​Lawyer Licensing Bodies in New Zealand

Posted by Cory List on 9th Jan 2016

​Lawyer Licensing Bodies in New Zealand

The development of New Zealand legal practice was brought about by the observance of the common laws similar to those of England, Australia, and Canada. Noticeably, all countries listed are a compounded territory with varying legal procedures that aim to unite for the establishment, protection, and preservation of the justice system.

This practice defines the boundaries of the common law and federal law common to countries comprised of multiple territories and provinces. So as not to impede on applicable and inapplicable laws and regulations according to territory, most legal systems resort to establishing common laws, this in the case of New Zealand, is referred to as The English Law Acts.

In order to further regulate the practice of law, New Zealand prescribed five major universities capable of facilitating a Law degree, namely University of Auckland, University of Waikato, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury, University of Otago, and AUT University, as overseen by the New Zealand Counsel of Legal Education.

Similar to the procedure of Australia, New Zealand also implements a three step process in acquiring a license to practice as a solicitor which does not involve a form of examination such as a Bar examination similar to that of Canada.

In New Zealand, a Completion Certificate is presented in order to initiate the acquisition of a professional license to practice. Upon completion of the Law Degree in a duly recognized university, the law graduate applies for a certificate along with his transcript of records and a transcript that indicates that the applicant has passed Legal Ethics, both from the university. This is submitted alongside a Certificate of Character and a copy of the applicant’s passport which are then processed by the High Court of New Zealand. Once all documents are accepted, the applicant may now request for a practicing certificate from the New Zealand Law Society (NZLS).

This makes it easier to practice cross-territory litigation by undergoing accreditation thru the NZLS.

In the case of foreign practitioners, the requalification process is mandated in order to ensure that the solicitor wishing to practice is well-versed in the common laws of the land. This may entail submitting educational documents to find equivalency in the legal education system of a recognized university or in most cases, recommendation of educational enrolment to such university.

The NZLS as a unifying body to the legal profession is in charge of controlling and regulating the practice of lawyers and solicitors throughout the entire country. It is the main governing body that oversees the preservation of integrity of practice and upholds the standards of the profession where the remote governing body for each territory answers to.

Opening the New Zealand legal system prompts the discussion over its derivation from two main sources, the common law and statute law. The common law, as the name states, is a body of law built up to uphold the common interest of the country as set up by the constitution. To date, New Zealand does not have a single written constitution but its common laws were derived from a number of constitutional conventions of old English origins. Aside from these conventions, the following written pieces are also major contributors to the establishment of its constitution, namely the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act of 1990, the Electoral Act of 1993, the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.

Constitutional Conventions are established rules by frequent and customary use. This was well established in the Constitution Act of 1986.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, on the other hand, safeguards the civil and political rights of the common people. This act protects the life and security of the person, democratic and civil rights, non-discrimination and minority rights, search, arrest, and detention, criminal procedure and right to justice.

The Human Rights Act of 1993, on the other hand, focuses on providing protection to the people by making sure their rights are exercised and equal opportunities are given to all. It covers grounds of discriminatory actions against, gender, sex, marital status, religious belief, ethical upbringing, age, political opinion, employment status, family status, and sexual orientation.

The Statute Law, on the other hand, represents the laws made by the parliament.

Since the parameters of the establishment of the constitution has been covered, the next important aspect of legal practice in New Zealand to be tackled should be its main divisions of law- Civil Law and Criminal Law.

Civil Law covers dispute between individuals, companies, and at times local and central government, and usually does not involve the police. These disputes usually involve money such as, but not limited to, business contracts, wills, tax, land, or other property with monetary value; cases where negligence has caused inconvenience or loo to another; and family matters such as custody battles and alimony.

The second division of the legal system covers Criminal Law. Criminal Law, as is common in all definitions, involves crimes against another person such as theft, murder, and trials usually involving the police. Aside from the obvious definition of criminal law, all matters that create conflict within the constitution that is not covered by civil laws and inadvertly cause harm or unfair proceedings to another person falls under this division.

Statistically, the number of lawyers practicing in New Zealand is categorized under their respective fields of expertise.

For Intellectual Property Rights, a record of 1,360 practitioners have specialized in this area with 177 practitioners spending 50% of their professional time as of January 2011.

For Banking and Finance, a record of 907 practitioners have specialized in this area with 149 practitioners spending 50% of their professional time as of January 2011.

For Taxation, a record of 1,131 practitioners have specialized in this area with 235 practitioners spending 50% of their professional time as of January 2011.

And lastly, for Trusts and Estates, a record of 3,318 practitioners have specialized in this area with 231 practitioners spending 50% of their professional time as of January 2011.

Collectively, there is roughly about 11,300 barristers and solicitors with practicing certificate registered under the New Zealand Law Society as of January 2011.


  1. https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/
  2. http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/global-pub...
  3. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/