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Law Society streamlines complaints management

MEDIA RELEASE – For immediate use, 1 February 2013

Law Society streamlines complaints management

The New Zealand Law Society has launched an Early Resolution Service (ERS) to produce a speedier resolution of some complaints against lawyers.

The ERS is an option which consumers can choose when complaining about a lawyer or law firm, instead of going through the more formal complaints process.

It is focused on dealing with certain types of complaints by using alternative dispute resolution processes, resulting in faster resolutions.

Law Society Executive Director Christine Grice says the ERS is a more simple and effective process to deal with some complaints.

“The ERS service offers the public an alternative and flexible process. It is ‘hands on’ and more flexible as an ERS team member talks to both the lawyer and the complainant directly,” she says.

Complaints alleging more serious misconduct or issues that are more complex, and any form of dishonesty or trust account issues, will go through the formal complaints process automatically.

The Law Society operated Lawyers Complaints Service has been trialling the ERS since November 2011 across the country and this has received very positive feedback.

“Before the pilot programme, all complaints were delayed by being subjected to the formal process. Many could have been resolved more effectively and more quickly through an initial explanation of the process and possible outcomes as well as the parties themselves choosing a more suitable alternative remedy.”

Ms Grice says complaints closed during the 2011/12 year took 124 days on average, while under the ERS pilot they took just 30 days.

From 1 February 2013, when a complaint is made against a lawyer or law firm, a negotiator from the ERS will assist the parties to consider the issues and the options for resolution processes. This will usually be done over the telephone.

Both parties must agree to ERS as it is voluntary. One party has to disagree for the complaint to go through to the formal process.

“The complaints system must operate fairly and effectively. Protection of the public is the key factor and this can be achieved by incorporating alternative processes,” Ms Grice says.

Information on the Lawyers Complaints Service and the ERS option is available on the Law Society website (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
ends

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