At 1 May 2020, New Zealand’s legal profession – like the rest of the country – had spent three days in Level 3 lockdown after nearly five weeks at Level 4. Just under 15,000 lawyers held practising certificates, of whom 14,039 worked in New Zealand. Lockdown had frozen many things, including new entrants to the profession: the newest lawyers in the country were the 35 who had been admitted on 20 March 2020 and subsequently taken out practising certificates. COVID-19 has slowed the increase, but it hasn’t put a stop to the overall growth in the number of lawyers, however. At 1 May 2020 there were 353 more New Zealand-based lawyers than a year previously, a growth of 2.6%.
This Snapshot draws on information held by the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa in its role of regulator of the practice of law. Historical statistics are taken from New Zealand Law Society annual reports. Care has been taken to present the information in such a way that identification of individuals or organisations is not possible.
In 1876, The Jurist stated that New Zealand had 225 lawyers. This gave the country one lawyer for every 1,782 people. The number of lawyers has grown at a faster rate than New Zealand’s population since the end of World War II. The number of people per lawyer rose from the mid-1920s until it peaked in 1943 at 1277.8 people for every lawyer. From then the proportion of lawyers started to increase, gaining momentum from the mid-1970s. The introduction of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 meant that lawyers who were based overseas could hold a New Zealand practising certificate, but they have been omitted from the 2010 and 2020 figures for the purposes of comparison.