New Zealand Law Society - Adapting to a changing world

Adapting to a changing world

Adapting to a changing world

Law Society President Frazer Barton shares reflections on adapting to a changing world and wishes the University of Otago all the best with their Law School’s 150th anniversary celebrations. He also summarises the background and main recommendations of the Independent Review, and the next steps.

What a few months it has been for many across Aotearoa New Zealand, especially in the north and the east. First there was significant flooding, and then Cyclone Gabrielle arrived on our shores. We know that many of you, along with your whānau and friends have been dealing with the various challenges and difficulties in the aftermath. Please know that the Legal Community Counselling Service is available on 0508 664 981. This is a free service provided by the Law Society.

Significant weather events and challenges are becoming more and more frequent, and no part of the country is immune. Which makes our LawTalk March edition especially timely. This edition grapples with legal responses to climate change and considers a lot of the work already done by firms to navigate into a climate-mitigating and adapting world. The article regarding legislative models to address climate change includes compelling research from some of the world’s best legal academics and climate change experts.

Here at home, we have much of which we can be proud. Some of our biggest firms are already making great strides towards carbon zero and sustainable practices. They’ve banded together to share some how-tos for others to adopt to begin their own journey. We ask one of the world’s leading environmental law experts whether the legal profession has a critical role to play in solving the climate crisis across the world.

Climate change, sustainability and our responses to environmental challenges aren’t just something left to scientists and experts. We all have a role to play, and our profession will be at the fore

In this issue we also look at what other industries are doing to become more sustainable and climate-friendly. The New Zealand Super Fund have described what they are doing to diversify and invest in more environmentally friendly ways. New Zealand Green Investment Finance talk us through the innovations they are taking in the contract space, particularly when it comes to the work to develop the New Zealand Climate Clause Bank in using contracts for better climate outcomes.

Climate change, sustainability and our responses to environmental challenges aren’t just something left to scientists and experts. We all have a role to play, and our profession will be at the fore.

Happy anniversary to the University of Otago Law School

On a different note, and dear to my heart, the University of Otago Law School is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. New Zealand’s oldest law school has a remarkable history, and has successful alumni across the legal world. Congratulations to Otago Law on making it to 150 years young!

Independent Review recommendations – next steps

As you may know, the Independent Review Panel’s report was released earlier this month. The report was commissioned by the Law Society because over time it had been clear that the legislation, including the complaints process, was no longer fit-for-purpose and was not serving the public or the profession well. This had been highlighted in 2018 with reports of sexual harassment within the legal profession.

The report’s key recommendations include legislative and structural change to establish a new independent regulator and an overhaul of the system for handling complaints about lawyers. The report found that the current legislative framework is overly prescriptive and inefficient.

The report concluded that the dual functions of the Law Society also don’t serve the interests of the public or the profession well, with these functions tending to conflict with each other. The report states that there is a strong case for a new independent regulator with a fit-for-purpose governance approach.

The report recommends that a new Act places more emphasis on our Te Tiriti obligations, and highlights that the Law Society could be doing better at providing consumers with clear information about interacting with the legal profession.

The Review has given us all a lot to consider. The recommended actions have significant and complex implications, and any legislative change wouldn’t happen quickly. We will continue to work with the profession and our regulatory partners as we strive towards our commitment to being a best practice, modern regulator and peak national representative body for the legal profession.

The Law Society is currently reviewing the report and will be making recommendations to the Minister for Justice later this year.

We would like to thank the Review Panel for its work over the past year to prepare this report.

We would also like to thank the profession for the time and thoughtful submissions that were provided. This Review could not have been prepared without your input.

Noho ora mai – stay well

Frazer Barton

New Zealand Law Society President