Law Society begins major consultation on intervention rule

The New Zealand Law Society has contacted a number of New Zealand organisations to assist with its review of whether barristers should continue to be required to accept instructions only from a solicitor.

What is known as the “intervention rule” has been a requirement for most of the history of the organised legal profession in New Zealand. Barristers may not accept instructions directly from a client. While there are exceptions to the rule, these are relatively narrow and are limited to special instances and not ordinary instructions.

The value and efficiency of the rule has been debated for some time, and the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 requires the Law Society to review and determine whether to keep the intervention rule in force.

The first stage of the review, in 2010, consulted the legal profession. This showed that lawyers were divided on the matter.

New Zealand Law Society Executive Director Christine Grice says the Society is now embarking on the “major consultation”, and has contacted organisations, groups and people which appear to have an interest in the issue.

This includes the Chief Justice (for consultation with the judiciary), the Consumers’ Institute, the Ministry of Justice, the New Zealand Bar Association, New Zealand Institute of Legal Executives, Law Society sections and other organisations.

“It’s fair to say that the Law Society has not taken any firm position on what the outcome of this review should be,” Ms Grice says.

“Informal discussions last year with Law Society branches, other lawyer groups and individual lawyers tended to indicate a preponderance of view in favour of abolition in compulsory form.”

Ms Grice says these positions all need to be tested by further, more structured, consultation with lawyers and others.

The Law Society is seeking comments or submissions by 2 September 2011. The consultation paper which is being sent to organisations is available here.