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From the Law Society

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Women in the law

We are rapidly approaching the end of 2015 and this is the last LawTalk for the year. I would like to comment on three of the many activities that the New Zealand Law Society has been involved in this year

The first is the Women’s Advisory Panel that the Law Society has just established. Details of the panel are set out in this issue of LawTalk.

The establishment of the Women’s Advisory Panel is an initiative to look at ways to support the retention and advancement of women in the legal profession.

As I have said and written on many occasions over the last two to three years, I believe this is an important issue not just for women but for the profession as a whole. We need to encourage diversity within the profession and at its highest levels. Without being a reflection of what society is today we cannot hope to attract the brightest talent to the profession nor will we remain relevant.

The Law Society has been working on a number of projects to encourage the retention of women in the profession and to improve their representation in leadership positions. These include:

  • the new regular “Women in the law” section of LawTalk;
  • the “Women in the legal profession” section on the Law Society’s website has been refreshed (;
  • the successful conference Women, the law – and the corner office, organised by NZLS CLE Ltd; and
  • next year’s conference Women in Law – Career by Design, again organised by NZLS CLE Ltd, which will be webstreamed so people anywhere in the country can participate.

The second issue I would like to address is collegiality and its importance to the profession.

Law Society events provide the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and develop those relationships which support us in our professional life. These opportunities are provided by branches and sections as well as at the seminars and conferences offered by NZLS CLE Ltd. It is those relationships which enable us to keep current, both in terms of black letter law and the rapid changes to how we practise. They enable us to build our resilience and the support networks which are so fundamental to practising well and effectively. Law Society membership is open to all and for relatively modest cost we can participate in a range of activities from informal events to high quality education, regularly. I also take this opportunity to thank all those hundreds of lawyers who work to provide those events and to deliver the education of which we can take advantage – it is up to each one of us to participate. I have been impressed by what is available, and I would commend these activities to everyone in the profession.

We should also take the opportunity to celebrate together at more formal bar dinners recognising the appointment of judges and the achievements of colleagues. These remain popular with the profession. Our research shows that while there is a flood of legal education available online and all sorts of formats, we still want to meet our colleagues and look for opportunities to do so. Our branches organise some excellent opportunities for members of the profession to get together, as do our sections.

On a final matter we note an issue that I regret remains outstanding. This relates to the Legal Complaints Review Office (LCRO) and its backlog. The LCRO is independent from the Law Society although funded by it. It deals with review applications by parties dissatisfied with decisions of Standards Committees. While recognising the independence of both bodies in relation to decision making, regular meetings are held between the Complaints Service and the LCRO to explore recurring themes and issues in the management of complaints. The LCRO and his deputies are working hard to deal with the reviews in a timely manner.

The Society is continuing to liaise with the Ministry of Justice with a view to steps being taken to assist the LCRO to enhance changes to the officers’ powers, processes and resources, some of which require legislative amendment. Sadly there will always be matters which are the subject of serious complaints and must be dealt with firmly – our professional reputation depends on it – but many matters which are the subject of complaints are now dealt with quickly and effectively. The LCRO has constraints on its ability to do this and we will continue to address this in conjunction with both it and the Ministry.

We are now approaching the Christmas-New Year break. I would like to wish LawTalk readers all the very best over the holiday season and all the very best for a productive and fulfilling 2015.

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