The New Zealand Law Society says it is now asking all applicants for a practising certificate to state their ethnicity.
The Law Society has collected information on ethnicity since 2009, but it has been voluntary. At present 44% of New Zealand’s 12,800 lawyers have not provided information on their ethnicity.
Writing in the latest issue of the monthly magazine LawTalk, Vice-President (North Island) Tiana Epati says the Law Society believes it is now important to gain an accurate picture of lawyer ethnicity in New Zealand “with its challenging cultural mix and the wide range of access to justice issues and other influencers affecting the practice of law”.
Ms Epati says the best information the Law Society holds is from the 2013 Census when 88% of lawyers described themselves as European, 7% as Asian, 6% as Māori and 2% as Pacific Peoples.
“At the same date 77% of all New Zealanders identifies as European, 11% as Māori, 11% as Asian and 5% as Pacific Peoples: a noticeable difference,” she says.
While there will be the option to decline to state ethnicity, the Law Society believes the result will be a much richer picture of lawyer ethnicity, Ms Epati says.