SOME OF New Zealand’s biggest companies have spoken out against proposed rules of conduct and client care developed by the New Zealand Law Society (NZLS).
In a letter sent to the NZLS by the Corporate Lawyers Association of New Zealand (CLANZ), legal counsel for 60 companies including Telecom and Fonterra as well as several government departments say the NZLS has failed to propose a meaningful client care charter under proposed new professional conduct and client care rules.
The letter states: “As managers of other lawyers and as client representatives, we believe that a meaningful client care charter, relating to the consumer experience and providing reassurance to and a fundamental protection for clients, is a major omission.”
Many of the signatories of the letter are companies that spend millions of dollars each year on legal services.
CLANZ has called for a specific client care charter to be included in the rules.
“The NZLS council and board’s focus seems almost exclusively on structural internal issues, with virtually no mention of the client perspective,” CLANZ president Helen Mackay said in a statement.
The NZLS developed the draft rules on professional conduct and client care as required under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act, which is due to take effect in mid-2008. It has called for submissions on the rules and so far more than 50 written submissions have been received.
A spokesperson for the NZLS said no decision on the content of the rules would be finalised until the hearing of submissions was completed.
Margaret Bryson, senior director at the NZLS said the rules were just one aspect of the changes the NZLS was working on to meet the requirements of the new Act.
“Obviously because the Act introduces a lot of changes we need time to work through developing the necessary structures and rules under the new Act,” Bryson said.
Under the new Act, New Zealand will adopt a “one society” model, which will spell the end of the federal system under which the law societies in New Zealand currently operate, with the NZLS becoming the regulator of the profession.
CLANZ has also expressed concern that proposed district-based voting rights on the NZLS board will undermine the “one society” model aims.
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