Meetings held by the New Zealand Law Society with organised groups across the legal community have resulted in some excellent collaborative initiatives to work on positively changing the culture of the profession, says Law Society President Kathryn Beck.
The meetings were held in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton and Wellington during April and were attended by representatives from a large number of legal groups and organisations.
“We organised the meetings in the cities with law schools so that staff and students could be included. The students are the future of our profession and their input in assisting to change the legal culture and setting expectations early on as to what it means to be part of a profession will be crucial to successfully transforming our profession,” Ms Beck says.
“We are focusing on all areas of the legal profession, however. As well as academic staff and student associations, the meetings included representatives from Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa, the Government Legal Network, several regional women lawyer groups, law librarians, the New Zealand Institute of Legal Executives, members of Law Society local branch Councils, the Public Defence Service, young and new lawyer groups, the Criminal Bar Association, the New Zealand Bar Association, the Resource Management Law Association, ADLS Incorporated, representatives of the large law firms group, and the College of Law and IPLS.
“It was very heartening to be involved in these meetings. Everyone there was part of a great profession which needs to make some very important changes. The focus of all meetings was very much on the future and what steps can be taken to address systems and culture of our legal workplaces.”
Ms Beck says the meetings lasted for an average of two hours and the representatives outlined their own initiatives for change and their plans for the future.
“It was very clear that right across the profession people are committed to working together to put changes in place. There are also many practical initiatives underway, and the meetings provided suggestions for what needed to change.
“The Law Society is now building on the momentum from the meetings. We will be establishing a steering group to inform the next stages of work on how culture and systems change in the legal community can be effected. The profession is united on this, and with the momentum I know that we are going to change things.”