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New Zealand Diploma in Legal Executive Studies

23 June 2017

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) commissioned a review of qualifications on the NZ Qualifications Framework (the Framework). The NZLS Legal Executive Diploma was included in that process. A new diploma, The New Zealand Diploma in Legal Executive Studies was placed on the Framework in July 2016. The Law Society has comments on the content coverage of this new diploma below. It provides the comments so that they are publicly available and can be taken into account by any tertiary provider seeking Programme Approval to provide a course of study leading to the new diploma and by NZQA when it is considering approving a course of study.

For over 40 years the New Zealand Law Society has set the syllabus for and maintained the quality of what was first called the NZLS Legal Executive Certificate of Attainment and latterly the NZLS Legal Executive Diploma. It did so by setting, marking and moderating the exams leading to the qualification.

The Law Society believes it has a responsibility, in the interests of its members (who employ the majority of the people studying and the graduates of the Legal Executive qualification) to suggest what the replacement New Zealand Diploma in Legal Executive Studies should cover and assess.

Below, the Law Society has published its suggestions to assist the institutions which seek to become Programme Developers (approved by NZQA) and to anyone else who is interested in the New Zealand Diploma in Legal Executive Studies.

Qualification details

The NZ Diploma in Legal Studies' Qualification Details (as approved by NZQA) outlines in general terms under the section called Qualification Outcomes, 40 indicative credits relating to operating and participating competently in the work of a law firm or legal environment.

The outline below suggested by the Law Society as Introduction to the Legal System and Introduction to Law Office Practice relate to these 40 credits. (The Law Society notes that these details are its view of what should be covered and are intended to inform the Programme Developers, but are not binding on them.)

The Qualification Details also outlines in that same outcomes section, 80 further indicative credits relating to applying the basic principles of the law and its practice to routine situations encountered in a law firm or legal environment. The outlines below presented as Property Law and Practice, Business Law and Practice, Estates Law and Practice and Litigation Law and Practice relate to these 80 credits. The same proviso as to their standing applies equally to these 80 as to the 40 credits noted above.


Introduction to the Legal System

General Aim

To provide students with an understanding, at an introductory level, of the elements of the New Zealand legal system.

To enable students to apply basic legal principles to common fact situations.

Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to:

  1. Describe the function of law and distinguish between legal and other kinds of rules.
  2. Describe the characteristics of the New Zealand constitution and its constituent parts.
  3. Describe the sources of law in New Zealand and compare their contribution.
  4. Locate and read commonly used legislation and case reports.
  5. Apply the separate legal entity concept and explain its consequences.
  6. Apply basic legal principles relating to ownership of property.
  7. Apply the basic legal principles of contract law.
  8. Understand the concept of tortious liability and apply the basic legal principles of negligence.

Introduction to law office practice

General Aim

To provide students with an understanding of the operation of daily aspects of law office practice.

To enable students to perform selected tasks commonly occurring in legal practice.

Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to:

  1. Understand the organisation and operation of the legal profession and law offices, and common legal transactions occurring within them.
  2. Determine what information is available from the:
    • Land Information New Zealand using Landonline
    • Companies Office, and,
    • Personal Property Securities Register,
    Obtain and interpret the information, and apply it to common transactions.
  3. Register documents at the registries listed above.
  4. Understand and apply the legal requirements for trust accounts.
  5. Draft a simple account to a client.
  6. Draft simple statements commonly used in legal practice.
  7. Understand the mechanisms for investment of client funds within the firm.

Property law and practice

General Aim

To provide students with a basic understanding of the principles of property law relative to the matters commonly encountered by legal executives in conveyancing practice.

To enable students to identify and perform the practices and procedures appropriate to situations commonly occurring in conveyancing practice, while receiving an appropriate level of supervision.

To develop in students the ability to recognise the limits to their competence or training as legal executives in decision making, and within those limits to act with minimum supervision of principals.

Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to:

explain and apply the legal principles and practices relevant to the role of the solicitor for vendor, solicitor for purchaser, and the real estate agent in simple agreement for sale and purchase of urban and rural land, and identify the elements of such transactions which require the advice or involvement of a lawyer;

explain the nature, form and purpose of documents used or encountered in common conveyancing transactions and to use such documents, applying appropriate procedures;

explain and apply the legal principles and practices relevant to the role of a solicitor acting for a mortgagor or a mortgagee in common conveyancing transactions;

identify the different types of multi-unit ownership, and explain and apply the legal principles and practices relating to the main kinds of multi-unit ownership in common use, and compare their respective strengths and weaknesses;

prepare and peruse and critically comment on, selected documents or parts of such documents used or encountered in conveyancing situations.

Business law and practice

General Aim

To extend students' understanding of basic contract and property law covered in the Introduction to the Legal System and Property Law and Practice papers, by introducing them to selected business law matters commonly encountered in legal practice.

To enable students to identify and perform the practices and procedures appropriate to those business matters.

To develop students' ability to recognise the limits of their competence or training as legal executives in decision making, and within those limits to act with minimum supervision by principals.

Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to:

  1. Explain and apply the legal principles and practices relevant to the role of solicitor for vendor and purchaser in an agreement for sale and purchase of a small business.
  2. Explain and apply the legal principles and practices relevant to the role of solicitor for the parties to other selected business transactions commonly encountered by legal executives.
  3. Explain the nature, form and purpose of key documents used in business transactions commonly encountered by legal executives.
  4. Explain and apply the legal principles and practices applicable to formation and use of small limited liability companies in situations commonly encountered by legal executives.
  5. Prepare, peruse and critically comment on selected business documents used or encountered by legal executives.

Estates law and practice

General Aim

To provide students with a basic understanding of wills, the administration of deceased estates and trusts, and the principles of tax and asset planning.

To enable students to identify and perform the practices and procedures appropriate to situations commonly occurring in will, estate and trust practice.

Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to:

  1. Describe the requirements for a valid trust and their respective roles today.
  2. Describe the structure and common contents of simple wills and draft a simple will.
  3. Complete the various procedures required to obtain Grants of Probate, and Grants of Letters of Administration.
  4. Manage all aspects of the legal and general administration of a deceased estate and trust.
  5. Communicate effectively with beneficiaries of an estate and a trust, and with administrators and trustees.
  6. Describe the basic aims and elements of an asset and tax plan, and apply these to simple client profiles.

Litigation law and practice

General Aim

To provide students with an understanding of selected litigation law matters commonly handled by legal executives.

To enable students to draft appropriate documentation in relation to matters handled by legal executives.

Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to:

  1. Understand the role and responsibility of the legal executive in litigation practice with particular reference to the ethical issues involved.
  2. Describe the hierarchy and jurisdiction of the New Zealand courts.
  3. Describe and distinguish between different forms of evidence; admissible and inadmissible evidence.
  4. Determine whether legal aid is available and describe the ongoing obligations of the practitioner to the client.
  5. Explain the objective of the District Courts Rules, describe the different types of civil proceedings available in the District Court and the appropriateness of each type.
  6. Describe the steps necessary to commence proceedings in the District Court in a simple negligence action and a simple breach of contract and the procedure to obtain judgement.
  7. Describe the procedures available to enforce a judgment in the District Court.
  8. Describe how civil proceedings are commonly commenced in the High Court and the steps required to obtain judgment.
  9. Describe the proceedings available to enforce a judgment in the High Court.
  10. Explain when the use of summary judgment proceedings is appropriate.
  11. Describe the steps involved bringing:
    • straightforward bankruptcy proceedings
    • straightforward insolvency proceedings
  12. Describe the jurisdiction of the Family Court.
  13. Describe the role of the Family Dispute Resolution providers.
  14. Describe various common applications to the Family Court and the documentation required for those applications.
  15. Prepare, peruse and critically comment on selected documents or parts of documents used or encountered in litigation situations.
  16. Describe the alternative dispute resolution procedures of mediation and arbitration.

For each of the 6 courses outlined above, the Law Society has a much more prescriptive set of enabling objectives. This gives detail that the Law Society suggested to the institutions that taught the six papers of the former qualification the Society NZ Law Society Legal Executive Diploma, would be assessed in the examinations that the Society set for the diploma papers.

Those more detailed enabling objectives (and accompanying narrative) are available from the Society by contacting tanti.agustin@lawsociety.org.nz

Last updated on the 23rd June 2017