‘Facelift’ for important legal text

by Hannah Norton05 Jun 2015
For the last seven or eight years, New Zealand non-profit organisation Community Law has worked under the dark cloud of impending significant cuts in funding.

Thankfully, due to massive public support and effective lobbying by the organisation, funding arrangements are now relatively safe.

Which means C can keep producing the annual 800-plus page Community Law Manual; this year’s version of which will be released next month.

“The Community Law Manual provides the best information in Aotearoa New Zealand about areas of the law where there’s no money for lawyers but a lot is at stake,” manual editor Alexandra Keeble told NZLawyer.

“Its main purpose is to empower members of the community to identify and begin to address their own legal issues. In this way, the Community Law Manual contributes directly to a fairer, more accessible justice system and to better results for people with less.”

The manual includes advice in areas including dealing with the legal system, families, housing, home and animals, health and social care, Māori land, money matters, buying and selling and police and crime, to name a few.

Due out on July 1, Keeble said the manual has had a “facelift”.

“It's also had a lot of legal work – to keep pace with rapid law change and to continue to refocus on law that's most useful for our most vulnerable. “

The organisation sells around 500 hard copies of the manual every year, which helps fund the project, Keeble said.

It is also available online for free.

Currently, over 1,200 sole practitioners, law firm partners and staff, and other lawyers volunteer at their local Community Law Centre, Keeble said.

“A number of large New Zealand law firms also provide on-going support to Community Law Centres in other ways.  At a national level Community Law Centres have received pro bono assistance from Bell Gully, with the negotiation of our Ministry of Justice contracts and with the formation of Community Law Centres o Aotearoa.

“We could not provide the massive range, quantity and quality of services we provide without volunteer legal support. We are always looking for new volunteers and for volunteers willing to work in different ways,” she said.

People interested in volunteering will need a current practicing certificate, or be willing to volunteer in non-casework aspects of the organisation’s work.

“Volunteering with Community Law is a great way to meet people who care about justice.  The mix of casework, education and law reform are great ways to achieve real justice for members of our community.”

For more information see www.communitylaw.org.nz.