A national cooperative of law firms has been launched which has the objective of aiding vulnerable people with legal aid and helping futureproof the law firms which deliver that legal aid.
Legal Aid Providers Aotearoa (LAPA) says it has approached 136 law firms around New Zealand and aims to help its lawyer members by sharing knowledge and skills in areas such as business operations, technology and change management.
Acting Secretary of LAPA, Jarrod Coburn, says the organisation is a step towards ensuring that legal help is always accessible for low income clients.
"The legal sector is built on a tradition of integrity, professionalism and doing the right thing. It must retain those high standarsd but at the same time change the way it delivers services: adopting newer technologies and modern business paradigms," he says.
Mr Coburn says LAPA will be a valuable resource for people who need access to justice, with an 0800 number and website designed to assist in finding a legal aid lawyer quickly.
Christchurch family lawyer Erin Ebborn, which is one of the instigators of LAPA, says the legal profession is in line for significant disruption.
"Someone needs to kick-off a movement to future-proof law firms. A failure to keep up with the changing environment will have serious consequences for our most vulnerable people: those who need legal aid," she says.
Ms Ebborn says her firm, Ebborn Law, has been New Zealand's largest provider of family legal aid for the past two years and has introduced a number of technological advancements for the legal profession.
"Up until now it has been very difficult for the public to identify and locate lawyers committed to delivering legal aid. So the major beneficiaries of this cooperative will be social services and other organisations who work with people on low incomes, and the likes of women's refuges who regularly seek urgent legal intervention for their clients."