New Zealand Law Society - Katie Rusbatch: Bringing a modern approach to regulating the profession

Katie Rusbatch: Bringing a modern approach to regulating the profession

Katie Rusbatch: Bringing a modern approach to regulating the profession

Katie Rusbatch joined the Law Society as General Manager Professional Standards in January this year, overseeing the inspectorate, registry and legal complaints service, as well as the recent initiatives to strengthen the profession’s regulatory environment.

Graduating from the University of Canterbury with an LLB(Hons), along with a BA in Economics and Political Science, Katie originally considered journalism, before starting as a lawyer at Buddle Findlay.

Between then and now, she embarked on an OE to London where she ended up working in competition law for nearly eight years. This led her to the role of Assistant Director of Litigation at the Office of Fair Trading in the United Kingdom, as well as the Assistant Senior Director at Competition and Consumer Commission in Singapore.

Returning to New Zealand in 2011, Katie joined the Commerce Commission, holding roles as Senior Legal Counsel and Competition Manager, before becoming Head of Competition.

Having spent the vast majority of her time in regulatory roles, Katie says the most rewarding part of her work is the focus on consumer protection and thinking more strategically about modern regulatory practice.

“This is where opportunities exist for the Law Society to consider the purpose of their regulatory role, allowing us to take a broader perspective on our approach to regulation and how we focus our regulatory efforts for the benefit both the profession and consumers of legal services.”

A key focus for the Law Society this year is implementing the amendments to the Conduct and Client Care Rules to deal with harassment, bullying and discrimination. The proposed amendments introduce specific requirements about how lawyers must conduct themselves towards each other, their employees, and other members of the legal community. They also introduce wider reporting obligations on law practices.

These changes, Katie considers, are consistent with changes that we are seeing across different aspects of regulation. “Regulation of the profession traditionally had a client focused, but now we are talking about how lawyers conduct themselves towards each other, and their employees.”

Katie says that “the amendments make it clear that the maintenance of the reputation of the profession is the responsibility of every lawyer.”

“We hope that these changes and the guidance we provide will equip law practices and staff with the right knowledge and tools to support the development of the profession in this space. It is about ensuring everyone understands their responsibility to contribute to a healthy safe, and respectful legal profession.”

Draft guidelines on the conduct rules will be released for consultation in May.

“Being a lawyer is challenging, whatever the services being provided to any client, personal, corporate, private or public, and the profession needs to continue to assess and adapt to changing environments. The rule changes will help ensure the professionalism and reputation of the wider legal community.”

A keen adventurer, Katie escapes beyond the regulatory environment in Wellington via a mixture of outdoor activity. Last week she rode the West Coast’s Paparoa Track by Mountain Bike, New Zealand’s newest great walk (and bike).

As the new Rules for Conduct and Client Care develop, the Law Society is keenly anticipating the work the Professional Standards team is doing towards creating a healthy, safe, respectful, and inclusive legal community.

You can find out more about the proposed changes to the Rules for Conduct and Client Care (RCCC) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Rules in a free webinar, hosted by NZLS CLE on the 3 May.

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