New Zealand Law Society - Majority of lawyers work in firms

Majority of lawyers work in firms

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The New Zealand Law Society has published its annual Snapshot of the Profession, giving information on the New Zealand legal profession and judiciary.

It shows that at 1 February 2015 there were 12,480 lawyers who held a current practising certificate. Of these, 11,930 (96%) were based in New Zealand.

The information shows that lawyers practising through a law firm of any size make up 66.5% of all New Zealand-based lawyers.

New Zealand has 1877 law firms, with half (944) comprising just one lawyer. Of the remainder, 12 firms have more than 20 partners or directors and are the workplace for one quarter of lawyers who work in multi-lawyer firms.

The Snapshot says New Zealand's law firms are generally small enterprises, with 86% of all firms having 5 or fewer practising certificate holders. 

In the firms with more than one lawyer, just under 40% of lawyers are partners or directors while the rest are employees of the firm.

Lawyers who are work for government, not for profit agencies or businesses - known as in-house lawyers - make up 21% of New Zealand lawyers. The Snapshot says the proportion of lawyers who practise in-house has continued to increase over the last decade.

A further 11% of lawyers practise as barristers. The proportion of lawyers practising as barristers is declining after reaching a peak of 14% of all lawyers in 2010. The Snapshot says changes to legal aid eligibility and stricter regulatory requirements introduced in 2012 are seen as contributing factors.