New Zealand Law Society - COVID-19 information

COVID-19 information

On this page you will find all the latest information about how New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 is impacting the legal profession. We will continue to update this page as alert levels change, and will provide regular updated advice from reputable sources for the law profession.

Current situation

Courts and tribunals in Auckland are open. The following precautions are in place:

  1. Personal protection equipment (masks) will be available;
  2. Thermal image scanning; and
  3. Social distancing wherever possible.

Lawyers are asked to please wear a mask and to stay at home if unwell.  

Our Auckland office is open, although the majority of our staff are working from home. Our Auckland library is open.

Guidance for lawyers

Signing and witnessing of documents

The Law Society has received advice that lawyers can lawfully provide services at a client’s private dwelling or public place under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Levels 3 and 2) Order 2020 provided relevant infection control measures are in place and physical distancing is maintained at all times. In-person witnessing/signing of documents should be done as a last resort only. We have prepared guidance if you do need to conduct in-person witnessing/signing.

Remote Witnessing

The Government made Immediate Modification Orders to the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957, the Wills Act 2007 and the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988 (Enduring Powers of Attorney) in response to the restrictions of COVID-19. These still apply. The Ministry of Justice has advice on their website here.

The legislation can be found here:

Property settlements

Our Property Law Section has issued guidance for lawyers whose clients are shifting into, out of and through Auckland.

Land Information New Zealand has provided a summary of its existing guidance regarding signing documents remotely and the modifications to deal with COVID-19 restrictions.

Tax

Inland Revenue has issued an update to tax agents, including a special report on the recently enacted COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Act (No 2) 2020.

Employment

The Employment Relations Authority has released guidance to deal with applications and investigations while Covid-19 Alert restrictions are in place. The Authority has also released health and safety guidance for in-person investigation meetings at Alert Level 2.

Courts

Jury trials are taking place in Auckland and elsewhere in the country. There is information about the protocols in place at courthouses depending on the alert levels on the Courts of New Zealand website.

The Ministry of Justice has released a letter to let the profession know of guidance to support the attendance of a person at court who is required to travel between Alert Levels. This encompasses lawyers and other court participants.

Principal Family Court Judge Jacquelyn Moran has released details of a new system for adoption applications in the Family Court for families in international surrogacy arrangements caught out by COVID red tape delays.

The High Court has issued Guidelines for remote participation by witnesses in criminal hearings. The guidelines “outline practical considerations for judges and participants when considering and determining whether witnesses can, and if so, should, give evidence remotely in criminal trials”.

The Ministry of Justice has issued guidance in the form of frequently asked questions on procedures in the Youth Court under Alert Level 2.

For the most up to date information on the operation of the Courts under COVID-19, please refer to the Courts of NZ website.

Law Society services

All offices of the Law Society are open, as are our Law Libraries. Hand sanitizer and masks are available on site.

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 the 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 on the MOH website.

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.

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 of the profession.

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