The New Zealand Law Society Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa has published its Briefing to the Incoming Minister (BIM) following the 2023 General Election.
BIMs are formal documents provided to new ministers when they pick up portfolios in Government. The reports are a key part of a briefing process which also includes meetings and other communications, taking place over several weeks. The BIMs help give the new minister an overview of the portfolio, lay out what their responsibilities are and what the agency or organisation does.
While the Law Society is an independent statutory body under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (LCA), the Minister of Justice has direct responsibility for approving the annual practising fee for lawyers, tabling the Law Society’s Annual Report in Parliament, approving legal professional rules, and submitting regulations to Cabinet. As such, we have provided a BIM to the Minister of Justice to provide an overview of the Law Society and our upcoming priorities. Key information included in the BIM:
Access to justice
- We encourage the Government to consider a full review of the legal aid system, to identify how best to ensure the ongoing sustainability of this critical service.
- We advocate strongly for continued investment in the legal aid system, including increased remuneration.
- We have now engaged KPMG to establish the cost of legal practice in 2023. This work will inform our advocacy for sustainable remuneration of both legal aid and duty lawyer work.
- After consultation with its Council members and the profession, the Law Society has accepted in principle most of the recommendations of the Independent Review Panel, including recommendations to establish a new independent regulator and an overhaul of the system for handling complaints about lawyers.
- We presented our response to the previous Minister on 24 August 2023.
- The Law Society is now looking to the Government to indicate whether reform will be a legislative priority.
Proposed amendments to the LCA
- In 2022 we consulted the profession on some more immediate changes to the Act which will enable the Law Society to operate in a more transparent and efficient manner for both consumers and the legal profession, until broader legislative change can be considered.
- We are liaising with the Ministry of Justice to progress the proposed amendments through a suitable legislative vehicle.
Culture and wellbeing
- The Law Society is committed to eliminating the culture of bullying, harassment and discrimination which exists in some parts of the legal profession.
- The 2023 Workplace Environment Survey showed that the profession has made some progress, but ongoing work is required. The survey outcomes will input into further work we are undertaking as part of our regulatory and representative strategies.
- By law, the money that the Law Society receives from practising certificate fees can only be spent on regulatory matters.
- Work is underway on a representative strategy, which will enable the Law Society to deliver representative services that are financially sustainable.
- As part of this, the Law Society is looking to introduce a modest membership subscription for its more than 16,000 members in 2024.
- The Law Society is currently undertaking work to determine and test the amount of a subscription.
- Any decision on the membership subscription will not be confirmed until the Council’s annual general meeting in April 2024.