Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Law Society
New rules governing the behaviour of lawyers, with an emphasis on tackling bullying and harassment, will come into force from 1 July.
The amended rules clarify the standards of behaviour expected of lawyers when engaging with clients and colleagues.
“Bullying, discrimination, racial or sexual harassment and other unacceptable conduct has no place in any profession,” says New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa President Tiana Epati.
“Changes to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (RCCC) were part of the recommendations by the Law Society’s Independent Working Group chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright. Implementing these changes is the most significant regulatory step available to the Law Society to tackle the behaviour highlighted by the Legal Workplace Environment Survey in 2018.”
The amended Rules include clearer definitions of bullying, discrimination, harassment, including racial and sexual harassment, and other unacceptable conduct. There are new reporting requirements for notifying this conduct to the Law Society to ensure that there is an appropriate regulatory response.
Each law practice will need to have effective policies in place to protect staff and clients and to have a process for investigating allegations of unacceptable conduct. In addition, each practice will need to nominate a designated lawyer to report annually to the Law Society on any investigations undertaken by their law practice.
This emphasises the responsibility of each lawyer and law practice to deal with and report unacceptable conduct, rather than individual lawyers having to come forward.
“Ahead of the final Rules being approved by the Minister of Justice earlier this year, widespread consultation took place with the profession,” says Ms Epati.
“I’m confident that these changes have the support of the profession.
“Everyone has an individual part to play so the public can have trust and confidence in the legal profession.
“While these Rules are one way the Law Society can bring about change, real and long-lasting change will only take place when everyone takes responsibility. That may be showing up to support a colleague, calling out inappropriate behaviour or helping to build a supportive, non-discriminatory environment within your legal workplace.”
Draft guidance to support lawyers to understand their obligations under the new Rules will be released in early May for consultation. An online webinar for all lawyers will be held on 3 May 2021. Registrations are open through the NZLS CLE Ltd website.