30 March 2017
Law Society welcomes temporary solution to
family legal aid lawyer shortage
The New Zealand Law
Society welcomes any solution, even temporary, that will
offer relief to a shortage in family legal aid lawyers in
But it stresses asking lawyers in other areas
to assist is a short term fix which doesn’t address the
fundamental problems causing the shortage of lawyers.
Ministry of Justice says it has been in contact with family
legal aid lawyers based in Palmerston North and Upper Hutt
and several have indicated they will take on cases in
Wairarapa if required.
It says there are currently just
seven family legal aid lawyers working in Wairarapa, down
from nine after two recently left the region. In the past it
has been as high as 11.
The ministry’s manager of legal
aid services, Tracey Baguley, says it’s important that
people receive legal representation when they need
“The number of lawyers taking on legal aid work goes
up and down, and from time-to-time in smaller communities,
such as Wairarapa, we may see a need to bring in outside
lawyers,” she says.
New Zealand Law Society Family Law
Section chair Michelle Duggan says it’s great if it means
that unmet legal needs are being taken care of and people
are getting representation; however it is not a long term
“Not by a long shot; yet that is what’s
needed. There is a shortage of legal aid lawyers but the
ministry just won’t properly examine as to why this is.
What will happen in six months’ time and will these
lawyers from outside the region still be available?” she
Ms Duggan says there are a range of reasons why it
is difficult to keep family legal aid lawyers in any
“It’s very hard work. It’s often
urgent work and you’re essentially being asked to drop
whatever other legal work you’re doing and attend to it.
It doesn’t pay well for lawyers working for firms which is
why most people that do legal aid work are sole
practitioners, because we’re the only ones with the
overheads that make it manageable,” she says.
Michelle Duggan says sole practitioners then have the
problem of not being in a position to employ a junior lawyer
“These are some of the substantive issues the
ministry needs to address and the Law Society has not been
silent on this issue. We have brought up these problems on
numerous occasions,” she says.
Ms Duggan says the
shortfall of family legal aid lawyers is not just a
Wairarapa problem as it has been evident in both Blenheim
and Westport too. She says the Law Society has brought the
shortage of legal aid family lawyers to the attention of the
ministry a number of times in the
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