dinner on March 30 to help raise funds for Canterbury lawyers.
Mr Haigh is survived by Susan, and two adult children, Anna and Alastair.