New Zealand Law Society - Independent Review

Independent Review

The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa (the Law Society) has commissioned an Independent Review of the statutory framework for legal services in Aotearoa New Zealand (the Review) to examine the regulation and representation of legal services in Aotearoa New Zealand, including the structure and functions of the Law Society.

Final Terms of Reference for the Independent Review of the statutory framework for legal services in Aotearoa New Zealand (the Review) have been released by the Independent Steering Group (the Steering Group).

The Terms of Reference now incorporate feedback from the public and the profession during a consultation held in April and May 2021.

Consultation confirmed the areas of scope for the Review as:

  • aspects of the regulatory framework – conduct, complaints and discipline, regulated services, and appropriate separation of interest
  • aspects of the organisational and governance framework – New Zealand Law Society and governance.

The main changes to the Terms of Reference

Te Tiriti o Waitangi, inclusion and diversity

Consideration of Te Ao Māori frameworks and inclusion and diversity has been strengthened as areas for examination within the regulatory and organisational frameworks.

Government regulation

There is now a clear distinction between direct government regulation (out of scope in accordance with the commitment to uphold the rule of law), but that consideration of an independent entity with regulatory functions such as a legal ombudsman or a tribunal is in scope.

Culture, safety, health, and wellbeing

The Review objective of the health and wellbeing of legal professionals has been extended to include a culture of safety, and to strengthen the theme of culture, safety, health, and wellbeing as an area for examination, particularly in the areas of conduct and vexatious complaints. The Review will also examine the role of the Law Society in promoting a positive workplace culture.

Additional changes

The Steering Group also made changes to the Terms of Reference in response to feedback to:

  • clarify that the age of the Act was not a driver for the review, but rather the changes that have occurred in the legal profession since the Act came into force
  • clarify the nature of competition and innovation as a driver for the Review
  • include an examination of tikanga-based approaches within the complaints system
  • extend the period of the Review to up to twelve months.  

Summary of feedback

Feedback indicated that the proposed Terms of Reference were largely supported. An average of 73% of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed across all the questions. Feedback was centred around providing greater clarity on some matters, minor wording changes, or broadening of the proposed scope.

Across all questions an average of 15% of respondents were neutral, and an average 12% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Their feedback was mainly centred on satisfaction with current arrangements, and not wishing to extend the reach of the Law Society.

The Steering Group received 624 survey responses to the proposed Terms of Reference and nine written submissions.

Approach to consultation

  • A survey, and an invitation to make a submission, was sent to all lawyers listed in the New Zealand Law Society’s (the Law Society) Registry, a range of lawyers’ and para legal professional associations and groups, law schools, and relevant organisations and government agencies. It was communicated on the Law Society’s website and social media channels, and through the weekly LawPoints email bulletin.
  • The Steering Group Chair also met with a number of groups to gather their perspectives: Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa, Pacific Lawyers Association, New Zealand Asian Leaders Association, Aotearoa Legal Workers Union, Auckland Young Lawyers, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Law Society Council, New Zealand Asian Lawyers, New Zealand Society of Conveyancers, and Wellington Young Lawyers.

Next steps

The Steering Group will appoint a reviewer to conduct the review. The reviewer will be appointed by the end of this year.

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