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COVID-19 information

The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa is reviewing the Coronavirus situation on a daily basis and will provide regular updated advice from reputable sources for the law profession.

We know members of the profession will have questions about the implications of the pandemic on their clients; their businesses; their professional obligations; their own wellbeing and that of their employees.

We are working in partnership with other professional legal organisations to provide regularly updated guidance, support and advocacy for our members and the profession via our online channels. More information is below.

If you are seeking up to date COVID-19 official health information please go to the official Government site: www.covid19.govt.nz

Government advice

  • The Law Society is closely following all official guidelines and advice from the Ministry of Health. This is the best source of reliable and up to date information on the disease. We recommend that the legal profession follows the Ministry’s advice to keep their colleagues, clients and whanau safe.
  • The Government's Unite against COVID-19 website brings together a wide range of information and advice about COVID-19.

Guidance for the legal profession

Courts

  • Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann has released information to the legal profession on planning for the possible effects of a COVID-19 outbreak on court business. Heads of all court benches and senior Ministry of Justice officials have met to discuss how courts business will continue in the event of local or widespread outbreaks of COVID-19. The courts and the Ministry of Justice will be guided by Ministry of Health advice.
  • The New Zealand Parole Board has announced that from Thursday, 19 March, all hearings will be held by video-link.
  • The Chief Justice has sent a letter to all practitioners advising that new jury trials have been suspended for two months. The Ministry of Justice news release includes this letter and information for lawyers, jurors and all court users.
  • Chief Judge of the District Court, Heemi Taumaunu, has released a District Court Interim Response regarding the suspension of all jury trials currently listed to be heard over the next two months, from Monday 23 March. District Court Judges currently presiding over trials will closely monitor those trials and make decisions about whether those trials continue.
  • The Chief Justice has sent a letter to the profession outlining COVID-19 Arrangements for New Zealand courts following the Prime Minister’s statement of 21 March 2020.
  • We have received a message from Chief Justice on arrangements for courts following the rise in COVID-19 alert level. We have emailed all lawyers.
  • 24 March: the New Zealand Parole Board have provided advice to parole lawyers subsequent to the country moving to alert level 3 (and soon level 4).
  • 25 March: Chief Justice outlines court operation at Level 4.
  • 25 March: Employment Court outlined its processes under Level 4.
  • 26 March: Chief District Court Judge issues notice outlining District Courts' sittings during alert level 4.
  • 1 April: the District Court provided an update re proceedings in court under COVID-19. The Ministry of Justice has established a Virtual Meeting Room facility for all counsel and list of the courts at which these facilities will be established can be downloaded.

Update for practice areas

Law Society services

  • 1 April: Update on CPD Declarations
    We appreciate you will all be adapting to the current change in circumstances as best as you can and we would like to reassure you that we will work with you to resolve any issues that may affect your ability to make your CPD declaration, as far as we are able.
    While the CPD year ended on the 31 March 2020 you still have five working days to file declarations, up to 7 April 2020, and we will accept deferrals as a result of COVID-19.
    If anyone is unable to complete their CPD hours due to COVID-19, whether that is because of postponement or cancellation of activities, or the lockdown, we will be accepting deferment applications on those grounds. What this means is that once a deferment has been approved, you will be able to make your declaration and complete any outstanding hours in the next CPD year. To apply for a deferment, you can simply email cpdinquiries@lawsociety.org.nz with the number of hours you wish to defer and the reason for the deferral. If the deferment is in relation to COVID-19 we will respond with an approval and the next steps.
    Please be assured that we will be understanding in terms of a late or incomplete declaration in circumstances where COVID-19 and the lockdown has had a direct impact on your ability to comply.
    Please see the COVID-19 CPD page for full information and FAQs.
  • Due to COVID-19, all Libraries of the Law Society are now closed. This includes after-hours access to the libraries. Lawyers rooms in courthouses remain open as long as the courts stay open. Online research services are available. Please contact us on auckland@nzlslibrary.org.nz or wellington@nzlslibrary.org.nz or canterbury@nzlslibrary.org.nz or submit a research request. The Library is also able to offer a selection of LexisNexis titles on electronic loan, for 14 days, and there are a number of free legal resources online.

Workplace information

Support for our members’ wellbeing

  • Our advice is to be guided by factual, up to date sources of information on the disease, such as the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation websites.
  • It is understandable that some in the profession, particularly those in close contact with the public on a day to day basis, may feel concerned or stressed.
  • Remember that the Legal Community Counselling Service provides the option for counselling via phone or videolink as well as face to face.
  • The Law Society’s Practising Well initiative provides access to other support and resources for lawyers.
  • Ministry of Health guidelines on managing your mental health are here
  • For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can also call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What the Law Society is doing

  • In line with Government policy, all our offices are now closed and our staff are working remotely. We will continue to offer our key services to members wherever possible via online channels.
  • The Law Society is working on a Business Continuity Plan to identify our essential services and how we will operate during the pandemic.
  • We have decided from Monday, 23 March not to hold any public events until further notice. However, we will make use of teleconferencing and video technology to continue to deliver our services where possible. This does not apply to NZLS CLE Ltd events.
  • The Law Society’s Inspectorate have made the decision to suspend onsite inspections of practitioner trust accounts. The work of the Inspectorate will continue via remote means. The recent introduction of desktop reviews (outlined in a recent Law Talk article) means that they are equipped to handle the current situation. Inspectors will still need to access information but will work with firms to ensure there is minimal disruption. The Inspectorate are also working with various trust account software providers to see how they can access information with the consent of practitioners.Inspectors will also be available to assist with any trust accounting enquiries, issues or concerns. You can also direct any concerns to Inspectorate Manager Ben Potaka on ben.potaka@lawsociety.org.nz or by contacting the Inspectorate on 0800 542 119.
  • We are working to ensure all our people are supported during this time.
  • The Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture has written to the Chief Executive of Corrections on behalf of our members, in response to concerns about ongoing lawyer-prisoner interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the letter here.
  • The Law Society and the NZBA have sent the following email to all lawyers: Pro Bono support sought for Community Law Centres. Currently expertise is particularly sought in Employment, Family (shared care arrangements), Immigration and Tenancy matters. If you have the relevant expertise and are willing and able, please fill out this expression of interest form provided by the NZ Bar Association. Lawyers who would like to offer pro bono support can find guidance in our practice briefings on Guidance for Lawyers undertaking pro bono work and Limited Retainer.
  • The Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture has written to the Chair of the Epidemic Response Select Committee offering assistance.

Questions or concerns

  • For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the Ministry of Health’s Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS.
  • If you have any other questions or concerns, please email Covid-19@lawsociety.org.nz
  • This page will be updated as we have more advice for members

Last updated on the 7th April 2020