New Zealand Law Society - Working group provides update on its focus

Working group provides update on its focus

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Lawyers are being asked by an independent Working Group to provide ideas on how the complaints regulatory framework could be improved.  The Group has been established by the New Zealand Law Society and is chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright.   The aim is to ensure the rules and laws are ‘fit for purpose’ following widespread evidence of inappropriate behaviour in the legal profession.

A copy of the Terms of Reference of the Group can be found here.

The Group is investigating what improvements can be made to the regulatory framework, systems and processes.   The purpose is to enable better reporting, prevention, detection and support of victims when it comes to unacceptable behaviour within the legal profession. This behaviour includes sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination and any other inappropriate behaviour.

The current system will be under the microscope. Dame Silvia says:

“This must be a thorough, robust and transparent review; to enable the legal profession to make the changes required to provide a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace and to restore public confidence in the legal profession.”

The Working Group was established in mid-April following widespread allegations of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination within the legal profession, combined with a culture of silence and under-reporting of such misconduct.

“A culture of silence, where perpetrators are protected and people feel powerless to do something about it is intolerable” says Dame Silvia.

The focus of the Working Group is examining the complaints regulatory framework – systems and processes - and what changes may be required to the framework to address these serious issues.

The Group is looking at a broad range of issues including whether the current regulatory framework enables adequate prevention, detection and reporting of this behaviour.

In particular the Group wishes to ensure that the regulatory framework assists those who are affected by these serious issues and supports lawyers to meet the obligations that come with being a member of the legal profession.

The Group is inviting people to share their thoughts and ideas as to what changes and improvements can be made. Please send your ideas by emailing

The five members of the Law Society’s regulatory Working Group are:

  • Dame Silvia Cartwright (Chair)
  • Professor Elisabeth McDonald, University of Canterbury
  • Jane Drumm, General Manager of Shine
  • Joy Liddicoat, lawyer
  • Philip Hamlin, lawyer


Running parallel to the Working Group, is a “Creating a Just Culture” Taskforce.  The Law Society is setting this up to drive change within the legal profession to make it a safe, inclusive, respectful environment to work in.

The Law Society has had almost 80 lawyers respond to an invitation to be considered for being on this Taskforce.

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