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Lawyers and Conveyancers Act - Mark Burton

Lawyers and Conveyancers Act to strengthen protections for consumers

The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act will give the public greater confidence in the legal services industry says Justice Minister, Mark Burton.

The Act, which replaces the Law Practitioners Act 1982, passed its third reading today with support from across the House.

The Minister acknowledged the contribution of the New Zealand Law Society in the development of the Act: "the support of the New Zealand Law Society has been invaluable to the success of this legislation," he said.

The purpose of the Act is to maintain public confidence in the provision of legal services, to protect consumers, and recognise the status of the two professions: lawyers and conveyancers. It will enable the profession to adapt to more modern business conditions.

The Act ends the exclusive right of lawyers to carry out conveyancing work with the creation of the new profession of licenced conveyancer.

"It is not necessary for the practice of conveyancing to be restricted to the legal profession and the creation of licenced conveyancers will enhance competition in that area," Mark Burton said.

"Consumer protections, such as fidelity funds, professional indemnity insurance and controls over who may describe themselves as lawyers or law practitioners, are set out in the legislation, as are the fundamental obligations of lawyers and conveyancers and a procedure to determine the professional rules governing them."

The Act provides a more accessible framework for hearing complaints about lawyers and conveyancers. It creates an independent Legal Complaints Review Officer with the power to refer, overturn or substitute the decisions of the existing Standards Committees. The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal is established to deal with serious cases of misconduct.

"The Act will provide for a far more efficient and independent complaints process that focuses on fairness and transparency for all parties," Mark Burton said.

The rank of Queen's Counsel is retained but it is renamed Senior Counsel with existing Queen's Counsel able to use either title. The Act will be implemented progressively over the next 18 months.

ENDS

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