New Zealand Law Society - Meet the Candidates: Duncan Terris

Meet the Candidates: Duncan Terris

Meet the Candidates: Duncan Terris

The election took place on Friday the 15th of October 2021. Jacqueline Lethbridge was elected as the next President. She will officially take over in April 2022.

See more information here.

Duncan Terris is one of four candidates running to be the next President-Elect of the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa. The other three are Frazer Barton, Arti Chand and Jacque Lethbridge.

I obtained a Bachelor of Laws from Canterbury University in 1988 and worked for several firms before establishing my own firm in 1997. I was also admitted as a Legal Practitioner in New South Wales and practised with a law firm in Sydney from 1995 to 1997. 

My practice over more than 30 years has been wide and varied, but more recently focused on commercial and property matters including:

  • Residential and commercial sale and purchase
  • Business sale and purchase
  • High Court Expert Witness on property matters
  • Commercial leasing
  • Subdivisions (residential and commercial)
  • Trust advice and creation
  • Estate administration
  • Relationship Property matters

Related Activities / Conferences, Seminars & Webinars

  • Co-author of the original NZLS Property Law Sections Practice Guidelines for Electronic Conveyancing.
  • Regular contributor to NZLS publications, such as my quarterly column in The Property Lawyer (60+ articles)
  • Co-author and presenter of the NZLS CLE’s two-day Residential Property Transactions course (15+ years)
  • CCH Webinar June 2021 on Landonline rebuild
  • NZLS Covid-19 Webinar April 2020 on property settlements and commercial leases (3,000 plus registrants)
  • National NZILE Conference presentation on OIO matters September 2019
  • CCH Webinar November 2018 on the new Land Transfer Regulations

Current Committees and Advisory Groups

  • Law Society's Property Law Section Executive 17+ years. Chair from 2015 to 2021and re-elected member to 2024.
  • The Property Law Section’s Land Titles Subcommittee member continuously since 1999 and convenor.
  • LINZ Property System Stakeholder Forum (An advisory Board including the RGL, Surveyor General and CEO)
  • DIA’s Industry Advisory Group dealing with AML/CFT matters.
  • IRD’s Stakeholder Reference Group advising on the new build residential tax deductibility

Why are you running for New Zealand Law Society President?

I have enjoyed my involvement with various Law Society committees over the past 20 years. My observations over time indicate that many lawyers don’t regard the Law Society as being particularly relevant to them on a day-to-day basis, other than as the regulator. 

There is so much more that is being done in addition to regulatory matters that have a significant impact and benefit to those of us at the ‘coal face’. Much more can be done to provide transparency and the opportunity for meaningful engagement in every aspect of practice. 

I will ensure that all of the NZLS Board constituents being the 13 Branch Councils, the 3 Sections (Family Law Section, Inhouse Lawyers Association and Property Law Section), Bar Association, Large Law Firms Association, Pacific Law Society and Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa are empowered and consulted to a far greater extent than currently to ensure a better meeting of the needs of members they represent. My proposal of how that is to be achieved is outlined below. 

What would you bring to the role of President? 

My ability to bring about meaningful change
I am no stranger to bringing about change in the profession. In 1999 I was engaged as the Law Society’s stakeholder representative on the automation of the Land Registry (Land Information New Zealand’s ‘Landonline’ automation programme.)

Part of that role was to ensure what was delivered was ‘fit for purpose’ and to present to lawyers around the country to explain the new system and encourage uptake. Those of you in practice at the time will recall the significant resistance by some to that change. I very much enjoyed bringing fellow practitioners on the ‘journey of change’ with me. 

Being on the Property Law Section Executive and meeting with many practitioners over the years, I understand the issues and challenges practitioners face. I am also involved in High Court matters as an expert witness so do have familiarity with court matters and have in the past appeared in Family Court and District Court proceedings, as counsel, I hasten to add! 

Having appeared before Parliamentary Select Committees and dealt directly with Government Ministers and departments and consistently brought about change, I am confident that an appropriate increase in Legal Aid rates can be achieved during my tenure as President, if successful. 

Having been on media training courses and conducted a number of live and pre-recorded radio and TV interviews I am confident in dealing with media inquiries in a professional manner.

If elected President, what are the three things you would like to achieve?

Greater Representative Function of NZLS
While the Law Society is required to be a regulator, more needs to be done on the representative front as noted above.

Section 66 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 regarding the provision of ‘representative services’ states:

“The representative functions of the New Zealand Law Society are to represent its members and to serve their interests”.

Branches and Sections are the ones most connected with the profession in their various locales and areas of practice. Therefore, the NZLS must support those Branches and Sections to ensure that the needs of practitioners are met. There needs to be more resources allocated from NZLS to Branches, Sections and other Council constituents to facilitate functions that allow greater collegiality.

Closely linked with that, is the need for greater transparency clarifying why certain decisions have been made.

A key proposal to ensure meaningful engagement is that two months prior to each NZLS Board and Council meetings, all ‘constituents’ will be asked to raise any pertinent matters that it wishes to have considered by the Board or Council. That will essentially mean a ‘bottom up’ contribution to the agenda, rather than a ‘top down’ approach from the Board.

These measures will ensure the voices of the ones on the Council who are representing those at the ‘front line’ are heard in a meaningful and engaged manner.

Increase of Legal Aid Rates and Process
There are a declining number of lawyers undertaking Legal Aid work. The reasons are readily apparent to those in the profession. The rates have not even kept up with CPI adjustments over the past 20 years, let alone represent remuneration commensurate with the level of qualification and expertise involved.

The issue is now to the extent that it affects access to justice. Observations have been made by the Chief Justice and the same sentiments resonate from members of the bar. Commissioned reports going back to 2009 include quotes such as:

“Sea change is needed” and a functional Legal Aid system “… is essential to ensuring that the justice system is accessible to all – not just the wealthy”.

While the current survey on access to justice will provide updated information, definitive action is required to achieve an actual result. That will require a strong combined voice of the bench, the bar and the Law Society, backed by an independent actuarial analysis of true costs and appropriate Legal Aid remuneration to ensure access to justice for all.

Better Cross-Sectional Representation and Diversity
My take on diversity is not just about ethnicity and gender. Representation must be of both the profession and society as a whole. It is about diversity across socio-economic groups, cultural difference, age range, including young practitioners, LGBTQ representation, all of whom need and deserve to have a meaningful voice in the direction and future of our profession.

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