New Zealand Law Society - Governance at the Law Society

Governance at the Law Society

The New Zealand Law Society Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa (the Law Society) is seeking feedback on potential changes to its Constitution.

The Law Society is a statutory body with the composition of its governance structure set out in the Constitution along with the procedural requirements for the Board and Council meetings of the Law Society as well as other matters.

The Law Society’s Constitution is a legislative instrument set out in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers) Constitution 2008. It has had a few minor changes1 but is broadly unchanged since the Law Society, as a national body, was introduced on 1 August 2008.

Further information about the Law Society governance structure can be found here

The Law Society is considering changes to its Constitution, including the number of Board members, their composition, tenure and the structure of the Board. 

The New Zealand Law Society Council would like to consult with the profession before making any changes.

The future and the need to change the Constitution
The Law Society wants to ensure it is capable of being both an effective regulator and national representative organisation. Strategic and inclusive governance is important for the Law Society’s long-term priorities including sustainability. 

Recent experience and the findings of the Independent Review Panel have identified areas where the Constitution could be amended to enable best practice governance of the Law Society. The Independent Review Panel’s recommendations suggested governance change including:

  • a board of eight members;
  • an equal split between lawyer and public members;
  • The Chair being a public member;
  • at least two members with strong te ao Māori insights; and
  • with appointments to be made by the Minister of Justice and no elections.

It should be noted that implementing the substantive recommendations of the Independent Review require legislative changes. However, in the interim the Law Society is looking at steps it can take consistent with the Independent Review findings.

The size of the Board of the Law Society is prescribed under r10 of the Constitution. Currently this is the president and the four vice-presidents. Board observers are permitted but they do not have voting rights. We have had both lawyer and non-lawyer observers to the Board at different times.

This consultation looks at four key areas, being:  

  • Board size and the introduction of Independent Board Members; 
  • Appointment of the president / Chair;
  • Tenure / continuity of decision-making; and  
  • Diversity and competencies.

Also included in this consultation are some general practical changes to the Constitution.

We want to hear from you
The consultation document can be found here. Consultation runs until 5pm Wednesday 20 December 2023. Submissions and feedback can be sent to 

What happens next?
Once the consultation is complete the New Zealand Law Society Council will consider the feedback and decide whether to amend the relevant clauses of the Constitution,

The Law Society then liaises with the Ministry of Justice regarding drafting instructions to the Parliamentary Counsel Office.  Once the amendments are drafted the New Zealand Law Society Council would need to resolve to accept the changes before the changes are Gazetted and filed with the Companies Office. It is anticipated that this process would be completed in the middle of 2024.

[1] Amendments on 18 December 2020 added representatives of Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa and the Pacific Lawyers Association to the Council of the Law Society.

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