The Legal Services Committee monitors proposals that affect access to justice – including, in particular, operation of the legal aid system. Committee members are typically legal aid providers in criminal, civil, family, Waitangi and refugee law.
The Legal Services Committee (LSC) is a longstanding NZLS committee. In recent years it has focused on legal aid issues. The committee has fought hard on behalf of lawyers and their clients to promote an effective and meaningful legal aid system in New Zealand and to ensure access to justice for New Zealanders.
The committee also monitors other concerns relating to access to justice, including the rise in the number of self-represented litigants in our justice system. The challenges and impacts of that trend are likely to be an area of focus for the committee in future.
Liz Bulger is the convenor of the LSC. Liz’s practice is principally in criminal law but she also undertakes work in the Youth Court, the Coroner’s Court and in other quasi-judicial tribunals. She also undertakes Parole Board assignments and has on several occasions been appointed as Counsel to assist the Court at Youth Court, District Court, High Court and Court of Appeal levels.
The membership of the LSC is made up of experienced practitioners:
In the past 18 months, the LSC has continued to monitor the legal aid regime. The LSC contributed to a comprehensive submission in late 2018 on the Triennial Legal Aid review, setting out the Law Society’s views about key problems in the legal aid system (access to justice; viability of legal aid work; provider remuneration; lack of mentoring and training opportunities for junior counsel; and provider shortages).
The LSC also made a number of submissions on the criminal, family and civil legal aid application forms; amendments to the legal aid audit policy; and proposed changes to the high cost case policy and amendment to grant forms.
The committee is very aware of the concerns of legal aid providers (particularly in relation to criminal, ACC, refugee and family legal aid), and the LSC has had ongoing communication with the Ministry of Justice to resolve many practical, operational issues, including:
Appointments are made to this committee biennially. Membership of this committee allows you to play an important role in law reform and is an excellent basis for professional development as well as collegiality and networking.
Applications will be called for in mid-2021, for the next 2-year term starting September 2021.