The New Zealand Law Society was established by statute in 1869. The current legislation is the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (LCA), which came into force on 1 August 2008. The Act continues the Society and sets out its regulatory and representative functions and powers. The Society regulates all lawyers, but membership of the 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 New Zealand Law Society.
From 1 February 2009, branches of the New Zealand Law Society were established in all former districts, including Auckland.
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 Society’s sections, the chair or president of the New Zealand Bar Association, and a representative of the large law firm corporation. The Council meets at least once a year.
The Board acts as the executive body, managing the affairs of the Society and exercising most of the functions and powers of the Council under delegation. The Board comprises the President (and President-Elect where applicable) and the four Vice-Presidents. It appoints members to the Society’s committees.
The Society regulates all lawyers, but membership of the Society is voluntary.
The regulatory functions of the NZLS 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 Society’s regulatory activities are:
All lawyers are regulated, and must pay the required regulatory fees and levies.
The representative functions of the Society are to represent its members and to serve their interests. In the transitional period from 1 August 2008 to 30 June 2009 the Society is working on the long-term development and delivery of representative services.
Services include continuing legal education (provided by the NZLS through its branches) and the provision of the legal executive diploma. Branches provide representative services and activities, including collegial activities.
Full membership of the 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 Society’s representative services and the opportunity to have a say in the way the profession is regulated.
Before 1 August 2008, the Society operated under the Law Practitioners Act 1982, with a financial year ending on 30 November. Annual reports for the financial years ending 30 November 2003 to the present are available online.
Under the LCA, the Society's financial year changes to 30 June. The annual accounts from 2003 are also available online.