New Zealand Law Society - Herman Visagie

Herman Visagie

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Herman Visagie
Herman Visagie, Vice-President Central North Island

Kia ora koutou

It is my pleasure as the newly elected Vice-President Central North Island to be writing the introductory comments for this month’s LawTalk to introduce myself and comment on a few areas of interest to me.

I am a proud bi-cultural kiwi. I was born in South Africa to Afrikaans parents and came to New Zealand at nine years old. I spent my formative years in rural South Otago where my father was a rural GP. I finished my schooling and undergraduate studies in Dunedin, moved to Wellington where I worked for central government and an industry association before moving to Taranaki five years ago. I currently work as General Counsel and Chief of Staff for TSB in New Plymouth where I live with my partner.

I have been actively involved with the New Zealand Law Society for several years in various capacities, including several years on the management committee for ILANZ, the in-house section, and the Taranaki Branch Council.

I have also been a standing member of the Regulatory Governance Group, taking an active interest in the Law Society’s regulatory activities. Alongside this I was actively involved in advising on AML/CFT Phase 2 and the inclusion of the legal profession, including helping with the Law Society submissions and briefing its Council.

In my day job I oversee several key corporate functions, including governance, and have been involved in several governance improvement and organisational realignment projects. I believe this experience will serve me well on the Board. In addition, I believe that I bring a valuable set of perspectives to the Board – an immigrant, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a provincial lawyer, an in-house counsel, and someone with a roundabout journey to actually working in the profession in which I trained.

I am a passionate member of the profession, and believe we are at a critical time. As a profession we need to stand together and fight for our continued success, to retain our proud past but also move into the future.

I care about ensuring that we do right by our communities. I care about the welfare of our lawyers, and about ensuring that all parts of our legal community feel cared for, included, and connected to the profession. In building this culture we will also help ensure that we better serve our communities in an inclusive way, which will benefit all of Aotearoa.

The Law Society is the central core of the profession, and in the coming years it has an even more important role in driving this future for us all. We must stand together to engage with all the challenges and opportunities that the future holds, and a strong, proactive, and future-focused Law Society sits at the heart of that. As illustrated with the challenges faced last year, it is essential that we as a group take ownership for the profession as a whole, because ultimately we stand and fall together.

To succeed at this the Law Society must be the best it can be, both from an operational effectiveness perspective and as a leader for the profession. I feel honoured to have this opportunity to contribute what I can to help achieve this outcome.

A particular area of interest is ensuring we have a vibrant profession in our regional centres, to serve our communities, ensure access to justice and provide the collegiality we all need to thrive. The challenges in recruiting good lawyers to regional centres continue in spite of good work and great lifestyles in many of these places. While we don’t have a solution, I was encouraged at the last Council by the conversation. As with many of the challenges facing the profession, this is one where I believe collective effort will ultimately lead to a solution. This issue of LawTalk features employment in the legal profession and one of the articles focuses on this issue.

The second area that has been a source of some frustration for many has been AML/CFT. The Law Society has been actively engaging with both the Department of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Justice in relation to AML/CFT and has created a dedicated part of its website to consolidate useful information on the topic. A Practice Briefing looking at charging for AML/CFT compliance was released on 1 May, and information about annual reporting including obligations and tips for making this less painful for lawyers will shortly be available

Recently the Law Society facilitated DIA staff attending local branch seminars to answer queries from the profession – these seminars are continuing around the country and have been well received. Q and A sessions for the profession with expert lawyers have also been held in Auckland and Wellington and more are planned.

Finally, the Law Society has also raised some of the more concerning issues directly with Government – including disbursements received by law firms in advance and barristers’ fees being treated as “managing client funds” and wire transfers.

Noho ora mai

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