New Zealand Law Society - MBIE pitches unique identifier to law firms

MBIE pitches unique identifier to law firms

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The Government is trying to get lawyers on board with its New Zealand Business Number (NZBN).

The NZBN is a unique identifier that allows firms to access, update and share key business information with the government and other businesses. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) says the NZBN will result in less duplication of information, savings in time and cost, and reduce risk.

“We decided to take a sector approach to roll this out and recently focused on working with the construction sector and had a really good uptake, particularly from the trade and industry associations. They have really embraced it and are sending material out to their members. Now, we’re beginning to work closely with the law sector,” says Beth Williams, Manager, Business Engagement.

The NZBN is voluntary for the private sector.  

“Even before the legislation [the NZBN Act 2016] was passed, one leading Wellington law firm had already seen the opportunities the NZBN would create, and built the NZBN into their client database. More firms are now following suit, using the NZBN to link information and make better business decisions,” says Ms Williams.

She says the NZBN increases transparency and some law firms are looking at whether it might assist lawyers in processing the forthcoming anti-money laundering and countering terrorism legislation (AML/CFT) that will be extended to lawyers in 2018.

“The NZBN can increase transparency because you’ve got an ability to link information together so you can get a better picture that you wouldn’t otherwise get.”

Ms Williams says they are working with a number of law firms and will be seeking out other large firms to get them involved in the NZBN, but ultimately MBIE wants to roll it out across the board.

Legal profession is keen

“We are only just getting into the legal sector but from the feedback we have got we are aware that it is a sector that is keen on this.”

She says conferences and webinars are avenues to highlight the NZBN and its benefits to the legal profession.

MBIE has put together leaflets and information online about what the NZBN is and how you can use it, including putting it on email signatures and letterheads.  

“The NZBN should be treated like a firm’s other basic contact details, such as  phone number, email address, postal address or DDI,” says Dan Palazzetti, Stakeholder Engagement Advisor, NZBN.

Beth Williams says that with law firm clients and suppliers (including accounting firms) adopting the NZBN, lawyers will come across the NZBN “one way or another, sooner rather than later”.

There are a number of free services to help law firms adopt the NZBN, such as data matching, access to an API or email alerts.

An explanation of an NZBN can be found here.