A Members’ Bill to improve access to justice by making it easier for lawyers to do work outside their existing employment has today been lodged by Hutt South MP Chris Bishop.
“My Lawyers and Conveyancers (Employed Lawyers Providing Free Legal Services) Amendment Bill makes a small change to allow a lawyer who is employed in either a law practice or in-house (i.e. by a non-lawyer, like at a government agency or a power company) to do legal work other than for the lawyer’s employer, on conditions set by the New Zealand Law Society,” Mr Bishop says.
“Many people will be surprised to learn that currently under the Act, an employed lawyer is deemed guilty of misconduct if the lawyer does legal work outside of the lawyer’s employment.
“Any in-house lawyer who, for example, advises a friend on a tenancy dispute matter or a domestic building contract, or who amends the local tramping club’s rules is considered guilty of misconduct.
“The ban is commonly breached and not strongly recognised. We know that many employed lawyers do legal work outside their employment, mostly on a pro bono basis, and many lawyers are unaware that in doing so, they are considered guilty of misconduct.
“The Bill provides that lawyers may do work outside their employment on conditions set by the New Zealand Law Society. I expect those conditions will include the work being done with the employer’s consent and on a pro-bono basis.
“The current Act is far too strict in its application and stops lawyers providing legal assistance to those who need it.
"I look forward to the Bill being drawn from the Parliamentary biscuit tin.”