New Zealand Law Society - Independent Review Panel appointed: set to look at the framework for legal services in New Zealand

Independent Review Panel appointed: set to look at the framework for legal services in New Zealand

Last year, the New Zealand Law Society commenced work towards a milestone review of its own legislation, operations, efficacy and future-proofing. It consulted on the terms of reference for this Independent Review through a specially convened steering group. In March, the Law Society appointed its three-person Independent Review Panel. LawTalk outlines the appointments.

In early March, the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa was advised of the appointment of a highly experienced panel, convened to conduct the Law Society’s flagship Independent Review. This independent panel will examine the statutory framework for lawyers and legal services and whether it is still fit-for-purpose given the changes that have occurred in the legal profession and in regulatory good practice.

Professor Ron Paterson was appointed as Chair of the Independent Review Panel, and Jane Meares and Professor Jacinta Ruru as members.

Professor Ron Paterson

The panel was appointed following a recommendation by a seven-member Steering Group, led by prominent businessman Whaimutu Dewes.

The Steering Group was, itself, appointed by the Law Society last year. Despite experiencing some delays due to the pandemic, the Steering Group’s role was to set the terms of reference for the review, following consultation with the profession. Once these were set, it was tasked with recommending the Independent Review Panel members, who would operate at arm’s length from the Law Society. It also recommended the secretariat provider to support the Panel. The Steering Group’s role is now complete.

The three-person Independent Review Panel will now identify what changes are needed for modern and well-functioning regulation and representation of the legal profession in Aotearoa. The scope includes whether the Law Society’s representative functions should be separated from some, or all, of its regulatory functions; how unacceptable conduct is prevented and addressed in the profession; how complaints are made and responded to; and which legal services are regulated and by whom.

The Independent Review Panel will deliver its report to the Law Society by the end of 2022. Following receipt of its report and recommendations, the Law Society will provide a response. That response and the Panel’s report will be delivered to Government in the first half of 2023.


Under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (the Act), the Law Society is both a regulatory and representative body. As a regulator it governs all lawyers and has dedicated duties and powers focused on monitoring, regulating and enforcing the rules that apply to lawyers to ensure New Zealanders can have confidence in the provision of legal services. It is also a voluntary representative body whose function is to represent and serve the interest of its members.

Jane Meares

Dame Silvia Cartwright’s 2018 report, following reports of behavioural issues in the profession, made recommendations on a wide number of issues, but the Law Society found that it was constrained by its own legislation in addressing some of those. The government said legislative amendments couldn’t proceed at that time.

As a result, the Law Society framed an Independent Review to:

  • Consider the ability of the Law Society to be more effective with its complaints system and to deal with a range of unacceptable behaviour, including complaints of sexual harassment and bullying; and
  • Ensure the statutory framework is still fit-for-purpose given the changes that have occurred in the legal profession and in regulatory ‘good practice’ since the Act came into force.

Law Society acknowledges appointment of panel

“I am delighted we have secured a panel of this calibre to conduct the review. They are each rangatira in their own right. Collectively they bring together all the skills we need to do this work,” Law Society President Tiana Epati says.

Professor Jacinta Ruru

“This is the most significant independent review of the statutory framework which governs the legal profession in our generation, Ms Epati says.

“It is the opportunity for us to give deep consideration to what change is needed to enable a fit-for-purpose statutory and regulatory environment that provides for a modern, efficient, and high-integrity legal profession for all New Zealanders.

“It lets us look at what is needed to ensure fair competition for legal services, to enable innovation in the profession and to strengthen commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the diverse multicultural society we live in.

“Over the last year the Law Society has done a great deal of preparation work for this review. The Steering Group has likewise been methodical, careful to ensure the Terms of Reference were right. Through the Law Society, the Steering Group has consulted widely on these. Now it is time for us as a profession to accept the challenge,” Ms Epati says.

About the review panel members

Professor Ron Paterson, Chair

Professor Paterson ONZM is Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Auckland and former Health and Disability Commissioner and Ombudsman. He has chaired several major inquiries in New Zealand and Australia, including the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, and brings expertise in the regulation of professions, complaint systems and consumer protection.

Jane Meares, Panel Member

Ms Meares is a barrister at Clifton Chambers, Chief Commissioner of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, Chair of Financial Services Complaints Limited, Deputy Chair of the Electoral Commission and a Member of the LINZ Risk and Assurance Committee. She has extensive experience in legal practice and review and inquiry expertise and is motivated to be part of a significant opportunity for change in the legal profession.

Professor Jacinta Ruru, Panel Member

Professor Ruru MNZM, FRSNZ (Raukawa, Ngāti Ranginui) is a Professor of Law and University of Otago inaugural Sesquicentennial Distinguished Chair. She is a member of Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa the Māori Law Society. Professor Ruru brings an excellent understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and is focused on bringing it to life in the legal profession. She has good experience in high-profile Ministerial reviews, advisory groups and governance boards.

The final Terms of Reference for the Independent Review can be found at