Cyclone Gabrielle and its aftermath have caused significant disruption to legal services and court operations in Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti in particular. Our thoughts are with all of our members and colleagues who have lost a loved one, home, possessions, office or livelihoods.
To help support practitioners through this period, Membership Services have collated information and contact details for services and resources to help deal with the effects of the Cyclone.
Psychological support to legal teams in flood-stricken areas of New Zealand
Dr Sarah Anticich, Clinical Psychologist has offered her time to provide free of charge psychological support to legal teams and their staff in flood-stricken areas. To arrange for a one-hour meeting with Dr Sarah Anticich email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal Community Counselling Service
The NZLS Legal Community Counselling Service can be accessed free of charge on 0508 664 981. You are eligible for up to 6 free confidential sessions with a counsellor of your choice.
Mentoring is an informal and voluntary way of networking and learning. Whether you’re looking for support or want to give back, our Mentoring Programme is a free way to connect with other lawyers and support each other professionally, wherever you are in New Zealand.
National Friends Panel
The National Friends Panel is made up of lawyers who can be contacted on a confidential basis with questions or concerns relating to practice issues.
Request for research via email
Law Society Librarians are currently taking email requests for research services. Please indicate your request is for the free service available to lawyers working in flood-stricken areas.
Access to online resources
The Law Society has been engaging with providers of legal resources to provide access to practitioners affected by Cyclone Gabrielle. There is an arrangement for lawyers to be given a month-long free trial of Westlaw NZ. To access this, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
LexisNexis is offering a 30 day complimentary access to their Lexis Advance legal research platform to all the lawyers and barristers across Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti regions affected by interruption of access to the court and law society library resources.
The PLS is aware that in the wake of cyclone Gabrielle various parts of the country, including in the Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and Wairoa, are without power and communication. If you are dealing with firms in those parts of the country, particularly in relation to settlements, then we ask you to liaise with your clients and to urge them to be tolerant given the circumstances. The firms in those regions will be working hard to be back up and running as soon as they can, but they will be facing personal challenges as well as business interruptions. It is times like this when the collegiality of our profession can be at its best.
Further, as floodwaters recede and systems get back up and running, there will be a need for parties to work together to assess damage to properties that may be subject to sale and purchase contracts or to lease arrangements. Given the scale of the weather disaster, this will take time and it will in many cases need to involve insurance assessments too. Again, patience and flexibility will be required, and practical solutions will no doubt need to be agreed between parties. The first place to start is with the terms of the relevant contract itself, but parties should also consider practical solutions or extensions, and lawyers should use their skills to help facilitate those discussions.
Property Law Section Chair
If any FLS members have any issues at all that we may be able to support you with, please contact Kath Moran directly at Kath.Moran@lawsociety.org.nz in the first instance, and she can connect you with the right information or support.
The FLS is currently promoting the following services and information and a link to our all of Law Society flood response services in their regular ebulletins to their members – a bulletin went out today:
Legal Aid grants and invoices
The Ministry of Justice have confirmed that legal aid grants and payment for invoices received from practitioners in affected areas will be prioritised, along with an amended travel policy. Please see the information in WhatsNew from Legal Aid Services on the policies released on 21 February to confirm the details of this support.
Payments for lawyer for child and other court appointed counsel
The Law Society is working with the Ministry of Justice to see if agreement can be reached about prioritising these payments for court appointed counsel during the State of Emergency. We hope the Law Society will be able to update you directly about this shortly.
Tamariki in Oranga Tamariki care
Oranga Tamariki have advised that their social workers are busy undertaking welfare checks for all the tamariki in its care, however if you are particularly concerned about the welfare of any tamariki for whom you act, please email Monique Ciochetto (legal counsel) Monique.Ciochetto@ot.govt.nz, with the name of the tamaiti/tamariki and ideally the name of the social worker, and she will escalate this welfare check.
Family legal aid application forms online
We are aware that there are issues with the online forms and this has caused some difficulties for some of you. Please email the ministry if you require a pdf form to be emailed to you directly if you are unable to use the online form: NSDOpsSupport@justice.govt.nz.
Dr Sarah Anticich, Clinical Psychologist, has written this article to initiate the National Wellbeing approach in response to Cyclone Gabrielle. This is underpinned by the science informed foundations of Stepping Forward and Stepping Through and focuses on initiating change in the field of lawyer wellbeing by enhancing connection.
Lawyer up – The Power of Connection to enhance Resilience
Lawyers are experts in solving complex problems, creative thinking and finding solutions. In this context, a sense of helplessness is an understandable response to a natural disaster and the associated human suffering that has occurred post Cyclone Gabrielle.
The intention of this article is to provide a rationale for a collective and intentional wellbeing response for legal practitioners and their support staff post Cyclone Gabrielle. Prioritising relational engagement and connection amongst colleagues may assist with generating hope, resilience and an upward cycle of positive change and connection amongst lawyers and within their practices at this challenging time.
The world has faced an increasing number of natural (i.e. earthquakes, tsunamis, and flood) and man-made disasters (i.e. wars, terrorism, and industrial crises) in recent times. Such disasters cause community-level traumatic reactions and generate direct social and economic costs. The mental health consequences of community trauma encompass a range of emotional, behavioural, and cognitive reactions that occur in various populations with the threat of disaster.
Please refer the end of this article for more information and access to resources.
What is Lawyer Wellbeing?
The literature suggests that the legal community are at an elevated risk for mental health difficulties, burnout and overwhelm. As such, international commentators and experts are concerned with seeking to better understand and, importantly, achieve outcomes in relation to the scale of poor wellbeing in the contemporary legal profession.
Vicarious trauma, or secondary traumatic stress, is a concept that is also relevant for helping professions such as law post disaster. Secondary exposure to trauma may be associated with higher levels of subjective distress, depression, stress, avoidance, hypervigilance and cognitive changes in relation to safety and intimacy. The effect of repeated exposure to trauma and human distress needs to be recognised and can be a significant contributor to stress and burnout which are common experiences in the legal profession at the best of times.
Science also informs us that meaningful changes are possible, and that individual and organizational level intentional microsteps may reduce lawyer distress, enhance well-being and effect widespread positive change in the field of law.
What does Wellbeing and Psychology have to offer?
Positive psychology is the science of positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). It seeks to investigate and cultivate human well-being (Seligman, 2011). According to Martin Seligman (2011), the central topic of positive psychology is well-being, which is measured by the extent to which people are flourishing. Under this framework, wellbeing is defined by five elements: positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment (“PERMA”). Previously, Ryff and Singer (2002) formulated the psychological well-being construct, which includes self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth.
Whilst the definition of wellbeing remains broad, the constructs that underpin this are consistent across theoretical foundations and include; high-quality relationships; a sense of control over one’s environment, including growing competence leading to mastery and accomplishment of goals; meaning or purpose; and positive emotions (Ryan and Deci, 2000).
Lawyer up – how can I help?
Not surprisingly, the common themes that run through the individual well-being constructs are also relevant to understanding lawyer and law firm well-being, engagement and resilience. The literature indicates that key factors that contribute to lawyer wellbeing include; high-quality relationships, perceived agency and competency, meaning, and positive emotional states.
Of these constructs, connection and support is considered critical. We know that positive relational interactions regulate the brain’s stress response systems and help create positive and healing neuroendocrine and neurophysiological states that promote well-being. The bottom line is that healthy relational interactions with safe and familiar individuals can buffer us from stress and support our capacity to cope with trauma, these mechanisms help us survive and thrive.
How do I do this?
Collectively, small steps can lead to transformative cultural change in a profession that has always been, and will remain, demanding. It is precisely these tiny steps that support the development of positive habits, which over time, may contribute to significant, meaningful improvements in wellbeing.
An intentional and coordinated response focusing on the wellbeing of lawyer post disaster affords the opportunity for widespread, positive cultural change in the field of law in New Zealand.
Some ideas for connection
What are common reactions and responses to disaster?
Traumas are shocking events, and it is normal to feel overwhelmed. Not everybody reacts in the same way and there is no ‘right’ way to respond. We all naturally have coping abilities and many people will start to feel better with the passage of time, others may require additional resource and support.
Following disaster, people may feel overwhelmed, disoriented or unable to integrate distressing information. Once these initial reactions subside, people can experience a variety of thoughts and behaviors. Common responses can be:
There are a number of steps you can take to build emotional well-being and gain a sense of control following a disaster, including the following:
When should I seek professional help?
If you notice persistent feelings of distress or hopelessness and you feel like you are barely able to get through your daily responsibilities and activities, consult with a licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist. Psychologists are trained to help people address emotional reactions to disaster such as disbelief, stress, anxiety, and grief and make a plan for moving forward.
Resources and support for young people
We encourage you to reach out and ask for help if you need it. There are a range of tools available online, via free text and by phone.
Child and Adolescent Specific
The Lowdown - Free text number 5626
The Lowdown is a website to help young New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety. The site includes:
SPARX is an interactive self-help online tool that teaches young people skills to help combat depression and anxiety.
Aunty Dee is a free online tool for anyone who needs some help working through a problem. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, you can use Aunty Dee to help you work it through.
Helplines for children and young people
Child and Adolescent Mental health services
Young people can be referred to mental health services by their family doctor, their school’s pastoral team or their school nurse or counsellor. All DHBs now fund primary mental health services for young people (12 to 19 year olds) regardless of enrolment with a family doctor.
Resources and support for all ages
Depression.org.nz – Free text number 4202
This website helps New Zealanders recognise and understand depression and anxiety. This website is part of a national public health programme, the National Depression Initiative. It includes The Journal – an online self-help programme.
The Mental Health Foundation has practical tips, stories, and resources focused on things we can all do to maintain our mental wellbeing and look after our whānau. The site also includes additional helplines, tools and resources.
Digital tools and resources
If you want to talk - Helplines
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time.
Talk to a trained counsellor or call:
Mental health services
Most people will be referred to mental health services through their GP or family doctor. Mental health services in the community are funded through District Health Boards (DHBs).
There are a range of services, initiatives and organisations contributing to preventing suicide. This includes suicide prevention training and services delivered into communities. There are also a range of Māori and Pacific community suicide prevention programmes including Waka Hourua and Kia Piki te Ora.
Note: The information above provides a summary some of the services and resources available.