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Starting work as a lawyer

Whether it is your first full-time job, or whether you have retrained after many years in the workforce, when you enter employment as a lawyer you will experience a mix of conditions which are both common to any workplace and unique to the legal profession.

Finding a job

If you've graduated with a law qualification but are still looking for work, the best of luck. Sometimes it's not easy. All we can suggest is that you persevere. Do not be frightened of making direct contact with a law firm or organisation. The worst that can happen is they will advise you there are no job openings at present: the best is that they may want to talk with you further, or will keep your details on file in case something comes up.

The New Zealand Law Society has a title in its Practice Briefing series called Seeking Employment as a Lawyer. We do not guarantee that this is the key to success, but it contains many helpful suggestions on where to look, who to contact, and how to prepare for a job interview.

Interview and follow up

The following advice is summarised from our Practice Briefing sheet Seeking Employment as a Lawyer.

Prepare

If you get an interview for a job, you should take the time to prepare thoroughly. Remember that the people interviewing you have only 30 minutes to an hour to form a favourable impression that you will add value to their firm or business.

Research

  • What do you want to say about yourself? What skills and experience do you have which are relevant to the role (experience obtained anywhere – not just in a law firm - can be relevant: that holiday job picking apples could show your ability to work in a team, to relate to people with very different outlooks, etc)
  • Ensure you find out about the firm or organisation where you are being interviewed. They need to know you're interested in them and have taken the trouble to find out.
  • Ask who will be interviewing you. Check out their past work history and specialities.
  • Anticipate possible questions you may be asked and also that you will ask (see "Possible questions" below).

Rehearse

  • Don't memorise your responses, but get someone to ask you some of the likely questions and practise your answers.

The day of the interview

  • While you may be nervous, and not feel like eating, it's important to have a good breakfast. Low blood sugar levels experienced on waking can be controlled by early eating, which gives your metabolism a good boost for the rest of the day.
  • Dress formally and carefully. What you wear shows how seriously you take the interview and your respect for the people who will be interviewing you.
  • Are you sure you know where the interview is being held? Street numbers, especially for high rise buildings in the middle of town, can be hard to find. Give yourself time to get there. Make sure your phone is charged up so you can check online maps.
  • Ensure you have anything you were asked to take (transcripts, references, etc).
  • Arrive a few minutes early and let the receptionist know you have arrived.
  • Check your appearance in the bathroom: you may have got a bit ruffled on your journey to the interview location.
  • First impressions count. Smile and be polite to everyone you encounter.

The interview

  • Remember that you want to impress with your professionalism. Smile and maintain eye contact.
  • A firm handshake on arrival and departure with all people who are involved in the interview.
  • Learn the interviewers' names and titles, check pronunciation if in doubt. 
  • Wait to be told where to sit. If you are not told and there is more than one interviewer, make sure you position yourself so you face them all and don't have to keep turning your head.
  • Be aware of your posture: don't slouch, fidget or click your pen.
  • Holding your hands together (on the table in front of you if there is one) is a good position as it prevents you from fidgeting. You can gesture and return your hands to this position naturally.
  • Speak with conviction, be persuasive, and use active verbs in preference to saying you "did" something.
  • Remember, the interviewer will probably assume you are nervous – and you will probably appear less nervous than you are.
  • If there is more than one interviewer, make sure you address each interviewer equally – don't just talk to one person.
  • Think before you answer questions, take time to formulate your answers, don't hesitate to ask for a moment to think, or for them to repeat the question. Avoid waffling, be succinct but don't sell yourself short.
  • Actively listen to each of the questions before you answer. You can start your answer be rephrasing their question, eg: "I think my greatest weakness in this role would be …"
  • If a question is in two/three parts, make sure you answer each part of the question.
  • Use the CAR technique for answering questions: Context (the scene – what happened?); Action (what you did); Result (what was the outcome of the action you took?).
  • Have examples ready to illustrate your answers.
  • Be ready with three or four anecdotes/examples that can be tailored as answers to answer a range of common interview questions in the event of an unexpected question.
  • Be flexible, be sure your answers reflect what was asked of you and not what you expected to be asked.
  • Be honest.
  • If you are not sure you have answered a question fully, ask. "Did I answer that fully?", "Would you like me to elaborate on that answer?"
  • Make sure the answers you give correspond with the information you have given in your CV and cover letter.
  • At the end of the interview, thank the interviewers for the interview. Ask when you can expect to hear back from them. Get the business cards of your interviewers.

Follow up

  • Within 24 hours contact the firm or organisation, thanking them for the interview and restating your desire for the job.
  • If you haven't heard back in the time they said to wait, call them back.
  • If you hear back and they don't offer you the job ask them for feedback – what were the main reasons for not offering you the job?

Common interview questions

  • Tell me about yourself. An open-ended question like this is a chance to tout your achievements and show why you are the best candidate, not tell your life story. Keep it short (two or three minutes) and ask them if they would like any more details. Focus on your professional experience and qualifications.
  • Why did you leave your old job? Avoid saying anything that might portray your former job and employers in a bad light. Remember, references will be required.
  • Why do you want to work for us? Why should we hire you? Tell me what you know about this organisation?
  • Why did you choose a career in law?
  • What do you think is your best work-related achievement?
  • What was your biggest failure?
  • What is your greatest strength? What can you offer us?
  • How would your colleagues/friends describe you?
  • How do you manage your time?
  • Have you ever held a position of responsibility?
  • Tell me about a time you went beyond the call of duty at work.
  • Tell me about a decision you made that you later regretted.
  • Tell me about a suggestion you made that was implemented at your work. Tell me about a time you showed initiative.
  • Tell me about a conflict you have solved. How do you resolve conflict?
  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a conflict with a colleague. If you use a legal work example, don't name anyone and ensure that the interviewers cannot identify that person.
  • Tell me about any issues you have had with a previous boss or manager and how you resolved them. See above.
  • Tell me about a successful team project you have been involved in. What was your role and how did it contribute to the success of the project?
  • Tell me about a time you built a rapport with a difficult person.
  • How do you like to be managed?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years' time? What are your career aspirations/long term goals?
  • Do you prefer to work independently or in a team? Are you a team player? What role do you like to play in a team? Leader or follower?
  • Where else have you applied?
  • How do you handle pressure/stressful situations?
  • What is your greatest weakness? Think about how you can present a weakness in a positive light. Make sure the weakness you mention is not a key element of the position. Don't be glib.
    Example: "What I lack in experience I will make up for in enthusiasm and a drive to excel. I am a hard worker and a fast learner and will be a real asset to the firm."

Questions to ask at the interview

  • If I was offered the job, when would you like me to start?
  • How do you measure success in the job?
  • What responsibilities would I have on a day-to-day basis?
  • When do you expect to make a final decision? When can I expect to hear back from you?
  • Is there anything I have mentioned that makes you think I'm not the best candidate for the job? Be prepared for a last chance to change their minds. Don't ask this if you don't think you have something to say that will change their mind.

Terms of employment

When seeking employment, graduates and transferring lawyers often make very few inquiries about a potential employer's firm or business and still fewer about the terms of employment. Problems could arise on both sides if you do not understand what is expected of you.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Labour website at www.dol.govt.nz is a useful resource. This provides comprehensive details on employment rights, duties and obligations.

All government agencies and departments and many New Zealand law firms and businesses have their own website. This provides a useful indicator of the culture of the employer's place of business and the type of work it undertakes. Websites can also include a snapshot of the different people who work at the firm, and this can be useful when deciding if it is the right place for you.

Employment Agreements

The Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA) establishes most of the rules for employment relationships. Every employee must have a written employment agreement, which can either be an individual agreement or a collective agreement.

Collective employment agreements apply where an employer and a union have negotiated a collective agreement under the ERA and where that agreement covers the work to be performed by the new employee. Collective agreements are rare for the employment of lawyers.

Individual employment agreements apply where there is no relevant collective agreement. The ERA sets out a number of requirements. The most important of these are as follows:

  • the agreement must include the names of the employer and the employee and a description of the nature of the work to be performed;
  • the agreement must include an indication of the place of work and of the hours of work;
  • the agreement must include the salary payable or the wage rate;
  • a plain language explanation of services available to help resolve employment relationship problems must also be included in the agreement. This is often attached as a schedule;
  • the agreement must contain a provision confirming the employee's right to at least time-and-a-half for working on a public holiday; and
  • for most employees, an employment protection provision is required which will apply even if the employer's business is sold or transferred, or if the employee's work is contracted out.

Minimum employment rights

Along with the ERA, other legislation sets down certain minimum terms and conditions of employment for all New Zealanders. These terms will apply even if they have not been written into an employment agreement. While employers and employees may not agree to do away with these minimum entitlements, they can agree to better provisions if they wish (for example, more days sick leave than the minimum entitlement).

Matters for which there are minimum requirements are:

  • minimum wages;
  • annual leave;
  • public holidays;
  • sick leave;
  • bereavement leave; and
  • leave for New Zealand Defence Force volunteers.

Negotiating your employment agreement

When negotiating an employment agreement, you should ensure you have information about the following terms and conditions:

  • Hours of work and holidays.
  • The salary and basis for salary reviews, including any bonus-structured payment which is often linked to exceeding revenue - or fee-earning targets or a business plan.
  • Job description. What are the objectives of the position? To whom will you report? Are you expected to work in a particular or specialised field?
  • Restraint of trade provisions. If you leave your employment and want to work for a competing firm or business, would you be able to do so?
  • Completion of professionals. If you have not completed your professionals course, you should ask whether your employer will pay for it and if they will allow for time to study (if taking the course online) or for time off to complete the course (if attending in person).
  • Practising fees. The practising certificate year runs from 1 July to 30 June. Ordinarily your firm will pay for your practising certificate. Ensure your agreement addresses whether you are required to reimburse the firm if you leave. Traditionally, a new firm will reimburse the previous employer a proportionate amount of the practising fees. However, unless negotiated at the outset this may become an issue if a firm considers they "own" the certificate and require reimbursement of any remaining period of time before it will release a practising certificate to you. Alternatively, some firms will surrender the certificate to the Law Society for reimbursement of months in credit. It is important that you clarify the firm's position in your employment agreement.
  • Supervision, training and advancement. What arrangements would be in place for supervision and feedback on the work you will do? Are there regular performance and salary reviews? What in-house and out-of-house training does the employer offer? What systems are in place to assist lawyers to meet their CPD requirements?

If you are not provided this information, do not hesitate to ask. As a lawyer you would advise your client that it is important that both parties to any contract are aware of their obligations - and employment agreements are no exception. Your potential employer will not be offended if you seek details of what you will receive in return for your work.

Don't forget that the information provided is effectively an offer to you – and any offer can be explored and counter-offers made. Questions about restraint of trade, period of notice and practising fee payment if you leave are all information which any prudent employee would ask about, and do not imply that you will stay at the firm for only a short time.

All prospective employees have a statutory right to seek independent advice about the intended employment agreement. An employer must advise you of that at the time of making the job offer. The employer must also give you a reasonable opportunity to get that advice, and must consider and respond to any issues you may raise about the proposed agreement. Although you may be a lawyer, employment law is a specialised area, so don't feel embarrassed about seeking this advice.

And what about the money?

The New Zealand Law Society and legal recruitment company Hays conduct legal salary surveys. Results from the 2016 survey are available here. The information is indicative only and size of employer, location, experience requirements and other factors will have an important impact on salary levels.

Working in a law firm

Firm culture

Each firm will have a distinct culture, with its own policies, procedures and ways of doing things. Make the most of opportunities to familiarise yourself with the firm and its culture. This may be through any induction process the firm provides, or taking up opportunities socially within the firm that give a chance to interact with others. These informal situations often provide an opportunity for you to learn firm expectations, systems and work practices.

Dress code

The standard of dress is usually driven by the firm's culture and the image it wants to project to its clients. Always dress formally for your first day at work – you will soon be advised if the firm has a more informal dress policy, and your formal attire is a statement that you are taking your new job seriously.

Don't be afraid to ask about the dress code at a firm. Some firms insist that you dress formally at all times, others require formal dress only when client contact is involved, and others have a special informal dress day each week (usually Friday).

People who work in law firms

Like any organisation which brings together a number of people to achieve a common goal, a law firm consists of people who each contribute particular functions and skills.

Partners (or directors): Most law firms in New Zealand are partnerships. Since 2008 law firms have been allowed to incorporate, but the partnership structure is still the main method of operating. At 1 February 2016, 77% of New Zealand law firms were partnerships and 23% were incorporated. Partners or directors are the owners of the firm, and as owners they share the profits left after payment of salaries, rent and other costs associated with running the practice. It is now common for many law practices to have two types of partners: equity partners who share the profits and who are the owners of the partnership, and non-equity partners who are still paid a salary and do not share the profits, but may have some voting rights in how the partnership is managed. There may also be a distinction between the equity partners, with differing shares of the profit distribution. If a law firm is incorporated, the directors will usually have the same role and standing as partners.

Non-partner solicitors: Lawyers who are not partners or directors are usually employees of the law firm on a salary. Different firms have different ways of using job titles to recognise performance and seniority – and usually the level of salary paid. Generally you will start as a "solicitor", and may progress to "senior solicitor" or "associate" and then "senior associate".

Consultants: Consultants are often lawyers who have retired from the partnership but are not ready to retire from legal practice. They are able to provide the benefits of many years' experience along with an in-depth knowledge of the firm and its clients. Consultants are either employed by the firm and paid a salary, or operate on a contract for services as an independent contractor and are reimbursed according to the amount of work they carry out.

Legal executives: Sometimes referred to as "para-legals", legal executives are not qualified as lawyers. They are skilled in one or more aspects of law and attend to a wide range of legal work under the supervision of a lawyer, generally specialising in matters such as residential and/or commercial conveyancing, estate administration, trust formation and administration, estate planning and litigation.

The relevant qualification for legal executives is the New Zealand Law Society's Legal Executive Diploma. This is taught by a number of tertiary providers and requires students to complete papers in the legal system, law office practice, property law and practice, business law and practice, estates law and practice and litigation law and practice.

While legal executives may not carry out "reserved areas of work" under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006, they may, under the supervision of a lawyer, draft court documents and also provide a full range of conveyancing services.

Some experienced legal executives have a high level of autonomy within a law firm. Their work requires them to have the same high ethical standards as lawyers. Most legal executives belong to the New Zealand Institute of Legal Executives. This has around 1,000 members (http://www.nzile.org.nz/).

Librarians: Larger law firms employ specialist law librarians to manage their information resources and to provide expert advice on research and sources of information. Law librarians are usually the starting point for locating any legal or business information or for researching the law on a matter.

Secretaries and administrators: Sometimes known as "support staff", most law firms include a high proportion of people with skills which complement and assist the people who provide legal services. A successful law practice operates as a team and good working relationships between secretaries and administrators and legally-qualified staff are essential. Support staff will provide you with much of your training in the use of IT, time recording and other systems used in the firm.

"Fee earners" and "authors": Most law firms distinguish between members who earn the firm's income through selling their legal advice and members who maintain the working environment and business systems. You will probably hear anyone whose services are charged out to clients described as a "fee earner" or "author".

Other law firm structures and requirements

Incorporated law firms: The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act now lets law firms choose to be incorporated, although with stringent controls on who may be a director or own shares. Incorporating a law firm protects the directors and shareholders from personal liability for debts of the incorporated firm, although lawyer directors and shareholders are personally liable for any thefts. Directors may only be lawyers who are actively involved in providing the incorporated firm's regulated services, and must also be entitled to practise on their own account. Only actively involved lawyers may hold voting shares, while non-voting shares may be held by actively-involved lawyers and their relatives. In most incorporated firms, the holders of voting shares are like the partners in an unincorporated firm.

Lawyers nominee companies: These companies act as trustees to hold securities for loans made on behalf of clients. This allows client money to be pooled and lent for mortgages and other activities. The number of lawyers nominee companies is in decline.

Trust accounts: Because law firms often have to manage large amounts of money on behalf of their clients, there are strict requirements as to how this is done. Unless a firm submits an appolication to exempt itself from the trust account regulations, it must operate a trust account. The Law Society is responsible for ensuring all trust accounts are managed in accordance with the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Trust Account) Regulations 2008. As well as monitoring and reviewing monthly and quarterly trust account certification, the Law Society employs a national team of inspectors who review and monitor the accounting procedures and related work practices of law firms which operate trust accounts. Inspectors will routinely visit law firms based on a risk assessment framework to view the procedures followed.

Working as an in-house lawyer

Over one-fifth of New Zealand's lawyers are employed by businesses or government and other agencies to provide in-house legal advice and other legal services. The Conduct and Client Care Rules define an in-house lawyer as a lawyer "who is engaged by a non-lawyer and who, in the course of his or her engagement, provides regulated services to the non-lawyer on a full-time or part-time basis" (rule 15.1). In-house lawyers are sometimes referred to as "in-house counsel".

The work environment for in-house lawyers has a number of differences from that at a law firm. While law firms are built around lawyers and the giving of legal advice, in-house lawyers often work as a small team within a large organisation and are just one source of advice and information used to operate and manage that organisation.

In-house lawyers are often required to understand the strategy and operations of the organisation that they work for, rather than having a purely legal perspective. An effective in-house lawyer is one who builds relationships as a trusted advisor within the organisation. However, it is important to remember that, like all lawyers, the in-house lawyer has a paramount duty to the courts and New Zealand's justice system which overrides the duty to the employing organisation. The role of in-house lawyer may also involve the management of external legal services provided by law firms. This requires effective oversight and budget control.

Practising certificate requirements

In-house lawyers must hold a current practising certificate if they undertake "reserved work" (section 6 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act) for their employer or if their work requires them to describe themselves as a lawyer, solicitor or counsel or any of the other terms set out in section 21(1) of the Act.

In-house lawyers who hold practising certificates are regulated by the New Zealand Law Society like all other lawyers. An in-house lawyer may be employed under a contract of service or may be engaged under a contract for services (ie, as a contractor rather than an employee). If engaged under a contract for services, the in-house lawyer must be qualified to practise on their own account.

Limits on in-house practice

Generally, in their capacity as in-house lawyers, in-house counsel cannot provide legal services to anyone other than their employer. Effectively the entity which employs or engages them is their sole client. Advice they give to that organisation in their capacity as a legal advisor is covered by legal professional privilege.

An in-house lawyer cannot provide legal services to their organisation's employees, members or customers. There is a limited exception for lawyers employed by a union or employer organisation, who are able to provide legal services to members of their respective employers in certain circumstances. This is essentially in relation to the member's membership of that body or to his or her employment (see sections 9(1)(1A) and (1B) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act).

Chapter 15 of the Conduct and Client Care Rules 2008 sets out the requirements for practice as an in-house lawyer.

In-house lawyers without practising certificates

If you do not have a practising certificate you can undertake legal services which are not reserved. Any advice you provide to your employer will not have the protection of legal privilege. You may not use any of the titles protected under section 21(1) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act and you may not instruct counsel or do such things for your employer as taking declarations or affidavits or certifying true copies.

Occasional work if you don't hold a practising certificate

If you don't hold a practising certificate – but are an enrolled barrister and solicitor - you may certify true copies, witness signatures or take an oath or declaration for anybody on an occasional basis and without payment of a fee. You cannot take an affidavit where an explanation of the contents is required: for example, you cannot sign off an agreement under Part 6 of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 because section 21F requires that the lawyer who witnesses the signature must certify that they explained the effect and implications of that agreement.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

From 1 April 2014 New Zealand's lawyers have been required to complete a minimum level of continuing professional development (CPD) each year. The CPD year runs from 1 April to 31 March the following year, and lawyers are required to make a formal declaration that they have complied with the CPD requirements.

The CPD initiative is learner-centred rather than prescriptive. Lawyers are responsible for identifying and fulfilling their own CPD requirements in accordance with recognised adult education principles. New Zealand CPD is outcomes focused - meaning lawyers are required to prepare and maintain an ongoing CPD plan, to complete at least 10 hours of CPD activities each year, and to reflect on and evaluate what they have achieved through those activities.

CPD is implemented through the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Ongoing Legal Education - Continuing Professional Development) Rules 2013. The New Zealand Law Society is responsible for its implementation and management.

Lawyers are required to declare their compliance with the CPD requirements within five days of the end of the CPD year.

The Rules outline the required hours of activities which need to be completed by lawyers who do not provide regulated services for an entire yearly period. For example, if you obtain your first practising certificate in November and begin working as a lawyer in December, you will have provided regulated services for three months by the time the CPD year ends on 31 March in the following year. The Rules state that you will be required to complete three hours of CPD activities at that time. You will need to develop your CPDPR when you start working as a lawyer.

The Law Society may audit any lawyer at any time to check that they are complying with the CPD Rules. If you are audited you will need to produce a copy of your CPDPR to the person carrying out the audit and also provide documentation to verify that you have completed the activities. The Law Society must advise you of the results of its audit.

If you work for a law firm or organisation which is given self-audit status by the Law Society, it will have shown that it has effective policies and procedures in place to ensure that all lawyers in the organisation comply with the CPD Rules. Your employer will also have an appointed CPD officer who will monitor compliance.

When you begin work, ask your employer as soon as possible about the system in place to assist you with meeting your CPD requirements.

The Law Society has produced a number of resources to assist lawyers to meet the CPD requirements.

General considerations in all workplaces

Work practices

Being competent with basic processes is essential when starting out in any workplace. Familiarise yourself with the systems used, including:

  • time recording systems;
  • file management systems, including databases;
  • document layout and precedents;
  • preferred time management systems, such as using calendar and task programmes;
  • research databases and library resources; and
  • telephone and dictation systems (electronic or manual).

Training to help you become more competent and confident with such systems will usually be provided by support staff. The support staff are also able to share with you preferred "best practice" techniques to ensure you become as efficient as possible in managing your workflow. This includes learning how to dictate. Dictation is a learned skill and support staff are usually able to provide instructions to you regarding the information they require from you, in what order, and technique regarding the clarity of your dictation.

Professional work practices will enable you to keep on top of your ever-growing files. For example:

  • ensure you are familiar with the firm's policies and practices in relation to receiving new instructions/opening new files and risk management (especially in relation to conflicts);
  • always make a record or file note of telephone conversations, messages and instructions. Notes should include the relevant date and time;
  • don't be afraid to tell clients you will clarify the matter and get back to them;
  • ensure decisions are made by the client, not you. Provide your client with options and include the benefits and difficulties with each. Clients will normally also want recommendations rather just options and you can provide those recommendations;
  • learn the firm's trust account policies. Always follow them;
  • do not put off working on files;
  • concentrate exclusively on one task at a time – interruptions and distractions often lead to inaccurate billing and lack of detail. Try and reserve time for attending to emails rather than constantly being distracted;
  • always proof-read documents before you send them to anyone else, including emails. Emails are formal pieces of correspondence and communication, so make sure that you don't drop your standards when emailing clients and colleagues;
  • check all enclosures are attached to documents and correspondence;
  • keep a diary and record due dates for work/important dates such as dates for filing settlements or court documents;
  • regularly record and review time/billing; and
  • keep in touch with clients and manage their expectations realistically. Clients want to know they are on your radar, so return calls and respond to emails promptly, even if it is only a holding response to say you'll respond later with a considered response.

To succeed both in terms of progression and personal satisfaction, a lawyer must adopt a disciplined approach to practice. Suggestions for developing your own approach include:

  • set weekly and daily objectives;
  • list goals and set priorities for weekly and daily objectives;
  • do the most important and pressing tasks first;
  • do the more difficult tasks while you are fresh and at the time of day when you feel you work best;
  • ensure that files and/or court appearances are attended to by another lawyer if you are unable to do so; and
  • ensure that clients are billed promptly for work completed.

Appropriate email etiquette is essential in presenting a professional image to your client. You should familiarise yourself with the firm's policy for internet, computer and email use. General guidelines for email use are similar to those for writing letters:

  • be careful about sending confidential or privileged information through email as there is no guarantee that only the client will receive or read the message, which may breach your obligations of confidentiality or client privilege; and
  • keep personal emails to a minimum as emails sent through your firm's computer may be monitored by your employer.

Learning your capacity

It is common for new lawyers to want to take on all work offered to them. However, the reality is that you have a finite capacity as to the amount of work that can realistically be accomplished in any day. It is important that you learn to understand and manage the expectations of those delegating work to you, so that they are not disappointed if work cannot be done immediately.

You should consider the situation carefully before saying "no" to work. Many lawyers prefer to know that you have a priority job for another lawyer to complete first, but you are able to address their matter after that time. Consider which lawyers you can say "no" to. Some are less forgiving and more demanding than others.

If your workload consistently is too much for you to handle:

  • consider whether your file management skills are efficient;
  • ask for pointers on managing workflow from another lawyer; and
  • assess whether you are utilising your support staff effectively.

Consider discussing the matter with your supervisor, supervising partner/director (or solicitor), human resources staff, or your practice manager regarding the options available to address the situation. This may be assessing the number of lawyers delegating work to you, considering a different type of work or undertaking time management training.

Using your skills to help the community

As a trained lawyer you have skills which are required or useful in many situations. New Zealand lawyers have a great tradition of making their knowledge available without charge to help their community.

Many New Zealand lawyers and law firms have established pro bono programmes which involve the provision of free or discounted legal advice and assistance to individuals, community groups and organisations. If your firm or employer has a pro bono policy, they will advise you of this. If there is no formal programme but you are interested in doing some pro bono work, you should discuss this with your supervisor.

Community law centres

New Zealand's 24 community law centres offer different sorts of services to those provided by law firms and barristers. They provide free legal advice to communities with unmet legal needs, especially those unable to pay for legal services. This may involve legal representation.

Community law centres are all individually managed, usually as incorporated societies or charitable trusts. Funding can come from a variety or sources, but mainly from the Lawyers and Conveyancers Special Fund via the government. The national organisation, Community Law Centres o Aotearoa, provides a lot of information and resources on its website.

Most community law centres employ one or a few lawyers, but all depend upon other lawyers and law students volunteering to provide their support and services. If you would like to assist, contact the community law centre nearest to you. Contact details are as follows:

CentrePhoneEmail

Taitokerau Community Law, Northland

09 437 7535

155communitylaw@gmail.com

Baywide Community Law Service, Tauranga and Whakatane

07 571 6812 (Tauranga),

07 308 6817 (Whakatane)

info@baywidecls.org.nz

Community Law Canterbury and West Coast

03 366 6870

admin@canlaw.org.nz

Community Law Marlborough

03 577 9919

reception@commlawmarlb.org.nz

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

04 499 2928

info@wclc.org.nz

Community Legal Advice Whanganui

06 348 8288

claw@claw.co.nz

Community Legal Services South Trust, Auckland

09 274 4966

robyn.martin@clsstlaw.com

Dunedin Community Law Centre

03 474 1922

reception@dclc.org.nz

Grey Lynn Neighbourhood Law Office, Auckland

09 378 6085

 

Hamilton District Community Law Centre

07 839 0770

admin@hamiltonclc.org.nz

Hawke's Bay Community Law Centre

06 878 4868

hblaw@hblaw.org.nz

Manawatu Community Law Centre

06 356 7974

mancomlaw@xtra.co.nz

Mangere Community Law Centre, Auckland

09 275 4310

mclc@gmail.com

Nelson Bays Community Law Service

03 548 1288

admin@nelsoncommunitylaw.org.nz

Ngai Tahu Maori Law Centre, Dunedin

03 477 0855

info@ngaitahulaw.org.nz

Rotorua District Community Law Centre

07 348 8060

reception@rdclc.co.nz

Southland Community Law Centre

03 214 3180

enq@comlawsth.co.nz

Tairawhiti Community Law Centre, Gisborne

06 868 3392

info@tairawhiticlc.co.nz

Taranaki Community Law Centre

06 759 1492

tcls@xtra.co.nz

Wairarapa Community Law Centre

06 377 4134

wclc@wise.net.nz

Waitakere Community Law, Auckland

09 835 2130

info@waitakerelaw.org.nz

Whitireia Community Law Centre, Porirua

04 237 6811

info.whitireia@communitylaw.org.nz

Youthlaw, Auckland

09 309 6967

info@youthlaw.co.nz

Last updated on the 14th February 2018