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Lawyers and Conveyancers Bill is Not Real Reform

Lawyers and Conveyancers Bill is Not Real Reform

The Lawyers and Conveyancers Bill is overly prescriptive and should be reconsidered, the New Zealand Business Roundtable has told parliament.

Releasing the Business Roundtable's submission on the legislation, executive director Roger Kerr said the Bill's structure needed to be rethought.

"Regulation of the legal profession needs to be made less restrictive in the interests of the users of legal services. Lawyers and law firms need more flexibility in the way they organise themselves. The aim of reform should be to ensure good quality legal services are delivered at least cost.

"However, by centralising functions away from district law societies and maintaining lawyers' monopolies, the Bill is no real advance on the status quo. It represents a victory for the interests of the New Zealand Law Society, rather than a victory for the interests of the general public.

"It is unhealthy to have a situation in which a members' organisation also functions as a monopoly regulator, especially when that regulation extends to non-member lawyers.

"We believe that lawyers should be allowed to organise themselves into any business form that they want. We oppose any role for the minister in approving the rules of the New Zealand Law Society. If external oversight is required, this should be by a senior judge or judges.

"A major driver for reform has been to break the monopolies held by lawyers over certain types of work such as conveyancing. This is welcome, but the approach taken in the Bill is unsatisfactory. The primary responsibility for recognising conveyancers' qualifications should be given to the Registrar of the Land Registry, rather than setting up the elaborate and expensive structure the Bill proposes.

"The definition of the work that will be reserved for lawyers is far too broad. The Business Roundtable believes that it should be restricted to the final stages of filing court documents and appearances in court.

"The Business Roundtable's submission also argues that the assets of district law societies must be made available to all lawyers and not merely to those who choose to join the New Zealand Law Society or district law societies, and that the Council of Legal Education should be required to divest itself of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies.

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