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Working in a legal practice

Work practices

Delegation of work

Effective delegation of work is one of the key measures of success for law firms. As a new lawyer starting at the bottom of the fee earner food chain, your charge-out rate will be relatively low. You will often be delegated tasks to carry out. As with everything, communication is key: it is very important that you understand what is expected of you and that the delegator understands your level of experience and knowledge, and takes the time to explain the tasks and expectations clearly.

Each lawyer has an individual method of delegation and each delegated task has particular characteristics and requirements. You can help everyone achieve the best result possible by immediately examining the file and ensuring you know the purpose and basis of the delegation:

  • seek a clear identification and explanation of the problems or particular questions both legal and factual that you have to consider – by way of written instructions if possible;
  • clarify that you have all relevant facts (including any important background materials) required to complete the work;
  • ascertain the purpose for such research or work;
  • be aware of any time limits for completion of work and be clear whether the timeframe you have been given is the internal delivery timeframe or when the work needs to be with the client;
  • ask if the work is to be prioritised before or after other work delegated to you;
  • obtain an indication of the time and effort that should be expended by you given the context of the fees to be charged to the client; and
  • identify the terms of your responsibility and the nature or form of the work sought (eg a research memorandum or draft advice).

If you do not understand any aspect of the instructions or requirements, do not be afraid to seek clarification from the delegator. A clear understanding of the task is essential to ensure you complete what is required.

Frequently you may find that the lawyer delegating work has not passed on all relevant and related background information. If you are concerned that you do not have enough information to complete the work requested:

  • ask for a time to discuss the file/client with the delegating lawyer;
  • if your request is not met, arrange an appropriate time through his or her secretary; and
  • if time is not then made available, it may be necessary to make a file note recording your request for assistance and the lack of response to your request. A degree of subtlety is obviously required. Keeping a file on such incidents is useful if the lack of assistance continues and you need to request a meeting with your supervising partner or firm's practice manager.

Beginning a new file

Your work will usually consist of a variety of instructions, either from the more senior lawyers in your firm or from the client directly. It is important that you know where to start when you have little experience regarding the instructions requested.

Your work process will often depend on the size and structure of your firm and how your firm supervises work. The following are general guidelines to help you get started:

  • depending on the task, consider requesting from the lawyer delegating the work whether there are similar files you can view;
  • discuss the request with lawyers in your firm specialising in that area of law;
  • use precedents and resources (library, database and internet) for guidance and explanations;
  • request feedback from the delegating lawyer when you have completed initial work on the file;
  • request a copy of the completed advice from the lawyer – valuable information can be learnt from reviewing amended work, including preferences regarding style of writing and presentation; and
  • develop your own set of documents/precedents to enable you to prepare simple documents efficiently.

If you find yourself at a complete dead end, friends outside the firm who work in the area may point you in the right direction. However, be cautious about discussing matters outside the firm as you must ensure this does not breach client confidentiality or privilege, and there may be a potential conflict of interest if they are involved in the file.

Remember also that if you seek advice from friends, they do not have all the information that you have, such as the background file information and access to relevant documents.

As a new lawyer it is important that you are able to apply your research skills and understand the issues to back up your reasoning. This will be accomplished only through a solid understanding of an issue following extensive research. Asking your friends may be a starting point, but it is unlikely to help you learn or develop your legal researching skills. Seek advice from friends purely as a guideline tool, or to discuss issues you have, remembering always your obligations of confidentiality.

File management

Every firm will have a preferred file management system. This ensures all relevant work is on hand when required. Increasingly, files are created and stored electronically, so make sure you understand your firm's policy on file creation. To effectively manage paper files:

  • understand the firm's file management systems and requirements (both in relation to electronic and hard copy documents);
  • keep hardcopy documents tidy and in one place;
  • remove documents from files only when necessary, and if this occurs, mark the file as a reminder that the information is missing;
  • alternatively, photocopy the document being used so the file retains all material;
  • ensure correspondence is kept up to date by filing or printing emails, keeping correspondence and making file notes of telephone conversations and discussions with supervising partner or other fee authors about the file (then if a problem arises later on you can look back and show you have kept a detailed history of what has happened on the file);
  • if removing files from a colleague's office ensure that you obtain his/her permission to do so, and return them later; and
  • where files are electronic, always ensure the file's integrity is retained, ie, that the file is complete, all documents and emails are readily accessible and that any paper documents which can be stored electronically are scanned and held as part of the file. Adhere to the firm's practices for version control.

Problem files

Where a problem arises, face it immediately:

  • raise the issue with your supervising partner or senior lawyer (depending on its nature and seriousness, the firm may be required to notify its insurer);
  • clarifying instructions may sometimes help to resolve the problem;
  • do not be afraid to acknowledge your inability or lack of experience in difficult matters to your superviser and seek guidance where appropriate;
  • keep the client informed as to what you are doing, remembering that many issues require a client's decision, not yours;
  • difficult clients need special management – ongoing problems should be referred back to a partner or principal without delay; and
  • disclose "skeleton" files promptly to your employer and ensure that the problems are resolved smartly. A skeleton file is one that has been left unattended for some reason and may require urgent action.

Feedback and performance reviews

Receiving, and learning from, feedback on work tasks is vital to your ongoing development as a lawyer. If you are not automatically given feedback on tasks completed, you should actively attempt to seek this where possible. You should keep an open mind when receiving feedback, and remember that any criticism or suggestions made are usually intended to be constructive.

In addition to the feedback you may receive on specific work tasks, many law firms also have in place more formal performance review processes. These may be held annually, or at shorter intervals. The general purpose of these is to facilitate a discussion (with your supervising partner) about your current performance level and recent contributions to the firm and its clients, as well as your wider career development, interests and objectives. Areas of potential improvement (both in work and working relationships) are also typically identified.

Support staff

When you start practice you may find you are assigned support staff, who could include a secretary and a legal executive. Normally you will share their services with one or more members of your firm.

Relationships between new lawyers and experienced support staff can sometimes be difficult and you will have to learn to deal courteously and clearly with any issues that arise.

It is important to respect the experience of support staff. They will probably know a lot more than you about the firm's office procedures and can be an invaluable source of help as you learn your way around.

When delegating tasks to support staff, clear communication is essential to ensure your own expectations are met in relation to the task, and that it is completed on time.

Be clear and courteous in the way you express yourself if you have any concerns about the time taken to complete your work. If you find you are having continual problems getting your work completed, speak to your supervising partner or director or your firm's general manager or support staff co-ordinator.

Time recording

Lawyers generally charge by the time they spend on a matter or file. When working in a law firm that operates time recording it will be important to come to grips as quickly as possible with the system being used. In most firms time recording is an essential part of the day-to-day running of the business.

Additional factors apart from time that may be considered when determining the appropriateness of a fee for a completed job include skill, urgency, and complexity.

Time is often recorded in "units" of six minutes each. Most firms have electronic time recording systems, so it will be important that in the first few days of starting work with the firm you understand fully how the time recording system works.

It is very important for you to get into the habit of recording all your time as you go. Many lawyers fall into the trap of not routinely recording their time and as a consequence may inadvertently overcharge or undercharge a client when they attempt to record their time retrospectively. You will save yourself a lot of time and possible negative comment from your supervising partner or director if you get into the habit of regular and accurate time recording.

Make a record of work done at the time the work is done, not at the end of the day as these estimates are usually inaccurate. Concentrate on one matter at a time; don't try and work across several matters at once as this often leads to distractions, inefficient work practices and inaccurate time recording.

Even if you think you have spent too long on a matter or the cost to the client represented by your time is too great, record your time accurately. It is the partners'/directors' role to determine the fee in most firms, including making judgements as to the appropriate fee.

Thorough time recording is useful to a firm to establish estimates on similar future matters, where a firm can review the actual cost of your time on a matter and any time written-off. It is also useful where a client questions an invoice that is higher than expected to justify the actual time spent, compared to the amount charged.

Time that you record may be "chargeable" or "non-chargeable". Chargeable time is time spent working for a client, which is then recorded against that client, for billing later. Non-chargeable time is time spent which cannot be charged to a client, for example, a team meeting, training or office administration. Many firms require all chargeable and non-chargeable time to be recorded, so that information on the productivity of staff can be collected.

You may be given a daily target for chargeable time – 40 to 68 units a day would be normal for newly qualified solicitors.

If you have any doubts about your firm's protocol for time recording, make sure you clarify this with your supervising partner/director.

Budgets

It is usual for solicitors to have an hourly charge-out rate. This is usually significantly lower than the charge-out rates of more experienced solicitors and partners/directors and reflects the fact that it may take you longer to complete a task.

You will probably be given a "budget", which is the amount of fees you are expected to generate each year. Remember that it is not chargeable time but billed time that counts. In some cases fees that cannot be recovered (because a client will not or cannot pay) may not be credited to your budget.

For many firms, your budget performance will form at least part of the basis of assessing your performance. Often it will be the most important factor.

Be aware that not all your chargeable time will necessarily be time that can be billed to the client as fees. The total time spent on a file may be more than can be legitimately charged to a client. If that is so, some of your time may be "written off". This is normal when you are starting out.

While most firms make allowance for a learning curve in the first year, it is important to form the habit of good time recording right from the start.

Client relationships

Your ability to develop effective relationships with clients will be a critical part of your legal career, whether in a law firm or as an in-house lawyer. While most of the information in this section is directly relevant to those working in a law firm, the principles are still true for anyone providing legal services in a public sector or corporate setting.

Where applicable, references to appropriate sections in the Conduct and Client Care Rules are included below.

Required information

Before commencing work under a retainer with a client, you must provide them with certain information in writing. This information must include:

  • the basis on which fees will be charged, when payment is to be made, and whether the fee may be deducted from any funds held on the client's behalf in the practice's trust account;
  • the practice's professional indemnity insurance arrangements or if the firm has no such insurance, disclosure of this fact;
  • the coverage provided by the Lawyers' Fidelity Fund;
  • the practice's procedures for the handling of complaints by clients and information on the Lawyers Complaints Service;
  • a copy of the client care and service information set out in the Conduct and Client Care Rules;
  • the name and status of the person(s) with the general carriage of, or overall responsibility for, the services to the client; and
  • any limitations on the extent of the practice's obligations or liability to the client.

Receiving client instructions

It is important that you obtain clear instructions from your clients.

Always confirm the nature and extent of the instructions in writing. Some firms have the policy of sending out engagement letters to clients when new instructions are received and advising clients of their charges at the same time.

In some situations, it may be necessary to have the client sign a duplicate copy of the letter as confirmation of their instructions.

Clear instructions not only provide protection for you in cases of conflict with your clients, but they can also assist your clients to see their course of legal action more clearly and to understand the process involved.

Fees

All law firms have guidelines on the fees they charge and how they are to be calculated.

It is very important to ensure that your client has the correct expectations regarding fees right from the beginning. The fees you charge can turn a satisfied client into a disgruntled one very quickly, no matter how good a job you have done for them.

If there is any doubt about the level of fees or if the client disagrees with the fees expected, make sure you discuss the matter with your supervising partner before committing yourself (and your firm) to a particular fee with the client.

Some firms may prefer that clients pay fees in advance. Find out your firm's policy about this and when seeing a new client, consider whether you should be asking for fees in advance.

Conflicts of interest

A firm often cannot act in a matter where the other party is or has been a client of the firm (see chapter 5 of the Conduct and Client Care Rules). This can often be a problem in big firms or in firms in small towns. Do not accept instructions from a client until you have checked your firm has no conflict (eg, by consulting a client list to ensure the other party is not listed, or performing a conflict check). Be aware that this is an ongoing duty and that conflicts of interest may arise at any time during the course of a transaction or other matter.

If there is any possibility of a conflict of interest, work out who you are acting for and resolve any potential conflicts of interest as soon as possible. Ensure you comply with both the Conduct and Client Care Rules, and any risk management policy which your firm has in place.

Seek advice from your supervising partner/director or a senior practitioner about potential conflicts if necessary.

Before dealing with a third party on behalf of your client, always obtain your client's agreement. This is the case even if the third party is associated with your client.

Confidentiality obligations

Check with your client as to how they want to receive information from you (eg, by email, by phone, by letter) so there is no doubt.

Do not assume that couples in a relationship will automatically want their partner to know the details of any matter that they have instructed you on.

Do not send confidential information through faxes or even email if there is a possibility that someone else will read them. This is especially true if you are sending messages to your client's place of work.

Client courtesies

Your firm owes its existence to your clients. They can choose their lawyers and a lot of that choice - even in large firms - will rest on whether they have positive or negative feelings about the professional relationship they have with you. Trust is a key concept, and trust is only developed if they know you will always deal with them courteously.

Always be courteous with your client, especially if you are required to explain some legal aspect repeatedly. Your client is not a lawyer, so ensure you use language and concepts appropriate to each individual client.

Be clear about what you are telling your client or asking them to do and always keep your client informed. Let them know if you are unable to do the work within the timeframe they expect. An important aspect of developing a good working relationship with your client is to ensure that both of you have the correct expectations about each other at all times. Good communication is essential. Send your clients copies of letters you write or receive on their behalf so that they know what is going on.

Keep your client's goals in mind at all times (refer to their instructions) and use them to guide what you are doing. Remember that you are your client's advocate, and your role is to advise and not to make the decision for your client.

If you disagree with your client's decision, it is important to inform him or her of your concerns (and make full file notes) and then follow their instructions. If you are unsure, check with your supervising partner/director before proceeding to follow such instructions. Whether you agree with your client or not you have a duty to complete a retainer except in circumstances laid out in the Conduct and Client Care Rules at rule 4.2.1.

Problems with clients

Difficult clients need special management and it is vital that you record all conversations and decisions made. Discuss any problems you may have with your supervising partner/director or manager as soon as they arise. If you do not have a supervising partner/director or manager or are still worried about your relationship with a particular client you could consider contacting someone on the New Zealand Law Society's National Friends Panel.

Dealing with other lawyers

The way you operate in practice will form your professional reputation. This will be built not only from the way you serve your clients, but also from your dealings with other lawyers outside your firm. Always deal with other lawyers with professional courtesy. They are a useful referral source and also influential in how your reputation develops, especially in our small country. Professional courtesy should not be dispensed with even if another lawyer is acting discourteously to you. Where a relationship between two lawyers deteriorates on both sides to the point where disciplinary proceedings are initiated, both participants may expose themselves to censure.

Undertakings must be strictly honoured. Do not give them without partner/director approval because they are enforceable by a Court and involve the liability of all partners/directors in your firm.

Be sure to return messages or respond to letters and emails from other lawyers promptly.

A lawyer is an officer of the court

As a lawyer you are required to meet a high standard of conduct in everything you do. All practising lawyers are officers of the High Court and this imposes an overriding duty to the courts and New Zealand's justice system.

Rules of conduct and client care for lawyers

The obligations lawyers owe to their clients are described in Conduct and Client Care Rules made under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006.

See the Rules. Familiarise yourself with them regularly, and remember that they are not an exhaustive statement of the way lawyers should conduct themselves. The rules set the minimum standards and are the reference point for disciplinary proceedings.

At the outset of a career where you will be providing legal services to your clients, it is worth reviewing the "ground rules" which are summarised in the preface to the Rules. These are also included in the information which must be provided to all clients at the beginning of their relationship with a lawyer or law firm. All New Zealanders have the right to expect that, in providing legal services to a client, a lawyer will:

  • act competently, in a timely way, and in accordance with instructions received and arrangements made;
  • protect and promote that client's interests and act for them free from compromising influences or loyalties;
  • discuss with them the client's objectives and how they should best be achieved;
  • provide the client with information about the work to be done, who will do it, and the way the services will be provided;
  • charge the client a fee that is fair and reasonable and let the client know how and when they will be billed;
  • give the client clear information and advice;
  • protect the client's privacy and ensure appropriate confidentiality;
  • treat the client fairly, respectfully, and without discrimination;
  • keep the client informed about the work being done and advise them when it is completed; and
  • let the client know how to make a complaint and deal with any complaint promptly and fairly.

Lawyers Complaints Service

As part of its role in regulating lawyers who practise in New Zealand, the New Zealand Law Society is required to operate the Lawyers Complaints Service. The Lawyers Complaints Service provides a national system for handling all levels of complaints about current or former lawyers, incorporated law firms and their employees.

Lawyers' practices must have procedures for dealing with handling complaints and you must tell clients about these procedures before starting work for a client. If a client comes to you with a complaint it must be dealt with promptly and fairly. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the process in your workplace.

If the client is not satisfied, they may make a formal complaint to the Lawyers Complaints Service. Complaints may be made about the standard of service received, conduct, costs (if the bill is over $2,000 and less than two years old, unless there are special circumstances) or failure to comply with an order of a Lawyers Standards Committee or the Legal Complaints Review Officer.

If a valid complaint has been received, a Complaints Standards Officer ("CSO") will notify you and provide a copy of the complaint, and refer the matter as soon as reasonably practicable to a Standards Committee. Complaints against a lawyer must be made in writing and include certain information. You will have the right to make an explanation in response to the complaint.

In 2013 the Law Society introduced a new process which aims to give quick resolution to some complaints against lawyers. If a complainant and the lawyer they are complaining about are both willing, matters could be resolved by negotiation, conciliation or mediation via the Law Society's Early Resolution Service. If the complaint qualifies, an Early Resolution Service Legal Standards Officer phone both parties and explains the process. 

There are 23 Lawyers Standards Committees around New Zealand. Each committee is made up of experienced lawyers, and must also include at least one non-lawyer member.

Once a complaint has been referred to it, the Standards Committee may:

  • decide to take no action on the complaint;
  • ask the parties to explore negotiation, conciliation or mediation to resolve all or part of the complaint; or
  • decide to inquire into the complaint.

As soon as practicable, the Standards Committee must advise you and the complainant of the procedure that it proposes to adopt.

If you are asked to respond to a Standards Committee about a complaint you should be prompt with your response. Cover all matters raised by the complaint, but do not make your explanations too long. If you do not want to answer a particular point (if a matter is before the court, for example) explain why. If a number of different allegations are made, list and deal with each one separately. If a complaint is justified, acknowledge this - if appropriate - and apologise. Answer any follow-up questions promptly.

If you are finding it difficult to respond, ask someone else in your firm to review the file and prepare the response on your behalf. In some firms this is done routinely. If you are a sole practitioner, ask another sole practitioner, your attorney, or your local Law Society branch for the name of someone from the National Panel of Friends who may be able to help. This can provide a different perspective. If an inquiry is commenced, the Standards Committee may delegate part of this to a CSO, a costs assessor or a special investigator. Once all the information has been received, a hearing will be held.

After holding a hearing, a Standards Committee can make one of the following determinations:

  • decide that no further action is warranted;
  • decide that the matter is so serious that it should be referred to the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal; or
  • find that there has been unsatisfactory conduct.

If a Standards Committee makes a finding of unsatisfactory conduct, it has a wide range of orders that it can make (under section 156 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act), including:

  • that some or all of the terms of an agreed settlement (made at mediation) be all or part of a final determination of the complaint;
  • making a censure or reprimand, or ordering an apology to be made;
  • ordering the lawyer to pay compensation up to $25,000 (for actual loss);
  • ordering that fees be reduced or cancelled or refunds made and errors or omissions rectified;
  • ordering that a lawyer's practice be made available for inspection;
  • ordering a lawyer to take management advice and undergo training or education;
  • fining a lawyer up to $15,000; or
  • ordering a lawyer to pay costs of the inquiry and/or costs/expenses of complainant.

Notification of most decisions of a Standards Committee is made to the complainant and lawyer and also to related entities (partner, employer or director) and to the New Zealand Law Society. A Standards Committee may direct publication of any decision but the decision to publish the name of a lawyer who has been censured can be made only by the New Zealand Law Society Board.

Legal Complaints Review Officer

If a complainant or lawyer disagrees with the decision of a Standards Committee, they may ask the Legal Complaints Review Officer (LCRO) at the Ministry of Justice to review that decision.

The LCRO is someone who is not a practising lawyer and who has been appointed by the Minister of Justice to provide an independent review of Standards Committee decisions. The LCRO can make any order that a Standards Committee can make, including confirming or changing the Standard's Committee's decision. The LCRO can also refer a matter to the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal or back to the Standards Committee.

Visit the LCRO website which includes decisions made by the LCRO.

New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal

The Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal's purpose is to hear and determine disciplinary charges against members of the legal and conveyancing professions.

Cases are referred to the Tribunal by a Standards Committee of the Law Society or New Zealand Society of Conveyancers, or the Legal Complaints Review Officer. Like the Legal Complaints Review Officer, the Tribunal is administered by the Ministry of Justice. Visit the Tribunal's website.

The Tribunal also receives applications regarding suspension, striking off, revocation of orders, and restoration of practitioners to the roll or register.

A disciplinary charge can only be laid by a Standards Committee or the Legal Complaints Review Officer.

After hearing a charge, if the Tribunal is satisfied that the person has been guilty of misconduct, unsatisfactory conduct, negligence or incompetence, or has been convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment, it may make one or more orders. These include:

  • referring a bill of costs back to the Standards Committee;
  • striking a practitioner off the roll;
  • suspending a practitioner from practice (up to 36 months);
  • giving or denying consent to employ;
  • censuring or reprimanding a practitioner; or
  • ordering a practitioner to undergo practical training or education.

Affidavits and statutory declarations

Affidavits

Often lawyers are asked to witness the swearing of affidavits for clients of other law firms. Subject to availability and certain exceptions, a lawyer holding a practising certificate has an obligation to administer oaths and take declarations (Conduct and Client Care Rules, rule 4.6).

A party's own lawyer is prohibited from swearing an affidavit, as is a lawyer in the same law firm.

The process to be followed for oaths and declarations is set out in the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957.

Firstly, establish if the deponent is a client of your firm or whether your firm is acting for another party to the litigation to which the affidavit relates. In either circumstance, the affidavit must be sworn at another firm. Find out whether the deponent is swearing or affirming the affidavit. If the deponent swears the affidavit, they can swear it on the Bible or another religious book such as the Koran.

Ask the deponent to sign the affidavit in the space provided on the last page of the affidavit (known as the jurat). Ask the deponent to initial each preceding page except for the cover page. If any amendments are made by hand to the document, the deponent and you need to initial each change.

Any exhibits to the affidavit should be signed and dated. An exhibit note should be used for this purpose on the front first page of the exhibit which you need to complete. An exhibit note should state:

"This is a true copy of the exhibit marked with the letter

'[A]' referred to in the affidavit of

[name] sworn [or affirmed] at

[place] this [date] day of [month] [year] before me: [your name]

A solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand"

Most law firms have stamps or stickers to be used as exhibit notes. You also need to initial each subsequent page of each exhibit. This is not required from the deponent.

Where the deponent elects to swear the affidavit:

  • ask "Do you swear by almighty God that...";
  • (pointing to the name in front of the affidavit) "that is your full name?";
  • (point to their signature) "that is your true usual signature?";
  • "that you have read and understood the contents of this document?";
  • "that the contents of the document are true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?"; and
  • "that the exhibits attached are those referred to?"

The deponent should answer "yes" to all questions. You then need to:

  • sign the affidavit below the deponent's signature on the last page of the affidavit and initial preceding pages;
  • print or stamp your name and position as a solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand; and
  • date the affidavit.

Where the deponent elects to affirm the affidavit:

  • check the affidavit starts with "I of [town/city] solemnly and sincerely affirm…";
  • then ask "Do you solemnly and sincerely affirm…?";
  • (pointing to the name in front of the affidavit) "that is your full name?";
  • (point to their signature) "that is your true usual signature?";
  • "that you have read and understood the contents of this document?";
  • "that the contents of the document are true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?"; and 
  • "that the exhibits attached are those referred to?"

The deponent should answer "yes" to all questions. You then need to:

  • sign the affidavit below the deponent's signature on the last page of the affidavit and initial preceding pages;
  • print or stamp your name and position as solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand; and
  • write "Affirmed at [place] this [day] of [month] 20 [year] before me".

There is no requirement to read the affidavit that is being sworn before you except where the deponent is blind or illiterate – in which case you must read and explain the affidavit to the deponent and add a statement to that effect to your usual statement. The following is suggested:

"Sworn at .... this ... day of ..... 20xx before me, and I certify that I first read and explained the foregoing affidavit to [the name of the deponent] and that [s]he appeared to understand the same and [wrote [her] his signature/made [her] his mark] in my presence."

If you do read an affidavit for the above or any other reason, your professional obligations preclude you from allowing an affidavit be sworn or affirmed where you have good reason to believe the matters contained in it are false.

Some firms will provide newly admitted lawyers with summaries of the applicable requirements, and endeavour to involve them in the swearing of affidavits from an early stage.

Statutory declarations

Section 9 of the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957 specifies who may witness a declaration. An enrolled barrister and solicitor of the High Court is authorised to do so, which means that you may witness a declaration whether or not you hold a current practising certificate. If you don't hold a practising certificate you should insert the word "enrolled" before your description.

The form of the declaration is given in Schedule 1 of the Act. This is as follows:

"I, AB, of [insert name of abode and occupation] solemnly and sincerely declare that [Insert facts].

"And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957.

"Declared at       this   day of              20 .

"AB (to sign)

"before me:

"[Enrolled] Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand." 

Notarised documents

Some documents need to be witnessed by a Notary Public rather than a solicitor. Lists of Notaries Public are available on the website of the New Zealand Society of Notaries or the website of the Embassy of the United States in New Zealand.

Apostille Certification

Before certain New Zealand-issued documents can be used overseas it may be necessary for them to be legalised or authenticated so they are accepted by foreign officials. Apostille Certificates are available for use in countries which have signed the Hague Convention abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents. If you receive an inquiry about this from a client, you can find out which countries accept Apostilles and how to obtain an e-apostille at www.dia.govt.nz/document-authentication.

Last updated on the 12th October 2016