New Zealand Law Society - Law Society responds to Independent Review recommendations for legal and structural change

Law Society responds to Independent Review recommendations for legal and structural change

The New Zealand Law Society Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa has today released its response to the recommendations made in the Independent Review Report. After consultation with its Council members and the profession, the Law Society has in principle accepted most of the recommendations, including recommendations to establish a new independent regulator and an overhaul of the system for handling complaints about lawyers. The Law Society has provided its response to the Minister of Justice, so that it can be considered for the Government’s legislative agenda.

Law Society President Frazer Barton says “We’ve provided our response to the Minister of Justice, and statutory change is needed if we are going to be able to do more to protect consumers and the public. While the Law Society is working within the current legislative framework, it is overly prescriptive and inefficient.”

“In terms of structure, the Law Society is currently a regulator, as well as a membership body. Many believe this dual role doesn’t serve the interests of the public or the profession well, with the functions sometimes in conflict with each other. The Independent Review Report stated that there is a strong case for a new independent regulator – and I think there is a compelling logic to that.”

“The Law Society remains well placed to act as a national body representing lawyers. We have created significant systems, processes, and services to support the profession. We provide extensive representation and wide geographical support of the profession throughout the motu with 13 branches nationally. We provide a number of representative services which all lawyers in New Zealand may access, including our wellbeing initiatives such as Practising Well.”

“As our recent advocacy supporting lawyer wellbeing and duty lawyer remuneration demonstrates, the Law Society is a strong voice that other organisations reach out to, listen to, and collaborate with. We are strongly of the view that it is important for the Law Society to retain a strong representative function and act as an advocate for principles such as access to justice.”

“The legal profession was provided with opportunities for input throughout the Independent Review process. While it’s fair to say that views across the profession were not unanimous, all the recommendations made by the Independent Panel have either been accepted or accepted in principle by the Law Society, or require further consideration. No recommendations have been rejected.”

Other recommendations accepted in principle include that a Te Tiriti clause should apply to those exercising regulatory functions under that legislation. Further work is required to determine the appropriate language for that clause and how it would operate in practice.

“This particular recommendation from the Independent Review Panel generated some commentary earlier in the year. It is important to note that the proposed recommendation applies to a new regulator, and not to lawyers or the duties they have. The new regulator would be established as an independent statutory body. It would not be a Crown entity, nor subject to directive powers or statements of policy from government.

The Law Society is now looking to government to indicate whether reform will be a legislative priority. This is so that further work can be undertaken to progress the required changes.

“Our vision is that all people in Aotearoa benefit from a strong, progressive and trusted legal profession. To achieve this, we need to be a best practice modern regulator, and a strong voice for profession through our representative function.”

“While this review has been underway, we have made significant progress in line with the Review Panel’s conclusions. We’re moving forward on a number of actions that are aligned with the recommendations. There is a new regulatory strategy in place and this has been a significant step forward on our transformation journey to modernising the regulatory functions of the Law Society and making sure our services are responsive.

“We are also working on our future strategy as a membership body, and will continue to work with the Profession .”

“The Independent Review report and the Law Society’s response have been an important step forward and a significant investment by both the Law Society, and everyone who provided valuable input. We think this work will help to position the legal profession for the future, but there will need to be further discussions and engagement with the profession to find the best way forward,” Mr Barton said.

Read the Response document

Read the Thematic Analysis

Read the Table of Recommendations

More information on the Independent Review

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