In late January, the Law Society consultedwiththeprofessiononfourproposedamendments to theLawyers and ConveyancersAct 2006 (theAct). Theresultsshowstrongsupport for thechanges that would improve the efficiency of the lawyers’ complaints process, while also making it more victim focused. A fourth amendment that would ensure that conveyancer undertakings are enforceable by a Court in the same manner as undertakings given by lawyers was also strongly supported.
In late January the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa consulted with the profession on four proposed amendments to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (the Act). The Law Society received 740 survey responses, and nine written submissions.
The proposed amendments to the Act would run in parallel to the work of the Independent Review, which may propose more significant legislative reform.
The results of the consultation show strong support for the changes that would improve the efficiency of the lawyers’ complaints process while also making it more victim focused.
A fourth amendment that would ensure that conveyancer undertakings are enforceable by a Court in the same manner as undertakings given by lawyers was also strongly supported.
Law Society President Tiana Epati says the feedback demonstrated that the majority of the profession understood and agreed with the rationale behind the proposals.
“I am encouraged by the widespread support for improving the effectiveness and transparency of our complaints process. The legal profession has taken great strides in recent years, particularly in regard to exposing toxic workplaces, sexual harassment and bullying,” Ms Epati says.
“We need to keep up that momentum and these changes are a fundamental part of doing that.”
Almost 60 per cent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the key transparency change to allow the Law Society to disclose procedural information about the status of a complaint or own-motion investigation.
Some submitters appeared to overestimate the extent of the information that would be allowed to be disclosed. Other concerns related to the reputation of the lawyer concerned, as well as natural justice. The Law Society is confident that these concerns can be addressed with further consultation on the policy that would guide the disclosure of information.
The proposed ability to triage complaints resulted in 90 per cent of respondents either agreeing or strongly agreeing.
The results have been sent to the Minister of Justice for his consideration. The Minister had agreed to the Law Society consulting on these proposed changes with the purpose of providing him and Ministry of Justice with early feedback and views from the profession.
A summary of results and more information on the proposed amendments are available on the Law Society website.
Summary of results
740 survey responses and 9 written submissions
Amending section 188 to allow the Lawyers Complaints Service to disclose procedural information about the status of a complaint or own-motion investigation:
Amending section 188 to allow a Standards Committee to disclose procedural information about the status of a complaint or own-motion investigation:
A new section 135A allowing the Lawyers Complaints Service to administratively triage complaints, so that referral to a Standards Committee is not required in every instance:
A new provision confirming that employees and officers of the Lawyers Complaints Service and Standards Committee members are not providing regulated services when carrying out their roles:
*Additional feedback indicates this is seen as sensible, somewhat ‘technical’ amendment.
A new amendment providing that an undertaking given by a conveyancing practitioner in the course of practice may be enforced summarily by a court, in the same manner as an undertaking given by a lawyer:
*Submitters agreed there was a need to simplify and secure the process for consumers and practitioners and commented that this was a long-awaited change.