The New Zealand Law Society says it totally rejects reported assertions that it goes easy on lawyers in large law firms in order to continue collecting revenue from practising 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,” acting Executive Director Mary Ollivier says.
“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.
“Our regulatory processes are committed to the rule of law and natural justice which means that we must investigate matters thoroughly and listen 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.”
Mrs Ollivier says that for the Law Society to commence an investigation it must receive a report, a complaint or it can commence an own motion investigation where there is sufficient evidence 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.
“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.
“The Law Society is absolutely committed to creating safe, respectful, healthy and inclusive workplaces. We have set up a Culture Change Taskforce which will be prominent in carrying out this work.”