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NZLS Board Approves Proposed Changes to Lawyers’ Conduct Rules

14 February 2020

The New Zealand Law Society (Law Society) Board has approved draft changes to two sets of rules designed to deliver clear conduct and reporting standards for lawyers to address discrimination, harassment, bullying and other unacceptable conduct in the legal community.

“The proposed changes will strengthen our ability to address unacceptable behaviour by lawyers and employees of law practices,” its President Tiana Epati announced today.

Ms Epati says the Board has approved draft changes to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers:  Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (RCCC) and Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyer: Ongoing Legal Education Continuing Professional Development) Rules 2013 (CPD Rules) (CPD), both made under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2008, to provide enhanced and improved rules in relation to:

  • the conduct expected of all lawyers and employees of law practices;
  • the obligations expected of those who manage and operate law practices;
  • the obligations to report unacceptable conduct;
  • protections for those who report or experience unacceptable conduct; and
  • enable the introduction of mandatory education aimed at reducing unacceptable behaviour.

She said the proposed changes were one of many initiatives being taken by the Law Society in response to concerns from the profession, and wider legal community, about unacceptable behaviour.

The need for such changes were highlighted by the Independent Working Group Report (Working Group Report) chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright which contained recommendations to enable better reporting, prevention, detection and support in respect of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination and other inappropriate workplace behaviour within the legal community.

“I am acutely aware of the impact the negative aspects of the legal community’s culture are having on the wellbeing of lawyers and their staff across the profession.

“Substantive change will come with the independent review of the structure and function of the Law Society I announced in October. In the meantime, these changes have the potential to make a significant difference by setting clear expectations for all lawyers which can be enforced if they are breached,” she said.

Drawing on the Working Group’s categories for change, the proposed rule changes are aimed at the following:

  • clearer conduct obligations;
  • clearer reporting obligations;
  • closer regulation of legal workplaces; and
  • obligatory education and training.

“With Board approval received, more extensive consultation on the proposed changes will occur with the aim of having the final proposed changes ready for consideration by the Law Society’s Council, and the Minister of Justice, around the middle of this year,” said Ms Epati.

Last updated on the 14th February 2020