New Zealand Law Society - Joining the legal profession

Joining the legal profession

All New Zealand lawyers are regulated by the Law Society when they provide any legal services, conveyancing services or services provided by undertaking the work of a real estate agent. In New Zealand anybody may provide legal services, but only lawyers may carry out work in the reserved areas of law.

It is an offence for anybody who is not a lawyer or incorporated law firm to provide legal services under a misleading description.

The prerequisites for practising as a lawyer in New Zealand are admission as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand and holding a current practising certificate from the Law Society.

There are two types of practising certificate; barrister and solicitor, or barrister and only two modes of practice, either practice on own account or practice as an employed lawyer under supervision.

If a lawyer is approved to practise on own account and holds a barrister practising certificate, they may practice as a barrister sole, or as the sole director/shareholder of an incorporated barrister’s practice.

If a lawyer is approved to practise on own account and holds a barrister and solicitor practising certificate, they may practice as -

  • A sole practitioner (or as a consultant engaged under a contract for services);
  • A partner of a law firm;
  • A director and/or shareholder in an incorporated law firm;

If a person is not approved to practise on own account, they are only eligible to hold a practising certificate as an employed lawyer that enables them to practise under supervision. An employed lawyer may hold a practising certificate as –

  • An employed barrister (if employed by a barrister – see r14 RCCC); or
  • An employed barrister and solicitor if employed by a sole practitioner, a law firm, or as an in-house lawyer (if employed by a non-lawyer – see r15.1 RCCC)

All lawyers must comply with the fundamental obligations as set out in s4 of the LCA, including obligations to uphold the rule of law and to facilitate the administration of justice in New Zealand, and to protect the interests of their clients (subject to their overriding duties as officers of the High Court and under legislation).