As the festive season approaches, I extend my heartfelt holiday greetings to all members of the New Zealand Law Society Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa and our esteemed legal community. I hope that you can enjoy a well-earned break in coming days.
This year has been one of challenges and significant milestones. It's in reflecting upon these moments that we find ourselves not only celebrating the season but also considering the path ahead. The legal profession and the Law Society have much to do.
Next year we’ll continue to champion access to justice for all New Zealanders. With many lawyers getting straight back into supporting clients from early January, there will be no time to waste. We encourage the new Government to consider a full review of legal aid to ensure the ongoing sustainability of this critical service.
In many areas of New Zealand, we have ageing criminal and family lawyers and growing shortages – as well as difficulty in recruiting lawyers in the regions. Fewer lawyers are juggling the same amount of work across the system and more individuals are representing themselves in court. The implications for addressing the current court backlogs and access to justice are there for all to see.
Another key area of focus is encouraging the Government to prioritise reform as recommended by the Independent Review. Statutory change is needed if we are going to be able to do more to protect consumers and the public.
Meanwhile we continue to advocate for key amendments to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 for a more efficient complaints process, that benefits both consumers and the legal profession.
The sustainability of our membership services will also be crucial in 2024. We continue to work hard on our representative strategy to deliver strengthened services to our 16,000 plus members.
I’d like particularly to thank all those who volunteer and serve for the benefit of the profession and the community. Voluntary work is as hugely satisfying as it is time consuming, and I’m grateful for all your efforts.
As we embrace the holidays, let us appreciate friendships and family. May this season be a time of joy, reflection, and rejuvenation.
Warm wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year.
Ngā mihi o Hineraumati – summer greetings.
Law Society President