Our passion for law reform
Law reform work is one of the New Zealand Law Society’s key functions. It is an essential part of representing the profession on issues affecting it and representing the public interest on issues such as access to justice, constitutional protections, the administration of justice, and the rule of law.
This function is now enshrined in statute. The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 identifies upholding the rule of law and facilitating the administration of justice as one of the four fundamental obligations of the profession (s 4). It also specifies that one of the Law Society’s regulatory functions is to assist and promote reform of the law, for the purpose of upholding the rule of law and facilitating the administration of justice in New Zealand (s 65).
The Law Society has a reputation for producing high quality submissions. The submissions may be on legislation before Parliament, on Law Commission papers or on proposals developed by government departments and agencies. The aim of the submissions is to assist in shaping the best possible legislation, and in particular to ensure fundamental principles are not undermined.
Even where there is only a small prospect of achieving changes at a late stage of the legislative process, the Law Society places importance on its role as a consistent voice in support of fundamental principles.
The Law Society’s specialist committees also do less visible work behind the scenes liaising with officials, judges and Ministers across a range of the Law Society’s work and areas of legal practice.
A great many lawyers give generously of their time to do this work, working to tight time frames on difficult and wide-ranging issues while at the same time meeting the demands of their day jobs. They are assisted by a dedicated professional team of Law Society employees in the Society’s Law Reform section.
This is a significant public service. It is also rewarding work. It provides opportunities to contribute directly to improving our laws, to be involved at the cutting edge of legal developments, and to work with other like-minded members of the profession. The commitment and enthusiasm shown by these lawyers makes it a pleasure to be involved.
Every second year, the Law Society calls for applications from members and associate members interested in serving as convenors and members of its Law Reform Committee and 15 specialist committees.
The call went out earlier this year, and the committee convenors and members have now been appointed to continue this important part of the Law Society’s work.
The interest shown by the profession resulted in a number of members standing down in order to give others an opportunity to become involved. I would like to thank them for the outstanding service they have provided.
In particular, I would like to acknowledge the very significant contribution of the five specialist committee convenors that have stood down from their roles. They are Clive Elliott QC, convenor of the Intellectual Property Law Committee since 2003; Jonathan Krebs, convenor of the Criminal Law Committee since 2005; Alison Douglass, convenor of the Health Law Committee since 2006; Rodney Harrison QC, convenor of the Public and Administrative Law Committee since 2009; and Stephen Layburn, convenor of the Commercial and Business Law Committee since 2011.
In this issue of LawTalk, we take a look at the Society’s law reform work, and introduce the new Law Reform and specialist committees.
I encourage all practitioners to get in touch with us if they have comments on law reform proposals they think the Law Society should consider, and to think about becoming involved when the Law Society calls for applications again in two years’ time.