Proposed changes to lawyers’ conduct rules under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (RCCC) and the (Lawyer: Ongoing Legal Education Continuing Professional Development) Rules 2013 (CPD) are a step closer after a review of the public and profession’s feedback by the Board of the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa.
The proposed rules for the first time clearly define discrimination, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and other unacceptable conduct, make clearer the threshold for reporting unacceptable conduct to the Law Society; and create rules to protect anyone who makes a report or complaint.
The Law Society received 342 responses to the dedicated rule changes survey and 38 separate written submissions from various regulatory or representative organisations and stakeholders during the consultation held earlier this year.
The consultation team also met with a number of groups including Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa, Pacific Lawyers Association, NZ Asian Leaders Association, Large Law Firms Group, the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal (NZLCDT), representatives from regional Women Lawyers Associations and Young Lawyers Groups, the Aotearoa Legal Workers’ Union, the NZ Bar Association and ILANZ.
In general, submitters were supportive of the proposed changes. On average, around 77% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the proposed changes, with most suggestions or comments relating to the proposed wording of individual rules. Around 12% neither agreed nor disagreed with the proposed changes and 11% disagreed or strongly disagreed.
Some of the main themes of the feedback were:
- The definitions of discrimination, bullying and harassment.
- The removal of ‘confidential’ from the mandatory reporting rules.
- The termination of the retainers for acts of an agent.
- The importance of ensuring any proposed changes do not overreach into personal conduct.
- The importance of CPD remaining self-directed learning and availability of any component that may be compulsory
All of the feedback has been considered and some further changes will be proposed. The feedback has also confirmed the strong need for clear guidance to be issued alongside the Rule changes once they come into force.
The proposed RCCC and CPD rule changes have been referred back to the Parliamentary Counsel Office for their final approval. They’ll then be approved by the Law Society Council before being submitted to the Minister for approval. The Council then provides final sign off in advance of registration with the Companies Office.
We are anticipating the process will be completed by the end of the year.