The New Zealand Law Society was established by statute on 3 September 1869. The current legislation is the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (LCA), which came into force on 1 August 2008. The Act continues the Law Society and sets out its regulatory and representative functions and powers. The Law Society regulates all lawyers, but membership of the Law Society is voluntary.
Previous legislation provided for 14 district law societies with their own statutory powers, operating in a federal structure with the New Zealand Law Society. The statutory role of districts ceased on 31 January 2009 and, with the exception of Auckland, their assets and liabilities were transferred to the Law Society.
From 1 February 2009, branches of the Law Society were established in all former districts, including Auckland. Many of the Law Society’s new regulatory functions are being delivered from the Society’s branches.
The Law Society’s Constitution sets out the membership, election processes and meeting procedures for the Law Society’s governing bodies. The Law Society is governed by a Council and managed by a Board.
The Council comprises the President (and President-Elect where applicable), the four Vice-Presidents, one member from each branch of the Law Society, the chair or president of each of the Law Society’s sections, the chair or president of the New Zealand Bar Association, and a representative of the large law firm corporation. Representatives of Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa The Māori Law Society and the New Zealand Institute of Legal Executives attend as observers. The Council meets at least twice a year.
The Board acts as the executive body, managing the affairs of the Law Society and exercising most of the functions and powers of the Council under delegation. The Board comprises the President (and President-Elect where applicable), four Vice-Presidents and an independent observer. It appoints members to the Law Society’s law reform committees.
The Law Society is supported by its executive, under the leadership of the Executive Director.
The regulatory functions of the Law Society are set out in s65 of the LCA. They include controlling and regulating the practice of the profession of law in New Zealand, and assisting and promoting the reform of the law (for the purpose of upholding the rule of law and the administration of justice).
Among the Law Society’s regulatory activities are:
- issuing practising certificates
- maintaining a register of lawyers
- making practice rules
- law reform activities, including submissions on legislation
- managing the Lawyers Complaints Service
- operating a Financial Assurance scheme
- operating a Fidelity Fund.
All lawyers are regulated, and must pay the required regulatory fees and levies.
The representative functions of the Law Society are to represent its members and to serve their interests.
Services include continuing legal education (provided by the Law Society through its branches). Branches provide representative services and activities, including collegial activities.
Full membership of the Law Society is voluntary, and is open to any lawyer, that is anyone with a current practising certificate. The benefits of membership include access to the full range of the Law Society’s representative services and the opportunity to have a say in the way the profession is regulated.
Rules for the election of honorary members and for associate members exist under relevant provisions in the Law Society’s Constitution.
Last updated on the 26th April 2019