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The Winkelmann Warning: The Existential Challenge for Lawyers – Making Their Services Affordable

The Chief Justice has explained that the legal profession has an ‘existential challenge’ to make itself more affordable for lower income clients, saying more funding was also needed for legal aid.

In a rare interview with the Sunday Star-Times, she said that the profession has “failed to innovate” to provide the necessary service to the public.

“If it’s not the legal profession who innovate, they may find themselves losing their exclusive rights of audience in the court,” she says.

“I think that’s an existential challenge to the profession and they need to start coming up with models that meet these needs.”

No Silver Bullet

However the online solution was not the ‘silver bullet’ that some envisaged, she said.

It was an issue that would not be going away any time soon but was one we would need to engage with “forever”.

While there were many looking for an inquisitorial system she believed the ‘sweet spot’ to create a civil court situation that worked properly was somewhere in the middle of the current adversarial system and the inquisitorial one.

The courts’ Rules Committee currently has a programme to solicit ways to improve access to civil justice that seeks public imput and Justice Winkelmann notes the development of the Christchurch Earthquake list and its ability to ‘rocket docket’ cases that required particular urgency.

She noted that Judges were now much more proactive in directing the speed and manner in which cases proceeded, rather than relying on the previous party-driven process that would delay civil trials.

But there has been a dearth of civil claims in the District Court although recent announcements of more Judges may help with both the Attorney General David Parker and Justice Minister Andrew Little focused upon creating greater access to civil justice, which both strongly supported.

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