Law Society secures more time for further input into new legal aid contracts

The Ministry of Justice has agreed to hold a further round of good faith negotiations with the New Zealand Law Society to improve the workability of the new legal aid provider contract.

Under the agreement, a new version will now need to be finalised by 8 June.

Law Society President Jonathan Temm says this was agreed when he met the ministry’s Acting Deputy Secretary Legal Services Stuart White yesterday to discuss deferral of the new contract.

“The ministry has agreed to defer execution of the contract for the 300-plus legal aid providers who have signed and returned it already,” Mr Temm says. “This will allow those providers to benefit from any changes which may come about as a result of any further discussions.”

Mr Temm says the legal profession now has the opportunity to provide further input on amendments to the contracts. Comments and suggestions are welcomed and should be emailed to by midnight on 10 May.

The new contract contained many familiar provisions, which were similar provisions to those in the old contract. Mr Temm says some of the new provisions will look familiar to lawyers and firms who contract with the Government to deliver legal services under the standard Government Model Contract – for example, those who were involved in the All of Government legal services tender.

The Law Society consulted with New Zealand lawyers over the initial draft contract, resulting in the ministry making a number of significant changes and concessions to the contract.

“Since then lawyers have brought some additional issues to our attention and we believe that further changes may make the agreement more workable for all legal aid providers,” Mr Temm says.

Mr Temm says the Law Society is strongly encouraging all legal aid providers to read the contract and practice standards carefully, but individual lawyers (or their employers) must decide whether or not they want to sign any legal aid provider contract.

“The Law Society is in discussion with other lawyer representative groups. I would again like to stress that we welcome comments or suggestions from the legal profession for amendments which can be included in discussions with the ministry in relation to the new contract,” he says.