New Zealand Law Society - Rules and maintaining professional standards

Rules and maintaining professional standards

New rules governing the behaviour of lawyers, with an emphasis on tackling bullying and harassment, came into force on 1 July. The changes amended the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (RCCC).

The short version: a ninety-second summary

The amended rules include:

  • Clearer definitions of bullying, discrimination, harassment, including racial, sexual harassment, and violence.
  • New reporting requirements for notifying conduct to the Law Society to ensure that there is an appropriate regulatory response.
  • Each law practice must have effective policies and systems to prevent and protect employees and other people it engages with from bullying, discrimination, harassment or violence. The definition of law practice includes an individual lawyer practising on their own account. This means that sole practitioners and barristers are included.
  • Each law practice must nominate a designated lawyer to report annually to the Law Society that the law practice has complied with its mandatory reporting obligations and to certify that they have complied with their obligation to report within 14 days if any person engaged or employed by the law practice is given a written warning or is dismissed by the law practice for conduct that amounts to bullying, discrimination, harassment, racial harassment, sexual harassment, theft or violence.
  • Victimising a person who makes a report in good faith is expressly prohibited.

The Rules can be read in full on legislation.govt.nz.

Draft guidance

The Law Society has produced guidance to help lawyers to understand the new obligations. The guidance is also intended to support and empower people who are affected by prohibited behaviour. Consultation on the guidance is now open.

Mandatory reporting obligations

All lawyers are required to report to the Law Society if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that another lawyer may have engaged in misconduct. Under rules 2.8 and 2.9:

  • you must report misconduct, and
  • you have a discretion to report unsatisfactory conduct.

Under rule 2.8.4 (b) mandatory reporting does not apply to victims of suspected misconduct.

Responsibilities of the Designated Lawyer

At any time

Law practices must notify the Law Society within 14 days if any person is issued a written warning or dismissed for bullying, discrimination or harassment. Law practices must report if any person leaves before an investigation is completed.

On an annual basis

Law practices need to nominate a designated lawyer who will be required to report on an annual basis about compliance with their reporting obligations and employment policies. Further information will be provided closer to 1 July 2022 when the first annual certification is due.

Webinar

On 3 May 2021 the Law Society’s General Manager Professional Standards, Katie Rusbatch, and Michael Hodge from Meredith Connell presented an online session on the Rules.

New Conduct & Client Care Rules webinar, recorded 3 May 2021

Resources accompanying this online session are also available to download:

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