New Zealand Law Society launches consultation into bullying and harassment

The New Zealand Law Society| Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa has announced a consultation on rule changes in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (RCCC) and the (Lawyer: Ongoing Legal Education Continuing Professional Development) Rules 2013 (CPD), in order to combat bullying and sexual harassment in the legal profession.  The proposed RCCC and CPD changes aim to clarify and reinforce conduct standards and obligations concerning discrimination, harassment, bullying and other unacceptable conduct by lawyers and employees of law practices.

The society has said that they are “committed to playing a leadership role in targeting and eliminating the culture of bullying and sexual harassment which exists in some parts of Aotearoa New Zealand’s legal community.

This work is a high priority for us in our role as the regulator of the legal profession and as one of the leaders in creating a safer, healthier and more inclusive and diverse legal culture.”

View the full consultation.

0

New Zealand Law Society – consultation on access to justice report

On the 14th May 2020, the New Zealand Law Society released the draft research report: ‘Access to Justice – a stocktake of initiatives’. The goal of the report is to assist the Law Society in taking a people-centred approach and to better understand the legal system from a consumer perspective. The Society hopes to bring in innovative and new thinking, to improve access to justice in New Zealand.

Law Society President, Tiana Epati, notes that “Our aim is to build a picture of the range of access to justice initiatives across Aotearoa New Zealand and to engage with stakeholders to better understand that broader landscape. Alongside this, we are also building a fuller picture of international initiatives.”

Consultation on the draft report is open from now until 3 August. Any questions or comments can be directed to accesstojustice@lawsociety.org.nz. A copy of the report is available as a PDF.

 

0

More regulatory responses to COVID-19

Following on from last month’s newsletter, we’ve put together the following list to examine different regulator responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here it is interesting to note the development and changes, as regulators begin to get a grasp on the crisis and develop innovative responses to meet the changing environment. If you have any questions or best practice for the rest of the ICLR community, please do get in touch, and we will be happy to include any of these in the next newsletter.

Illinois has introduced executive order 2020-14, this satisfies notarial requirements that a person must “appear before” a notary public if a two-way audio-video connection is used. It also allows documents to be witnessed through the same technology.


The Law Society of New South Wales has decided to run it’s annual Law Careers Fair as an online event, rather than cancelling it. The event will use zoom to create virtual presentations, with individual video booths and company landing pages replacing exhibitor booths. More information about the event is available here. The Society has also decided to reduce its $410 membership fee to $10, for the 2020-2021 period, allowing members to redirect funds to priority areas during the crisis.


The Law Society of Hong Kong has announced that civil hearing will take place remotely, with all other non-essential court hearings currently adjourned.


The Legal Sector Affinity Group which is made up of all the legal supervisory authorities in the UK, including the Law Society, Bar Council, CILEx, and the Law Society of Scotland, has released an advisory note on preventing money laundering during the crisis. The note discussed the increased risk of money laundering at the current time and what checks can be put in place to mitigate this.


The Council for Licensed Conveyancers in England and Wales is to allow members to defer fee payments, following the near-complete standstill in the UK property market. Members will be given the option to defer paying their practice fee and compensation fund contributions for April, May and June, which can be paid off over the following 4-12 months.


The California State Bar Board of Trustees has written to the California Supreme Court offering options and recommendations for the June First-Year Law Students’ Exam and the July Bar Exam. Full letter available here. Whilst the State Bar of Califonia has put in place emergency measures waiving late payment fees, as well as extending payment deadlines for membership fees and compliance deadlines.


The Law Society of Ontario has cancelled the lawyer licensing examinations and the call to the bar ceremonies due to take place in June. The society has said that alternative summer/autumn examination dates are being explored and that the administrative aspect of the call to the bar process is being undertaken remotely, allowing students to progress with their careers, with a celebration planned later in the year.


The Law Society of Saskatchewan and the Law Society of Alberta have temporarily reduced the articling requirements to a minimum of 8 months, instead of the previous minimum of 12 months, preventing a backlog of articling students due to limits created by coronavirus. Full statements available here and here. The Law Society of Alberta has also introduced changes allowing articling students to work remotely, as well as giving instructions on the supervision students doing this.


The American Bar Association has created a “Task Force on Legal Needs Arising Out of the 2020 Pandemic”, which launched a website on the 3rd of April to provide resources and information on the ongoing crisis and how this relates to the law. Statement available here, website available here. The ABA has also backed calls to adopt emergency rules that would allow recent and upcoming law school graduates who cannot take a bar exam because of the COVID-19 pandemic to engage in the limited practice of law, under the supervision of a licensed attorney, these individuals would have until the end of 2021 to practice without passing the bar exam. They hope this would limit the disruption to students careers, and help prevent the widening of the access to justice gap.  Full statement available here.

0

New Zealand Lawyers, Pro Bono, and Access to Justice

Executive Summary 

This report summarises the results of a study about the provision of pro bono legal services in New Zealand. Pro bono legal services – free legal assistance provided by qualified lawyers – is often pointed to as an option for assisting more New Zealanders to access legal services. This is in recognition that a large portion of the population does not qualify for legal aid (particularly civil legal aid) and cannot afford to pay a lawyer. To increase the amount of pro bono legal services available, the New Zealand Law Society President recently suggested New Zealand lawyers should aspire to deliver 35 hours per year (the same aspirational target as Australia). Little is known about the amount of pro bono services being offered, who is receiving them, and lawyers attitudes to providing more pro bono. We, therefore, designed a study to provide more information about the pro bono landscape in New Zealand, to help inform policy discussions on this issue. The study was conducted in two phases from September 2018 to February 2019 as part of a wider project about free and low cost services offered by lawyers. The first phase was a survey of the profession, which 360 lawyers completed. The survey included questions about how lawyers define pro bono, how much pro bono work they perform and for which clients, and whether they regard providing pro bono legal services as a professional obligation. The second phase involved qualitative interviews with 23 lawyers to elicit more detailed information about attitudes to pro bono work and how pro bono service provision operates in Aotearoa.

The results of the study suggest there is little shared understanding of what constitutes pro bono legal services. This is a significant impediment to any discussion about pro bono legal services, the amount of provision, who is providing the services, and the design of policy to encourage the provision of more pro bono services. The study also identified a blurring between legal aid services and pro bono. The underfunding of legal aid has meant that lawyers either consider legal aid is a form of pro bono or lawyers are offering pro bono to supplement legal aid. This is problematic in that pro bono legal services – which should be directed at those who do not qualify for legal aid but cannot afford a private lawyer – are being offered to litigants who qualify for legal aid. The results also suggest that were the NZLS to implement an aspirational target of 35 hours per annum, most lawyers would fall short of this target. While 41 percent of lawyers are exceeding the target, more than a quarter are doing no pro bono work that enhances access to justice. The remaining quarter are doing some access to justice focused pro bono work, but less than the suggested aspirational target. Furthermore, pro bono services are not distributed fairly either within the profession as service providers, or across the public, as service recipients. The study makes ten recommendations focused on three key themes: (1) that the profession develops a shared definition of pro bono, focused on pro bono that enhances access to justice, and that this definition be the basis for all programmes, targets and incentives for carrying out pro bono; (2) that a national clearinghouse for pro bono be introduced to minimise the administrative burden on lawyers providing pro bono and more equitably distribute pro bono services among the public; (3) that the legal profession associations encourage an increase in the amount of pro bono service via a number of mechanisms including regulatory reform and the introduction of an aspirational target.

Citation

Kayla Stewart, Bridgette Toy-Cronin, Louisa Choe New Zealand lawyers, pro bono, and access to justice
(University of Otago Legal Issues Centre, March 2020).

Available here

0

New Zealand Law Society is reviewing its structure and function

The New Zealand Law (NZLS) is commissioning an independent review of its structure and function.  This review is necessary because the Law Society is of the opinion that the current Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 constrains its ability to be transparent about the complaints procedure, and to deal with a broad range of unacceptable behaviour, including complaints of sexual harassment and bullying within the profession.

The review will draw upon local and international experiences to consider possible future models for the provision and regulation of legal services in Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as the best model to provide membership services to practising lawyers.

Read more…

0

80% of major jurisdictions use central qualifying assessment

In an international benchmarking exercise, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in England and Wales finds that almost 80% of the jurisdictions surveyed have a common assessment as part of lawyer qualification.

Press release on SRA website

Report on SRA website

0