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A 'Two Society' Model For Lawyers?

Okay, So How About A 'Two Society' Model For Lawyers? - The Law Jobs and News Wire

August 21 is the date when a special meeting of the Auckland District Law Society decides whether or not it will become part of the "One Society" concept envisaged under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act, which came into force last week.

Current thoughts are that the Auckland vote will almost certainly go the 'Two Society' way, due mainly to an apparently intractable position taken by the New Zealand Law Society which has repeatedly refused to meet or mediate the position, according to ADLS president Keith Berman.

Mr Berman says he has requested to meet and discuss the position, which follows a detailed business plan prepared by the ADLS earlier this year, saying the two societies are "like Venus and Mars".

Auckland voted against the adoption of a new, 'One Society' constitution when the NZLS Council met on July 18. In part at least, Auckland members said that their belief that most (if not all) representative services would derive from Auckland had been effectively removed and they did not intend having their assets passing to the NZLS on 1 February 2009 until they received clarity over exactly what and how they were expected to deliver the services.

The ADLS has taken what Mr Berman calls the "precautionary step" of recommending incorporation to its members, to protect substantial ADLS assets, as a result of its inability to reach agreement over the 'representative services' the ADLS has been requested to provide to the legal profession.

It appears that lawyers outside of Auckland do not agree with Auckland that it was the ADLS who would control the representative functions under the new Act and they sought the development of an "establishment plan" to determine how such services could be delivered.

The NZLS set up a Representative Advisory Committee to report on the issue, lead by Chris Darlow, who seek to bring some resolution into the increasingly vexed issue.

However, it is apparent that a major communication breakdown has occurred between the two groups with Auckland leveling accusations at the NZLS has refused to 'meet or mediate' over the situation. Although it is apparent that all members are working towards a satisfactory outcome for all lawyers, the apparent reluctance of non-Auckland members to deal with the business plan the ADLS put on the table some time ago has plainly lead to strong feelings on both sides.

NZLS president John Marshall told LawFuel that he believed it was in the interests of the New Zealand profession to have one law society for everyone, "it's as simple as that", he said.

He said Auckland had to decide if they wanted to be part of a unified profession or to incorporate on their own. He said that was a matter for Auckland to decide.

Auckland currently provides substantial representative functions, documentation, library services, directories and other services, and is well resourced and experienced in the provision of such services. It was the expectation that such services would be provided nationally, a concept that helped lead to the idea of the 'One Society' a couple of years ago. As a result of the plan, the ADLS has sought advice from the NZLS to clarify exactly what is expected of it following implementation of the Act but no resolution or meaningful discussion, was accomplished prior to the Act's implementation.

All 14 district law society assets become subsumed within the new, national body on 1 February 2009 unless they incorporate separately to protect them and to retain their separate status. Only Auckland has to date recommended this course and it expected to be the only district likely to do so.

Mr Berman is keen to point out that even if Auckland votes in favour of incorporation it has no intention of competing with the NZLS but rather will act in a complementary manner. Both organizations are taking care not to be contentious, although the NZLS has now appointed a consultant to provide the NZLS advice on how representative services might be delivered, as far as we're aware.


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