Accusations that the New Zealand Law Society ‘goes easy on lawyers in large law firms’ so the society can continue collecting revenue from practising certificates has been flatly denied by the the society’s acting executive director Mary Ollivier.
In a statement, the Ms Ollivier said the society ‘totally rejects’ the reports, and it ‘regulates all 14,000 lawyers with a New Zealand practising certificate without any preference.’ She said that 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,’ adding ‘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.’ Ms Ollivier reaffirmed that the regulatory processes are committed to the rule of law and natural justice, which means that it must investigate matters thoroughly and listen to all parties. She explained, ‘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.’
Ms Ollivier says that to commence an investigation, a report or complaint needs to be received, or, the society can commence its own motion investigation where there is sufficient evidence made available to it. She added, ‘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,’ and ‘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.’