The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa is now inviting public consultation into proposed lawyers' conduct Rules changes around bullying and sexual harassment.
As part of its work to help create healthy, safe, respectful and inclusive legal workplaces, the Law Society is seeking consultation on proposed changes to lawyers’ conduct rules under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (RCCC) and the (Lawyer: Ongoing Legal Education Continuing Professional Development) Rules 2013 (CPD).
“Our priority is to strengthen our ability, within our sphere of influence, to address unacceptable behaviours by lawyers and employees of law firms,’’ Law Society President Tiana Epati says.
The proposed RCCC and CPD rules changes are a significant step: for the first time, discrimination, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and other unacceptable conduct will be clearly defined; the threshold for reporting unacceptable conduct to the Law Society has been made clearer; and there will be rules to make it clear no one who makes a report or complaint should be victimised, she says.
Additionally, the proposed changes will require those who manage and operate law practices to provide a report each year, declaring that these issues are being managed appropriately.
The Law Society worked closely with the Government to explore options to change to the regulatory framework. “While changes to Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 were proposed, we were told this was not possible at this time. We therefore looked at the rules and regulations that applied to professionals both in New Zealand and overseas and sought advice from regulation and ethics experts.”
‘’While this took time, the proposed rules changes were informed by this advice as well as the work and recommendations of the Law Society’s Independent Regulatory Working Group chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright, the 2018 Workplace Environment Survey and concerns and experiences courageously shared by many within the legal community.’’
Consultation with all stakeholders will be vital to developing robust and enduring Rule changes that support cultural change within the profession, Ms Epati says.
“These are significant issues for our profession – and these changes need to be developed by the profession for the profession to be effective. I strongly encourage everyone to have their say.”