Complaint at short consultation time over legal aid forms

The New Zealand Law Society has told the Ministry of Justice that it was not given enough time to look at Family and ACC legal aid fixed fee forms.

In its comments to the ministry on the forms, the Law Society says an opportunity to comment is always appreciated, but this needs to occur within realistic timeframes. It says it was initially given three working days to comment on the 10 forms. After a request from Law Society staff this was extended to four working days.

“A timeframe of three working days to comment is unacceptable. We do not consider this proper consultation,” the Law Society says.

“It is understood that timeframes are also tight for ministry staff when implementing operational changes and new policies and it will not always be possible to give the time the Law Society would need for a public consultation with the full profession. However, a reasonable time must be allowed for people to respond otherwise it is not genuine consultation.”

The Law Society says a consultation timeframe of four working days put significant pressure on its staff and volunteers.

“It causes a quandary – should the Law Society even attempt to obtain comment from its volunteers in such a short time. More importantly, it causes bad will towards the ministry within the volunteer group, who tend to view it as superficial consultation.”

While stressing that it was under severe time constraint, the Law Society makes general comments about the fixed fee forms. It identifies a number of questions about the information and interpretation of information provided on the forms.