National MP Chris Bishop has lodged a Members’ Bill that could boost pro bono work involvement in the nation’s legal profession.
Bishop has lodged the “Lawyers and Conveyancers (Employed Lawyers Providing Free Legal Services) Amendment Bill,” which will insert a new section 10A in the “Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006” to “allow a lawyer who is employed in either a law practice or in-house (i.e. by a non-lawyer, like at a government agency or a power company) to do legal work other than for the lawyer’s employer.”
Outside legal work allowed by the new section will be governed by conditions set by the New Zealand Law Society. Bishop said that the conditions are expected to include the work being done with the employer’s consent and on a pro-bono basis.
Many people may be surprised to learn that under the current act, employed lawyers are guilty of misconduct if they do legal work outside of their employment, Bishop said.
“Any in-house lawyer who, for example, advises a friend on a tenancy dispute matter or a domestic building contract, or who amends the local tramping club’s rules is considered guilty of misconduct,” the MP said. “The ban is commonly breached and not strongly recognised. We know that many employed lawyers do legal work outside their employment, mostly on a pro bono basis, and many lawyers are unaware that in doing so, they are considered guilty of misconduct.”
Bishop said that the current act is “too strict in its application and stops lawyers providing assistance to those who need it.”
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