In the last two years the Law Society has increased funding to modernise and improve our regulatory functions in line with the Regulatory Strategy. This modernisation work is planned to continue this year, including investing in the Law Society’s regulatory operations, new IT systems, improving compliance and focus on consumers. Similar to all businesses, we are also facing cost increases. As a result, the practising certificate fee for 2023-24 will rise by $140, to $1430 (GST exclusive).
Modernising and improving technology
The practising certificate fee increase for 2023-24 will enable the Law Society to continue its technology modernisation programme to support core regulatory processes, and include further development of the Law Society website and improving the provision of information.
Recent fee increases from 2021 onwards allowed for some improvements which have already been implemented, such as the reform of our early resolution and frontline processes and technology modernisation programme. Many of these improvements are aimed at lessening delay and ensuring the complaints process is more efficient and effective within the current prescriptive legislative framework. We have also improved the stability and security of our core IT systems. We’ve also put more resources into our management of sensitive matters and to provide more support in this area.
This is consistent with the findings of the Independent Review Panel which considered there had been systematic underfunding of the Law Society’s regulatory functions. The Panel said an effective regulator needed to set its budget based on what was needed to effectively and efficiently regulate*.
*See Regulating Lawyers in Aotearoa New Zealand, page 57 Systematic underfunding of regulatory functions.
Lagging behind inflation
Historical reductions and holding of the practising fee meant that it has not kept pace with CPI increase every year. The practising fee was increased by $150 to $1,290 for 2022-23.
The following chart shows the history of the practising fee and the impact of the $140 increase.
The practising fee was reduced in 2017 and 2018 then held steady for three years. In 2019 the Law Society had to vacate its national office building and then a decision was made not to increase the fee during COVID due to the pressures faced by the profession. This resulted in limited increased funding for the Law Society which contributed to a lack of continuous investment in systems, process, technology and staff resources to improve and maintain regulatory services.
What does your practising certificate fee pay for?
It’s worth noting that the practising certificate fee is not a membership services fee and only pays for the cost of professional regulation. By law, practising certificate funds can only be spent on regulatory work. The Law Society’s representative services are not funded by the practising certificate fee.
What happens next?
Practising fees must be paid in full by 30 June 2023. Instructions for how to renew your practising certificate are emailed out to practising certificate holders.