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Goff: Stop Delaying Reform Of Legal Profession

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks called on the Minister of Justice to stop delaying the release of a Bill to reform the legal profession, said to have been under development since the days of Sir Douglas Graham. It has become even more urgent if the Law Society challenges the Court of Appeal decision that lawyers do not have a monopoly on conveyancing.

“In opposition the Hon. Phil Goff made capital with a Members Bill of his hostility to the conveyancing monopoly. After a year and a half in power, free to fix the problem, he still hasn’t done anything about it.

“Licensed land brokers can finally work in New Zealand. But Mr Dempster has had to fight the Society for years representing himself, before winning at the Court of Appeal. With the long delayed Bill pending it would be disgraceful for the Law Society now to appeal to the Privy Council.

“The Law Society thinks it is defending the interests of the members of the profession who depend on conveyancing. In the long run they would be better served by more certainty about the future. The Privy Council can’t craft protection of fair competition on a level playing field.

“For Mr Goff delay has the benefit that any law changes will now happen in election year so he can look more useful.

“People buying houses have missed out on the choice Mr Dempster has been fighting to offer. Hanging over lawyers for years has been the possibility that the new regime will not be a level playing field, and that it will cross subsidise less experienced or less diligent or less honest new competition. They need to know now how much Mr Goff’s ideas have changed in power, from what he said as an opposition member.

“And the Society’s attitude to Mr Dempster shows the risks in another of Mr Goff’s ideas. He is planning to give the Society a practical monopoly on lawyer discipline, including over lawyers who choose not stay in the new Society. Any of the competing law societies that emerge from a reform should have disciplinary powers to maintain the quality standards they hold out to the public, like the Society of Accountants, and the Master Builders.

“Officials will have told Mr Goff his thinking in this area is confused. Is that the reason for the delay?” Stephen Franks said.

ENDS


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