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From the Law Society

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Need for legal representation

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment 2014, “Occupation Outlook for Lawyers” report said that employment growth for lawyers would be around 1.6% until 2016 and thereafter, from 2016-2021, growth would continue at 1.1% per annum.

That outlook has improved. In its 2015 Occupation Outlook report it projects employment growth for lawyers at around 4.1% per year. This is expected until 2018. On the down side law graduates without experience are finding it harder to find a job in the law. This is a problem throughout the English speaking common law world.

LawTalk 854 looked at whether there were too many lawyers and whether supply had outstripped demand. The commentators were generally positive about the position. Professor Mark Henaghan, Otago University Dean, said that he could remember the “same old tale being barked” in 1978 when he was at law school. He pointed out a review of the law schools’ records confirmed the number of law students doing legal professionals had largely stayed the same over the last six years. He said the bar remains high for entry into law schools in New Zealand.

Many lawyers chose not to limit themselves to private practice and an increasing number are taking up other careers.1 Their legal training teaches them a way of thinking and useful skills that can easily be used outside a career in private practice.2

Despite the increase in the number of lawyers there is a gap which makes legal services inaccessible for a large part of the population. As Professor Henaghan put it: “The need for legal representation is higher than it has ever been and yet the cost is as high as it has ever been”.

It is not just a government problem, although adequacy of legal aid remains a hot topic,3 but it is also a problem for the profession and for the judges.4

It is ironic that this issue is reaching crisis proportions in the year we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.5

There is no silver bullet to solve the problem but the options need to be discussed. Issues relating to access to justice will be explored over the next 12 months, including different approaches to justice.

It promises to be another interesting year. I hope you are energised after a restful break and ready to embrace the opportunities that 2015 presents.

  1. The face of the legal profession is changing. Nearly 21% of lawyers are in-house lawyers and there is a growing bulge of lawyers in private practice with 40 plus years of experience.
  2. A lawyer’s skill is not limited to the law (an interview with Carlos Chambers) Sasha Borissenko, LawTalk 854, 11
  3. Issues also relate to the right to have legal representation at Family Dispute Resolution processes and at stages of the Family Court process.
  4. Access to Justice was the subject of the 2014 Ethel Benjamin address by Justice Helen Winkelmann. See
  5. 15 June 2015 is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.
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