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Legal Executive Diploma

A legal executive is a person who works as a trained assistant to a lawyer in a legal or quasi-legal environment.

The work covers a wide range of activities including searching public registers, preparing and filing documents, preparing estates, sale and purchase of real estate or a business, and debt recovery. A legal executive may interview clients on behalf of a lawyer but does not appear in court

Changes to the Legal Executive qualification

Until the end of 2017 the New Zealand Law Society, through NZLS CLE Ltd, administered a programme of study for people wanting to work as a legal executive, leading to the qualification of NZLS Legal Executive Diploma. This qualification is now discontinued following a review of the NZ Qualifications Framework by The New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

A new diploma, The New Zealand Diploma in Legal Executive Studies, is instead available.

If you have already begun your studies in the NZLS Legal Executive Diploma, but did not finish all six papers by the end of 2017, you will transition into the new qualification, the New Zealand Diploma in Legal Executive Studies, through a tertiary provider when you next enrol in 2018 or subsequently. You will not enrol with the Law Society, but with the tertiary provider.

Who offers the new course?

Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, and Open Polytechnic currently offer programmes leading to the award of the New Zealand Diploma in Legal Executive Studies.

After consulting with those involved, the Law Society has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Open Polytechnic, initially for three years, which sees both organisations agreeing to work together to maintain standards of quality in teaching and moderation which meets the Law Society’s expectations and requirements. The Open Polytechnic can say that 'the New Zealand Law Society endorses its Diploma'.

Transition arrangements

Because of the MOU between the Law Society and the Open Polytechnic and the quality assurance that it encompasses, cross credits will be possible under some circumstances.

If you are enrolled with the Law Society as a Legal Executive Diploma candidate by 30 June 2017 and have passed at least one paper at the end of 2017, the Law Society intends to recognise the equivalent paper(s) from the Open Polytechnic for the purposes of completing the NZLS Diploma. The requirements of NZQA are that this can only apply until 21 July 2020, so that any application for recognition of an Open Polytechnic paper for the purposes of completing the NZLS Diploma after that date will be declined.

Candidates seeking cross credits should contact the Law Society.


If you are currently enrolled in the NZLS Legal Executive Diploma and have questions about the changes, please contact the Acting National Coordinator at the New Zealand Law Society:

Dick Edwards
Phone: 027 491 4409
PO Box 5041, Lambton Quay, Wellington 6145, New Zealand
DX SP20202

Last updated on the 13th February 2020