New Zealand Law Society - Still volunteering for community law

Still volunteering for community law

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

Nick Mereu, CEO of online legal Q & A service LawSpot, began working with Community Law Centres o Aotearoa as a student in Dunedin in the "late-naughties" (2000s), having found LAWS101 the most enjoyable course amidst his "smorgasbord of interest papers".

Nick Mereu
Nick Mereu

Many more LAWS papers, a Master's degree, and a few years' in-house experience later, and the Upper Hutt 28-year-old is still volunteering for community law, where he says his passion for helping people to solve their law-related problems comes from.

"The best things about working with the law centres is the experience you gain, particularly with hands-on 'soft' skills like interviewing clients and triaging issues, and the perspective you gain – of the legal problems that exist out there, which everyday people face. No two clients are the same."

However, those clients' issues often boiled down to generic questions about the law that many other clients faced. There didn't seem to be easily available answers anywhere, Mr Mereu says.

The realisation that many Kiwis could benefit from a service providing fast answers to everyday legal queries led a team of keen lawyer and non-lawyer volunteers to develop, a rapidly-growing online question and answer service that connects qualified lawyers with individuals in need of legal assistance.

If LawSpot "question vetters" consider a user's question too complex to be answered generically online, the user is referred to further information and practitioners who can help.

Legal service reform

With more than six users asking LawSpot's digital network of volunteer solicitors for help every day, there is high demand for legal services and freely-available legal information, Mr Mereu says, and it's up to lawyers to meet that demand, potentially by reforming the way they supply their legal services.

Especially of interest to Mr Mereu is the developing movement to "open-source" legal knowledge, that is, to make legal information freely and widely accessible, to any and all who wish to access it.

Of course, many clients find that once their preliminary legal questions have been answered, they will need to retain a lawyer to assist them.

LawSpot and the wider open-source movement simply aim to make it easier for people to understand their legal rights and responsibilities, which will help them to know whether they need legal representation, what kind of lawyers can help, and what to do next, Mr Mereu says.

Mr Mereu is currently in-house counsel for the Insurance Council of New Zealand, having previously climbed the ranks at Financial Services Complaints Ltd – a private-sector dispute resolution service for the financial industry.

He was admitted in 2010, graduating from Otago University, before gaining an LLM in advocacy and regulation from Monash University in Melbourne.

While Mr Mereu obviously hopes to see LawSpot flourish, his passion for improving the public's access to legal information is not personal, and he says it's all about the end result rather than the means of delivery.

"As long as essential legal information is being made available to the public in an accessible format, that's the goal.

"LawSpot continues to seek public and private funding," Mr Mereu says, "but in an ideal world we would run it for free through the pro bono contributions of volunteers, particularly experienced practitioners in family, employment, criminal, and other specialist areas of law that the public most commonly asks questions about."

Contact Mr Mereu at

Lawyer Listing for Bots