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What should I declare at practising certificate renewal time?

24 May 2017

The New Zealand Law Society practising certificate renewal round is approaching, with all current practising certificates lapsing on 30 June 2017.

All lawyers who hold a current practising certificate are emailed a guide on the renewal process. You will already have completed your CPD declaration which was due on 31 March 2017. This is different to the declaration required each year for issue of a practising certificate.

You will need to make a “fit and proper” declaration to renew your practising certificate for the 2017-2018 practising year. There is a range of matters that you are required to inform the New Zealand Law Society about if they have occurred since issue of your last practising certificate, or if there is any “fit and proper” matter you have not previously disclosed to the Law Society.

The Declaration

The declaration is in three parts.  

The first is an undertaking to comply with the fundamental obligations of lawyers as set out in section 4 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. In essence you are declaring that you are aware of these and are complying with them.

Section 4 reads as follows:

“Every lawyer who provides regulated services must, in the course of his or her practice, comply with the following fundamental obligations:

  • to uphold the rule of law and to facilitate the administration of justice in New Zealand;
  • to be independent in providing regulated services to his or her clients;
  • to act in accordance with all fiduciary duties and duties of care owed by lawyers to their clients;
  • to protect, subject to his or her overriding duties as an officer of the High Court and to his or her duties under any enactment, the interests of his or her clients.”

The second part relates to any matter that does or might affect your fitness to be issued with a practising certificate (sections 41 and 55 of the Act).  Some of the matters that you must declare include:

  • any criminal conviction (if not previously brought to the Law Society’s attention) which has not been “clean slated” under the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004.  This includes any excess breath alcohol conviction and any traffic offence that resulted in a conviction. The recent New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary decision Auckland Standards Committee No 1 v Chen [2017] NZLCDT 7 provides some useful guidance.
  • any pending criminal charges (in New Zealand or overseas);
  • any mental health or physical health issues that might affect your ability to practise;
  • any significant financial issues, such as bankruptcy or liquidation/receivership of a company of which you are a director; and
  • overseas/local disciplinary matters.

This part does not require you to declare any open complaints that are being considered by a Standards Committee or by the Legal Complaints Review Officer.

Thirdly, you must declare whether you are complying with any orders of a lawyers standards committee, the Legal Complaints Review Officer or the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.  

If you owe any outstanding costs or fines resulting from a disciplinary matter or have not complied with any other order you must declare this.   If you have entered a time payment arrangement and payments are up to date, there is no need to include this.

What will happen if I declare something?

Most matters will probably not be significant enough to prevent your new practising certificate issuing. If any matter needs investigation, you may be requested to provide further information and it may be referred to a New Zealand Law Society Practice Approval Committee. You will be advised if this is the case. The Law Society may make other inquiries if it considers these are relevant. This process can take some time to complete so please complete your declaration as soon as you are able.

You are required to be open and frank in your declaration. If in doubt, please include.

There is no need to wait for the practising certificate renewal round if you have matters of concern to report. There is an ongoing obligation to advise the New Zealand Law Society of any matter that might affect your continuing eligibility to hold a practising certificate. See Rule 8 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Practice Rules) Regulations 2008.

Paying for your practising certificate

Payment must also be made to complete the process. Payment must be made by or before 1 July 2017.

For the 2017/18 year the Minister of Justice has approved a 4.4% reduction in the practising fee. This reflects the efficiencies achieved to date by the Law Society from the better use of technology and improved processes. Combined with all the other levies and contributions, the overall reduction in fees and levies for 2017/18 is $69, or 2.9%.

If someone else in your organisation is attending to payment, please ensure they do so before the due date. On 1 July, your practising certificate will lapse and you will then have to apply for a new practising certificate rather than complete the renewal process. If you receive emails that you have not completed the process, please do not disregard these as they are only sent to those lawyers who have not fully completed the process.

This year your practising certificate will issue electronically. Instructions will be provided on how to download and print your certificate. You are not required to print out your certificate, but you should check it is available so you know the process has been completed. Only the names of those lawyers who hold practising certificates will appear on the Register of Lawyers after 1 July 2017.

Information on your ethnicity

The Law Society is collecting information about the ethnicity of the legal profession in  New Zealand. When making your declaration, you will be asked to log into the statistics page to select your ethnicity.  This is voluntary and you do not have to provide this if you do not want to, but it will help the Law Society gain a better understanding of the makeup and diversity of the profession.

Information on your areas of practice or languages

On the statistics page you can also provide information on the areas of law in which you practice or the languages you speak. This is completely optional. Any information provided is used to give information to people who use the Find a Lawyer online service. For example, if you state that you practise in the field of employment law, your name will come up when someone completes a search for lawyers practising in employment law in a particular location. If you have not provided this information, your name will not appear.

Further assistance

If you have any issue with making the online declaration or want to discuss any matter please call a member of the Registry Team on 0800 22 30 30 for helpful guidance and assistance.

Last updated on the 24th May 2017