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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

  • The Chief Justice updated the profession on 23 April regarding the operation of the courts under COVID-19 alert level 3.  A copy of her letter is available on the Courts website
  • For the most up to date information on the operation of the Courts under COVID-19, please refer to the Courts of NZ website
  • 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.
  • 7 April: The Solicitor-General has publicised a letter to Crown Solicitors and Public prosecutors outlining changes being made to criminal justice processes. These include new processes for bail, home detention and community-based sentences.
  • 14 April: Employment Court has updated its COVID-19 Protocol Under Alert Level 4.
  • 15 April: Department of Corrections has provided information on changes in process for lawyers to access their clients in custody.
  • 15 April: The Solicitor-General has written a letter to the profession (dated 15 April) providing further information following a letter included in our COVID-19 summary on Thursday 9 April. The new letter provides context for the earlier correspondence and includes a copy of a letter sent to public prosecutors providing an update on changes since 7 April. This covers certain criminal justice processes i.e. bail, including electronically monitored bail, transport and emergency accommodation.
  • 17 April: The District Court has issued new guidelines for practitioners regarding unsworn affidavits and electronic filing during COVID-19.
  • 23 April: MoJ and MSD approach for beneficiaries with outstanding warrants during COVID-19: The Law Society is aware that issues have arisen during the COVID-19 lockdown regarding warrants to arrest and section 209 of the Social Security Act 2018 dealing with benefit payments. Although the requirements in section 209 of the Social Security Act continue to apply, the Ministry of Social Development has advised they have agreed on an approach with the Ministry of Justice to support clients who have not been able to clear their warrants because of Level 4 restrictions. From today, the Ministry of Justice is introducing a process where clients may request their warrant be cleared over the phone (clients will be asked to call MoJ on 0800 268 787).
  • 24 April: The Employment Court has updated their protocols for COVID Level 3, effective from 28 April.
  • 27 April: The Chief District Court Judge has released a statement regarding extra measures to observe COVID-19 Alert Level 3.
  • 5 May: The Youth Court has provided a FAQ for court professionals attending Youth Courts under Alert Level 3.
  • 6 May: The Ministry of Justice has provided information on health and safety measures for the courts under Alert Level 3.
  • 22 May: The Chief District Court Judge has issued a practice note setting out the process for appeals against a public health order issued under section 11 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

Travelling for essential business

Lawyers required to be involved in priority court and tribunals proceedings, in accordance with the Protocols, provide legal services to support that essential business. Otherwise, legal services in and of themselves are not essential services.  If you are providing legal services that fall under essential business and you did not receive a letter/email from the Law Society confirming that you hold a current certificate please email covid-19@lawsociety.org.nz.

Update for practice areas

Law Society services

  • 17 April: Update on CPD Declarations
    More than 90% of practitioners have now completed their online CPD declaration. This is an impressive result, given the restrictions of COVID-19. While the CPD declaration deadline has now passed, we would like to reassure you that you can still make a late declaration by following the process found here . Additionally, if you have been unable to complete your CPD hours due to COVID-19, whether that is because of postponement or cancellation of activities, or the lockdown, you are still able to apply for a deferment on those grounds. Once a deferment has been approved, you will be able to make your declaration and complete any outstanding hours in the 2020/21 CPD year. To apply for a deferment, please email cpdinquiries@lawsociety.org.nz with the number of hours you wish to defer and the reason for the deferral. If there are other factors affecting your ability to complete your declaration, for example, difficulty with the password reset function, please let us know.
    Please be assured that we will continue to be understanding in terms of a late or incomplete declaration 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.
  • Under Alert Level 2, the New Zealand Law Society libraries have re-opened. The Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury libraries are open to members from 9.00am- 4.30pm, Monday to Friday from Monday 25 May. There will be no after-hours access to the libraries until further notice.
    • Entry is by card access only. This will provide the librarian with an accurate record of who has used the library in case contact tracing is required. If you do not have an access card and wish to apply for one, please contact your local library.
    • Lawyers rooms/libraries which are situated in courthouses are accessible during the opening hours of the court. Hamilton branch library (which is in the branch office building) can be accessed with a door code from 7am-5.30pm. Please fill in the Contact Tracing Sheet. Contact the branch 07 838 0264 if you require the code.
    • Hand sanitiser and wipes are supplied and lawyers are responsible for wiping down the keyboards and monitors.
    • Please contact us with any research or document delivery requests at auckland@nzlslibrary.org.nz, wellington@nzlslibrary.org.nz or canterbury@nzlslibrary.org.nz or submit a request via our website.

Workplace information

  • The Law Society is also closely following the practical workplace advice provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and encourages the legal profession to do so.
  • 9 April: Inland Revenue have shared a message for businesses regarding tax payments.
  • 1 May: Inland Revenue determination on working from home costs for employees:  This Determination is a temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic and applies to payments made for the period from 17 March 2020 to 17 September 2020. It is available on the Tax Technical website.  More information on employment allowances and reimbursements during COVID-19, including a series of Questions and Answers is available on the main Inland Revenue website.

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.
  • The Law Society with the support of NZLS CLE, is running a series of free webinars for the legal profession, covering some of the challenges of working under COVID-19 Level 4. The first three, Working Effectively from Home Property Matters and Remote witnessing of Documents are now available to watch online.

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 27th May 2020