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A ‘Two Society’ model for lawyers is unpalatable, according to the President of the New Zealand Law Society John Marshall QC.
In a letter to lawyers, Mr Marshall said it was “sad” that the Auckland District Law Society was recommending to members separate incorporation as “Auckland Incorporated” rather than the ‘One Society’ model proposed by the profession.
However, it is fair to say that media reports have somewhat overstated the Auckland position by talking about a “breakaway” from the NZLS when the new structure is yet to be formally implemented under the NZLS ‘Establishment Plan’ when Auckland actually seeks to protect its position and preserve its negotiating position with the NZLS.
The ADLS is voting next week on whether to incorporate separately in order to protect its assets, which would otherwise be subsumed by the new national structure next year, under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act, which came into force this month and which provided for major changes in the regulation of the legal profession.
Auckland however have been frustrated at the lack of consultation and progress with the NZLS over what its “representative” services to the profession nationally will entail and so has recommended to members that it protects its $12 million asset base by incorporating first.
The ADLS prepared a full business plan on the delivery of representative services for the profession and expected matters to be resolved before the new Act came into force. Instead, the NZLS have employed a consultant to examine the delivery of representative services and implemented the Establishment Plan.
The possibility of a ‘One Society’ model may therefore still occur and the ADLS president Keith Berman is keen to emphasise that the ADLS move is “precautionary” and that the ADLS does not seek to compete with the new, NZLS in future. He, like many others, expects to join the new NZLS, he told LawFuel.
Meanwhile, in a letter to members, Law Society president John Marshall says that it is “unfortunate” that Auckland has been asked to decide whether it will go alone as what he calls “ADLS Incorporated.”
“That certainly is for their decision, but I do wish them to understand there is no secret agenda. There is no Machiavellian plot to unravel the excellent things the ADLS does and is capable of doing. To the contrary, we need to take fulla dvantage of all the opportunities it and its large population base present.”
He said the Establishment Plan agreed to by the 13 other district law societies must first report, which is due in November, before a final decision can be made based on “sound financial information and analysis, not just from an Auckland perspective, but elsewhere as well.”