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Lawyers and Conveyancers Act comes into effect

Hon Rick Barker
Associate Minister of Justice

1 August 2008
Media Statement
Lawyers and Conveyancers Act comes into effect

The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 has come into effect today and the new protections for consumers have been welcomed by Associate Justice Minister Rick Barker. The purpose of the Act is to provide comprehensive protection for consumers of legal and conveyancing services, and promote and maintain public confidence in the delivery of these services.

"The Act introduces a new complaints service for customers of lawyers and conveyancers, and also establishes an independent three stage disciplinary process for reviewing complaints," Mr Barker said.

"New Zealanders are for the most part well served by lawyers and conveyancers but it is important we have a clear process for dealing with alleged breaches in the delivery of these services. The Act also enables customers to lodge complaints about the service they received or the amount they were charged. Previously, complaints about the standard of service were unable to be heard."

There are three parts to the new complaints and disciplinary system.

• Standards Committees run by the Law Society or the Society of Conveyancers will hear complaints in the first instance.
• If a party is dissatisfied with the decision, they may apply to the newly established Legal Complaints Review Officer, who has wide powers of review. The Legal Complaints Review Officer may confirm, modify or reverse the Standards Committee decision, award costs against either party, and can lay a charge with the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
• The Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal is the third part in the system and determines the most serious disciplinary charges against members of the legal and conveyancing professions. The Tribunal also receives applications regarding suspension, striking off and restoration of practitioners to the roll or register.

"This robust complaints and disciplinary process gives a voice to consumers that feel they have been unfairly treated and will ultimately benefit lawyers and conveyancers by ensuring that the few who do bring the legal profession into disrepute can be dealt with appropriately," Mr Barker said.

The Legal Complaints Review Officer and Disciplinary Tribunal are administered by the Ministry of Justice to provide independence and enhanced protection for customers.

The appointment of the Legal Complaints Review Officer and the Deputy Legal Complaints Review Officer were announced in June and the members of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal will be sworn in latter this month.


ENDS

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