Law Society consultations on access to justice and lawyers conduct rules
Thu 02 Jul 2020
The New Zealand Law Society is inviting feedback from the legal community and the wider public on two issues.
The Law Society is running a consultation on the rules related to lawyers' conduct and a consultation on access to justice.
Feedback on rules related to lawyers’ conduct
The Law Society is inviting public consultation on proposed changes for the rules about lawyers' conduct related to bullying and sexual harassment. The proposed changes relate to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (RCCC) and Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Ongoing Legal Education – Continuing Professional Development) Rules 2013 (CPD Rules). The Law Society has published a document that explains the proposed changes which states:
"The objective of the proposed changes is to better address sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, violence and other unacceptable conduct within the legal community. The changes are one part of the larger picture in improving the wellbeing and culture of the legal profession and making the legal community a safe and healthy place for everyone. They have been informed by the work and recommendations of the Law Society’s Independent Regulatory Working Group chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright, the 2018 Workplace Environment Survey and concerns and experiences courageously shared by many people within the legal community."
The changes include defining discrimination, bullying and harassment; clarifing reporting obligations; addressing protection for people who file a complaint or report; and addressing mandatory education and training.
This consultation is part of broader work within the Law Society and legal profession to address sexual harassment and assault following the Newsroom story of sexual assault and harassment allegations at law firm Russell McVeagh in 2018 and the global #metoo movement.
Consultation on draft report on access to justice
The Law Society is also inviting public feedback on a draft research report about access to justice. The Law Society published the draft report Access to Justice – a stocktake of initiatives in May 2020. The report explores barriers to accessing justice through case studies, provides a summary of current initiatives in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally, and identifies gaps in access to justice. The Executive Summary of the report states:
"This project aims to increase understanding of the current landscape in Aotearoa New Zealand. It will also inform the future focus for the Law Society in its ongoing contribution towards improved access to justice in the criminal and civil justice systems. The objective is to develop an overarching programme of work on access to justice, including work delivered in partnership with others, along with a framework to measure its impact."
In announcing the report, Law Society President Tiana Epati said:
“This report, however, illustrates our willingness to explore these issues differently, taking a people-centred approach to better understand the issues from a consumer rather than a system perspective. We know this may challenge some conventional thinking or preconceptions of our role and I welcome that; fresh thinking can be the catalyst for innovation and new initiatives."
The report includes four sets of questions for feedback (see pages 11, 31, 52 and 65).
Send feedback or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline to give feedback is 3 August 2020.
The Rules Committee is inviting feedback from the public on how to improve access to civil justice. The Committee is looking at possible changes to the High Court Rules and District Court Rules to improve access to civil justice by making the costs of civil proceedings more reasonable. The Committee has published a brief document that explains to the consultation to the wider public. More detailed information is available on the Courts of New Zealand website related to the Rules Committee project on Improving access to civil justice. The deadline for submissions is 11 September 2020.
The Rules Committee is a statutory body established by s 51B of the Judicature Act 1908 and continued by s 155 of the Senior Courts Act 2016. It has responsibility for procedural rules in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court, and the District Court. The Committee does not have jurisdiction to make rules of court in respect of the Family Court. However, the Committee may consider learnings from the experience of litigants in Family Court and may share feedback with the Ministry of Justice and Family Court.