The New Zealand Law Society
The New Zealand Law Society is the professional organisation for lawyers. It regulates the practice of law in New Zealand and represents the interests of lawyers who choose to be members.
As regulator of the legal profession, the Law Society's powers are set out in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 and associated regulations. The Act also requires the Law Society to assist and promote reform of the law, and states that the Law Society has the function of representing its members and serving their interests.
Established in 1869, the Law Society has been an important contributor and participant in New Zealand's justice system for over 140 years. Each of the 13 New Zealand Law Society branches around New Zealand provides a wide range of representative services to lawyers who practise in the branch area. A Law Society branch manager provides administrative services and branch Presidents and Council are elected. The branch manager is also co-ordinator for Lawyers Standards Committees which are responsible for disciplinary matters.
The Law Society is required to report on its regulatory activities to the Minister of Justice each year. The latest report - which also includes information on its other activities - is available here.
Law Society membership
While the New Zealand Law Society regulates all lawyers in New Zealand, membership of the Society is voluntary. The vast majority of New Zealand lawyers (over 97% at 30 June 2018) are members and participate in the varied services and activities which the Law Society organises.
Associate membership of the Law Society is available for people who have close links to the legal profession but who do not hold practising certificates.
The Law Society maintains a website which provides information for all lawyers, and three other websites with information for lawyers specialising in particular areas of practice. The Law Society's continuing legal education arm, NZLS CLE Ltd, also maintains a comprehensive website.
The main Law Society website, www.lawsociety.org.nz, contains a large amount of information for lawyers, non-lawyers, and users of legal services. The site provides details of lawyer regulatory requirements, the Lawyers Complaints Service, the searchable Register of Lawyers, Find a Lawyer, and news and information on Law Society submissions and activities. A few parts of website have access restricted to lawyers holding a current practising certificate.
All Law Society branches have their own pages with information on news, events and people.
The Practising Well section focuses on health and wellbeing, and contains resources aimed at helping lawyers who encounter stress, depression and other such issues. The site also contains a large amount of information and resources relating to the Law Society Library, including a large number of member-only online databases.
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LawTalk is the official magazine of the New Zealand Law Society. It is published monthly, 11 times a year and is sent to every New Zealand-based lawyer and others involved in the legal services industry, including members of the judiciary.
First published in 1974, LawTalk is New Zealand's longest-established and most widely circulated legal publication. The current circulation is 13,100 copies. An online version of LawTalk is also available on the Law Society's website.
Information published in LawTalk aims to be relevant to anyone who is practising law in New Zealand. As regulator of lawyers, the Law Society has the objective of providing information which will help improve the effectiveness of legal services to consumers and ensure the maintenance of the high standards of the legal profession. LawTalk includes regular information on decisions of the Lawyers Complaints Service, advice on the Law Society's law reform activities, developments in legal practice management, legal information, technology, continuing professional development opportunities, lawyers and other people involved in the justice system.
LawPoints is a weekly email newsletter roundup of news and information. It is sent by the Law Society to anyone who holds a current practising certificate (unless they choose to opt out) and to the Society's associate members.
LawPoints is compiled from a wide range of sources, and information covers the 7-day period since the last e-newsletter. The objective is to alert lawyers to developments which they may be interested in and provide links to further, more detailed, information. The service recognises that while many lawyers are overloaded with information, they also need to stay aware of changes and developments.
A special version of LawPoints is prepared for distribution to non-lawyers who are interested in the New Zealand legal system. This contains much of the information which is included in LawPoints. Distribution is free of charge and subscribers can register online.
People who receive NZLS Weekly include law students, the media, politicians, legal executives, members of the judiciary, legal recruitment companies and government workers.
Several of the Law Society's branches produce their own regular communications to lawyers practising in the area covered by the branch. Currently these are Auckland Branch e-Bulletin (monthly Auckland e-newsletter), Canterbury Tales (monthly Canterbury-Westland magazine), Council Brief (monthly Wellington newspaper), Cur Adv Vult (monthly Otago newsletter), Otago e-Bulletin (fortnightly Otago e-newsletter) e-Brief (weekly Wellington e-newsletter), Hawke's Bay Branch Newsletter (quarterly Hawke's Bay newsletter), Waikato Bay of Plenty e-bulletin (monthly Waikato Bay of Plenty e-newsletter), and a weekly email service to Canterbury-Westland branch members.
Law Library Services
The New Zealand Law Society Library provides legal information services. The Library is a private library, operated for the New Zealand legal profession, and is not open to the public.
Library hardcopy resources are housed in the three research libraries in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, and smaller library in Dunedin with part-time staffing. Online information services are provided at these locations and through special Law Society computer terminals in 31 courthouses around New Zealand.
The Library has a comprehensive collection of New Zealand and foreign legal information resources. The Library catalogue contains bibliographic and holdings information for texts and serials held in the Auckland, Canterbury, Dunedin and Wellington libraries.
Most of the Library collection is for reference only and so is not available for borrowing, except for use in court. The librarians can provide more information on borrowing policies.
The Library catalogue can be searched online at www.lawsocietylibrary.org.nz/catalogue/. Library staff are happy to assist with searching or with locating information.
The three research libraries hold extensive print collections and a smaller collection is held at the Dunedin library. The Library catalogue provides details of which library holds copies of a particular title.
The Library subscribes to well over 250 databases covering various jurisdictions. These may be accessed on Law Society computers in the Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington libraries and in lawyers' rooms in 31 courthouses around the country. Lawyers may also access the electronic collection on their own laptop using the wi-fi networks available in the Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington libraries. Ask library staff on site for more information.
Other general reference, business and specialised information databases, provided by Ebsco and Gale, can be accessed by lawyers directly from their own computers via my.lawsociety, using their lawyer ID and password. See also the Law Society's Practice Briefing 'Law Society Legal Research Facilities' for more detail of available resources.
Trained library staff offer a range of legal information services. Staff are based at the research libraries in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, but services may be accessed by lawyers throughout New Zealand.
Document delivery of cases, articles or legislation is provided. This can be accessed through an online document delivery request form or by inquiry at a research library. Charges apply. The requested material can be delivered by email, DX, courier, or post. The standard charge for a document delivery request is $15.00 plus GST per item. Further details are on the Library website.
Legal research services are provided for any legal subject. Requests may be lodged online or by inquiry at a research library. Research is tailored to your individual needs, agreed deadlines and costs. The charge is $40.00 plus GST per 15-minute unit and any photocopying costs. Research required within 4 hours is charged at an urgent rate of $60.00 plus GST per 15-minute unit.
Study materials may be purchased through the Library for the New Zealand Council of Legal Education's New Zealand Law and Practice Examination.
If you need to update your research skills, library staff provide one-to-one database training which focuses on your needs and areas of practice. Sessions are usually one hour long and cost $140.00 plus GST.
The Auckland and Wellington libraries hire gowns on a daily basis for court appearances. This costs $10.00 plus GST per day.
Copying at the main libraries requires either a PIN for the Auckland library or a pre-pay card for the Wellington and Christchurch libraries. Contact the Dunedin library directly to inquire about copying and printing.
After-hours access is available to some libraries including Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington. A door card is required to access the Christchurch library at all times and more details can be found on the Library website. A charge for use of an access card may apply.
Law Reform Activities
One of the functions of the Law Society under section 65(e) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 is "to assist and promote, for the purpose of upholding the rule of law and facilitating the administration of justice in New Zealand, the reform of the law".
As part of its public service to law reform, the Law Society makes submissions on many bills referred to select committees and on discussion papers from government agencies. The national law reform process supports the Law Society's reputation for producing impartial and considered submissions, and enhances its powerful lobbying presence. This, of course, does not affect the position of individual lawyers wishing to make submissions on bills or discussion documents in their own right.
Most Law Society submissions focus on matters of legal principle, drafting or technical matters, rather than on policy. Individual members of the Law Society will hold differing opinions on social policy. In rare cases, the Law Society has sounded out opinion from members, analysed that and then made a submission with the acknowledgement that it cannot speak for all members and that some members will have strongly differing views. But in most cases the Law Society concentrates on what it can do best - making sure the legislation will work in practice.
The Law Reform Committee
Assisted by the Law Society's 16 specialist committees and sections, the Law Reform Committee prepares law reform submissions on behalf of the legal profession and in the public interest. Members of the Law Reform Committee draft the Law Society's submissions, taking into account comments received. Submission deadlines are often tight, and the drafters follow a disciplined process, with a rigorous quality control process before submissions are filed.
The Law Reform Committee comprises the convener, the conveners of the Law Society's specialist committees, representatives from the Property Law and Family Law Sections, and members of the Law Society who have expressed an interest in law reform. Information about the specialist committees, and committee membership, is available on the Law Society's website.
The Law Society has a well-established group of committees. These are made up of lawyers from around New Zealand who specialise or have expertise in the areas of law or practice covered by each committee. Committee members are appointed by the Law Society's Board. If you are interested in paying an important part in New Zealand law reform, membership of a Law Society committee is one way of achieving this.
Membership of the committees is open to Law Society members and associate members. Committee members are appointed for a two-year term, and the latest round of appointments were made for the two years from September 2013. The committees are an excellent basis for professional development, as well as collegiality and networking.
Family and property law reform activities are covered by the Law Society's Family Law and Property Law Sections.
The established committees are:
- Accident Compensation Committee;
- Civil Litigation and Tribunals Committee;
- Commercial and Business Law Committee;
- Courthouse Committee;
- Criminal Law Committee;
- Employment Law Committee;
- Environmental Law Committee;
- Health Law Committee;
- Human Rights and Privacy Committee;
- Immigration and Refugee Law Committee;
- Intellectual Property Law Committee;
- Legal Services Committee;
- Public and Administrative Law Committee;
- Rule of Law Committee;
- Taxation Law Committee;
- Youth Justice Committee.
Law Society branches
District law societies ceased to be statutory bodies on 31 January 2009. With the exception of Auckland, the former districts transferred their assets and liabilities to the New Zealand Law Society, as agreed in the memorandum of understanding signed by all districts in 2007. In 2008, however, the Auckland District Law Society voted to incorporate as an independent voluntary society from 1 February 2009, and is now known as Auckland District Law Society Incorporated.
As required under the Law Society Constitution, branches now operate in all former districts (Auckland, Canterbury-Westland, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, Marlborough, Nelson, Otago, Southland, Taranaki, Waikato Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Whanganui).
Each branch has an elected President and Council, and is managed by staff employed by the Law Society.
Your local branch is your first port of call for contact with the Law Society and can provide you with information about events, committees and conferences in your area. All branches have organised activities and events, which have the key objectives of bringing lawyers together, providing support and development opportunities, and ensuring members are kept up-to-date with any events or developments which have an impact on legal practice.
Law Society Sections
The Law Society has three "sections" which represent the interests of members practising in a particular area of law. These are:
- ILANZ, for in-house lawyers;
- the Family Law Section; and
- the Property Law Section.
The sections deliver services to their members within their specialist areas. They also perform some regulatory functions, in that some of their work may assist and promote law reform to uphold the rule of law or the administration of justice in New Zealand. Section members are required by the Law Society Constitution to be full or associate members of the Law Society. The ability to join a section flows from, and is a benefit of, Law Society membership.
An executive committee, comprising lawyer volunteers, governs each of the sections. The executive committees are elected by the membership, and they set the strategy and direction for the sections' services. The executive committees have the ability to appoint subcommittees, usually from their membership, to assist with projects and tasks.
The sections communicate directly with their members via quarterly hardcopy publications/journals (Family and Property Law Sections), monthly email newsletters (which include a mix of subject-specific news and relevant practice support information) and through their websites. Each section has its own website, with a password-protected members-only area:
Each section offers a range of tailored functions and seminars that allow members to build networks with other lawyers practising in those areas and to enjoy the benefit of meeting and learning from senior lawyers.
Joining is easy: input your details using the online form on the relevant section's website, and send.
ILANZ (In-house Lawyers Association of New Zealand)
ILANZ provides member services including educational and social events, email bulletins and updates and an annual conference. It seeks to:
- serve the needs of in-house lawyers by providing members with the resources and the networks that they need to better serve their organisations;
- promote the value of in-house lawyers and demonstrate their multi-faceted roles;
- promote the objects of, and operate as, a section of the Law Society;
- provide leadership to those providing in-house legal services;
- provide and encourage professional networking opportunities;
- act as the voice and public face of in-house lawyers;
- identify and develop professional development opportunities; and
- offer up-to-date information on national and international trends in the provision of in-house legal service.
Family Law Section
The Family Law Section aims to lead the way in the development and practice of family law in New Zealand. The Section has about 1,000 members and its purpose is to:
- assist and promote the reform of family law in New Zealand;
- promote and uphold the rule of law as it affects family law in New Zealand; and
- contribute to the standards and regulation of the practice of family law in New Zealand.
The Section provides support, benefits and advocacy for its members and helps to establish and maintain professional training in all areas of family law. A quarterly magazine, The Family Advocate, provides news and articles on family law developments. The Family Law Section has 30 regional representatives throughout the country who are the face of the Section in their areas and are a vital link between Section members and the executive. Their role is extensive and includes:
- organising local networking functions;
- arranging mini seminars for local members;
- attending meetings of local family law committees and court management committees;
- communicating regularly with members on topics of local interest; and
- reporting to the executive committee on local family law issues.
The Family Law Section also has 11 standing committees which are the Section's focus groups with particular areas of interest and expertise. They advise the executive on issues in relation to practice and policy matters in their specialist area of family law.
Property Law Section
The Property Law Section has over 1,450 members, including lawyers, legal executives and others with an interest in property law. The Section recognises the special nature of property law and aims to support and represent its members in their practice. The section:
- develops best practice guidelines for property lawyers;
- promotes opportunities for its members to improve their professional skills and gain expertise in marketing their services;
- encourages discussion and debate on property law issues;
- establishes and maintains contact with businesses, government and other stakeholders about issues of mutual relevance;
- communicates with the public about property law matters; and
- provides the public with easy access to property lawyers and promotes the property lawyer brand.
The Section provides regular information to members on changes and developments in property law, and publishes a quarterly magazine, The Property Lawyer. The Section is active in law reform and prepares and delivers submissions on all relevant developments in the law. It runs an accreditation scheme and provides marketing and branding opportunities for members. A key objective of the Section is also to facilitate networking and discussion among members.
The Section is governed by an Executive Committee comprised of property lawyers and elected nationally. There are five Technical Committees, made up of members who have volunteered to be actively involved in the Section's work in a particular area of property law, as well as various Working Groups established when needed to carry out a particular task - usually in relation to an area of property law under review.
NZLS CLE Ltd
The Law Society's wholly-owned company NZLS CLE Ltd provides professional development for lawyers by offering a high quality, affordable continuing legal education service.
NZLS CLE Ltd offers a range of courses across all practice areas catering, in particular, for needs and interests not generally catered for by commercial providers. The format of the courses offered varies depending on the needs of the target group and the nature of the subject material and include seminars, one-day intensives, conferences, workshops and webinars.
Where possible, courses are offered in smaller centres or by a webinar where there is widespread demand that can't be satisfied by live sessions alone. Courses come with top quality background materials containing the very latest developments in the given field of law.
Further information on NZLS CLE Ltd activities can be obtained from its website at http://www.lawyerseducation.co.nz/. The company also distributes a wide range of material on coming courses.
Published in A Practical Guide to New Lawyers, 3rd Edition, 2014. Updated online, May 2016.
Last updated on the 21st May 2019