THE country’s first legal officer has clarified lawyers' responsibilities to help clients avoid court ahead of new dispute resolution laws.
As reported yesterday in The New Lawyer, the newly introduced Civil Dispute Resolution Bill is a bid to ensure disputes are resolved as much as possible outside the court system.
“Access to justice is not just about access to a court or a lawyer, it is about providing practical, affordable and easily understood information and options to help people prevent or resolve their disputes,” Attorney General McClelland said.
But it’s not just potential litigants who hold all the new responsibilities should the legislation pass.
“The Bill recognises that the effective resolution of disputes is a matter for parties, the courts, and lawyers,” McClelland said yesterday.
“Lawyers will therefore be required to advise their clients of the requirement to file the genuine steps statement, and to assist their clients to comply,” he said.
“By encouraging parties and lawyers to seriously attempt to resolve disputes before they contemplate litigation, there will be an improvement in the early resolution of disputes.”
The new legislation would require prospective litigants to lodge a statement with the court detailing what steps they have taken to resolve their dispute or, if they haven’t, the reasons why.
The statement will also provide additional information that the court can consider when making orders and directions under its existing case management and costs powers.
According to the new legislation, genuine steps to resolve a dispute include exchanging information between parties to more clearly identify the issues in dispute, or considering possible resolution through mediation or conciliation.
The Civil Dispute Resolution Bill is all about seeking to resolve disputes at the most appropriate level, McClelland said.
“It encourages parties to resolve their disputes at the earliest possible opportunity, and to do so outside of the courts – promoting a move away from the often stressful, expensive adversarial culture of litigation.”