The New Zealand Law Society has slammed reported assertions that it “goes easy” on lawyers from large law firms so that it can continue collecting revenue from practicing certificates.
“The Law Society regulates all 14,000 lawyers with a New Zealand practising certificate without any preference. To suggest that a lawyer would not be disciplined because revenue may be lost from a practising certificate fee or continuing education course is irresponsible,” said Mary Ollivier, the Law Society’s acting executive director. “All lawyers are treated in the same manner and we have a strong and effective regulatory system. To be a lawyer requires a high ethical standard. There is a complaints and disciplinary process provided for in the legislation, and any lawyer who falls below that high ethical standard or who brings the profession into disrepute is subject to that process.”
The organisation is meticulous in investigating matters, she said, as the body’s regulatory procedures are committed to the rule of law and natural justice. That includes listening to all parties.
“That can take some time when a matter is complex. Both lawyers and non-lawyers are involved in our processes. The legislation stops us from disclosing whether we are investigating a particular matter. However, publication orders which may include the identity of a lawyer can be made when the investigation has been concluded,” she said.
The Law Society must receive a report or a complaint in order for an investigation to commence, she said. The body can also commence an investigation when sufficient evidence is available.
“Earlier this year we set up an independent regulatory working group chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright to look at all the regulatory issues around harassment and other unacceptable conduct in the workplace and whether our current legislation, systems and processes are adequate,” Ollivier said. “As we reported last week, the working group is now finalising its report and has circulated the draft for comment and feedback. It aims to publicly release the final report by early December,” she said.
“The Law Society is absolutely committed to creating safe, respectful, healthy and inclusive workplaces,” she added. “We have set up a Culture Change Taskforce which will be prominent in carrying out this work.”