The new requirements, along with the need for a designated lawyer to do the reporting, form part of the Conduct and Client Care Rules. The amended rules clarify the standards of behaviour expected of lawyers when engaging with clients, colleagues and others with an emphasis on tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination within the legal profession.
“Every lawyer in New Zealand needs to be aware of the amended rules,” says General Manager Professional Standards, Katie Rusbatch.
“Last month we released draft guidance for consultation to the profession to help them to understand what’s required. We hope that the new rules will increase awareness of the behaviours expected of the legal profession.”
The most significant changes in the rules include:
- Definitions for bullying, discrimination, harassment, including racial, sexual harassment, and violence.
- New reporting requirements for notifying conduct to the Law Society to ensure that there is an appropriate regulatory response.
- Each law practice will need to have effective policies and systems to prevent and protect employees and other people it engages with from bullying, discrimination, harassment or violence.
- Each law practice will need to nominate a designated lawyer to report annually to the Law Society that the law practice has complied with its mandatory reporting obligations and to certify that they have complied with their obligation to report within 14 days if any person engaged or employed by the law practice is given a written warning or is dismissed by the law practice for conduct that amounts to bullying, discrimination, harassment, racial harassment, sexual harassment, theft or violence.
- Victimising a person who makes a report in good faith is expressly prohibited.
Changes to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (RCCC) were part of the recommendations by the Law Society’s Independent Working Group chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright. Implementing these changes is the most significant regulatory step currently available to the Law Society to tackle the behaviour highlighted by the Legal Workplace Environment Survey in 2018.
“Everyone has an individual part to play in securing the well-being of our legal community. We also need to ensure the public can have trust and confidence in the legal profession,” adds Ms Rusbatch.
“We will be providing further guidance about how the designated lawyer can make their annual report in the lead up to the first annual report which will be due in June 2022.”