The New Zealand Law Society has welcomed the third reading of the Tribunals Powers and Procedures Legislation Bill, which is now awaiting Royal assent.
The legislation includes provisions which will make the resolution of complaints against lawyers more efficient and timely by giving additional powers to the Legal Complaints Review Officer (LCRO). The LCRO is an independent body that reviews decisions of standards committees (made of up lawyer and non-lawyers) on complaints involving lawyers.
The Law Society’s Acting Executive Director, Mary Ollivier, says the Law Society and the LCRO have been concerned for many years about the LCRO’s backlog of cases and resulting delays.
“The backlog is currently sitting at its lowest figure for many years at around 325 whereas it has previously been as high as 600," Mrs Ollivier says.
“The changes in the Bill will result in further improvements in the number of decisions made, be fairer for complainants and lawyers, and boost the LCRO’s consumer protection role.”
Mrs Ollivier says the Lawyers Complaints Service - which is operated by the New Zealand Law Society - is often mistaken as being part of the LCRO, which is an independent body administered by the Ministry of Justice.
“There is a widespread misperception amongst lawyers and complainants that the Law Society is responsible for the LCRO delays," she says.
Mrs Ollivier says that apart from the delay issue, the decisions of the LCRO office are generally well received and it is apparent that a lot of thought and care is put into its decisions.
The amendments, some of which will enable the LCRO to strike out unmeritorious applications for review and where appropriate to determine a review on the papers, should have an immediate and significant impact on reducing the LCRO’s backlog. The new legislation also provides for more than two deputies to be appointed.