New Zealand Law Society - Several Crown Law operating models limit effectiveness, says PIF review

Several Crown Law operating models limit effectiveness, says PIF review

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

There are several operating models within the Crown Law Office and this limits efficiency and effectiveness, confuses clients and hinders talent development and retention, according to a Performance Improvement Framework (PIF) Review of Crown Law released in June 2017.

The PIF Review framework is aimed at helping senior leaders in the State Services lead performance improvement in their agencies and across the system. Crown Law carried out a PIF Self-Review in September 2016. 

The PIF review was carried out with input from Ministers, Crown Law staff, members of the judiciary, Crown Solicitors, departmental lawyers, other members of the Bar, and departmental officials.

In its appraisal of Crown Law's delivery for customers and New Zealanders, the review says improvement is needed in its understanding of its customers and its operating model. However, Crown Law is "well placed" when it comes to collaboration and partnerships, and experiences of the public.

"At this time, Crown Law is operating largely as a group of lawyers passionate about the rule of law and committed to work that supports it. The organisation doesn't have a sophisticated understanding of customer need and does not walk well in the shoes of others," the report says.

"Crown Law's staff do not reflect the diversity of the New Zealand population, although they probably reflect the cohort of lawyers with whom they interact! The organisation would be 'well placed' if it were to, for example, use recruiting programmes to target Māori, Pasifika and Asian ethnicities into Crown Law."

The report says feedback from a number of clients and stakeholders was that capability is not systematically meeting customer need.

"For example, litigation/project plans are done well by various individuals but not across the board. This means that the customer experience of Crown Law is very much person-dependent."

Noting that there are several operating models within Crown Law, the report says the biggest issue is the lack of systems.

"These system deficiencies are across all functions and work areas. Of course an organisation of this size needs to prioritise where it invests in systemisation and must focus where it will drive quality and effectiveness and efficiency. A number of employees fear systemisation, hiding behind the risk of it making them bureaucratic, rather than recognising the value it will unlock. Opportunities exist internally (such as approaches to 'briefing out'), as well as externally (such as the appointment and ongoing audit of Crown Solicitor warrants)."

Crown Law identifies core outcomes

In its response to the review, Crown Law says its new strategic direction puts three core outcomes at the heart of what it does:

Demonstrably better government decisions "refers to our ambition for Government lawyers right throughout the State Sector to be sought out by decision-makers as valued partners who add real value." Crown Law says this will mean governments are best placed to implement their policy choices lawfully and with better identification and management of risk and opportunity. "It should, over time, result in Crown conduct that is less susceptible to successful challenge, increased transparency of process and compliance with the rule of law and, therefore, a more robust democracy."

Strengthened influence of the rule of law "refers to our role in upholding respect for New Zealand's constitutional framework, including the Treaty of Waitangi and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act" 1990. It says strengthening the influence of the rule of law will be demonstrated by greater public confidence in the systems that ensure governments act according to law.

Improved criminal justice "refers to Crown Law's vital role in the Justice sector, including ensuring the quality of Crown prosecutions (through the network of Crown solicitors who prosecute the most serious offences); improving the quality, consistency and decision-making of the approximately 150,000 public (ie, departmental) prosecutions every year; contributing leadership to a stream-lined and efficient mutual assistance and extradition regime; and ensuring the quality of the conduct of criminal appeals."