Where we operate
Client Care Statement
This document contains information we are required to provide to all clients under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. It has been written in plain English where possible. The Client Care Statement is one of three documents that make up the 'retainer' or contract clients have with the firm. Download or view it here.
Our complaints policy and procedure are explained when a customer first becomes a client of the firm. However, we welcome anyone to let us know if there is something they are unhappy with or concerned about. Download or view the Complaints Policy here.
Selected areas | Women's Refuge
The following areas have VLaw® video enabled to allow women experiencing domestic violence to meet with a lawyer without leaving the safety of the refuge:
Christchurch (Te Whare Hauora)
Auckland | Auckland City Mission
Using the VLaw AVL system, Portia provides expert family law support to the Auckland City Mission's most vulnerable clients.
New Zealand Law Society complaints service free phone 0800 261 801
WHAT ARE... Justices of the Peace?
Justices of the Peace (JPs) have existed for over 650 years. Originally they guarded the King's peace and were established formally under the Justice of the Peace Act 1361 during the reign of Edward III. JPs were generally members of the gentry (wealthy landowners) as the position was voluntary; to be a JP was prestigious, never a way to make money.
Throughout history JPs have undertaken a variety of functions. They would conduct arraignments in criminal cases and also try minor criminal infractions. They were appointed by municipal corporations until 1835, when Parliament enacted legislation requiring appointment by the Crown. Around this time a JP’s role extended to include regulating wages, food supplies and infrastructure such as roads and bridges across the United Kingdom.
JPs are today appointed in a number of Commonwealth countries. Although their roles and responsibilities differ there is a unifying theme: a JP must be someone of good standing in the community.
Aotearoa New Zealand’s first JP was appointed in 1814, a missionary by the name of Thomas Kendall. There are now almost 6,000 serving in communities across the country. Our JPs can statutorily swear oaths and take declarations. Some are also authorised to hear minor court cases, to issue search warrants in certain situations and act as a Visiting Justice in prisons, for the purposes of hearing a prisoner’s grievances.
Many government agencies and businesses trust JPs to witness signatures on a wide variety of documents. Indeed, while there is no legal criteria for witnessing a signature, many documents require a lawyer or a JP to bear witness.
If you are interested in becoming a JP then ask your local Member of Parliament to nominate you. The Governor-General appoints JPs for lifetime tenure. On appointment JPs must swear the Judicial Oath before a Judge in which they state:
"I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of New Zealand, without fear or favour, affection or ill will."
The Oath is indicative of how we see JPs: trustworthy people with integrity, honour and good character who, after nearly seven centuries, continue to perform an important function in our society.
So what powers does a Justice of the Peace have? It depends, as there are two types of duties a JP carries out: Ministerial and Judicial.
District Court Judges are also Justices of the Peace. When sitting alone they have the powers and functions equivalent to two Justices of the Peace when sitting in Court. So, 1 Judge = 2 JPs.
WHAT ARE... Community Law Centres?
Community Law is one of the profession’s most venerable millennials: in 2019 this grand organisation turned a respectable 40. The organisation is ubiquitous with 21 sites across New Zealand and three specialist branches covering disability, Māori land and youth law. It’s easy to pass over Community Law Centres (CLCs) with only a brief nod to the ‘good works’ they perform, but statistically this organisation has a significant impact on access to justice and should be taken seriously.
A 2017 report prepared by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) shows CLCs provided advice, assistance or representation to at least 48,000 clients taking almost 107,000 hours over the 2015-16 financial year. Compare that to Portia’s figures: in 2017/18 our busy firm opened just 858 new matters. Bear in mind that Portia was the country’s largest provider of family legal aid firm at that time (and still are). What was the cost of this enormous public service? $11M: an average of $230 per client or $102/hour. Outstanding value. Who pays for this? 64% comes from interest earned on solicitors’ trust accounts while the remainder came from other taxpayer sources.
Who benefits? We all do. Access to justice is essential to a healthy society. According to the United Nations, absence of access to justice results in “people … unable to have their voice heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination or hold decision makers accountable”. It’s that last bit – the bit about accountability, that I feel is the most critical outcome. Consider if your grandmother or elderly uncle were the victim of a bank fraud. Having a place to go to get free, no-strings-attached legal advice in a community-friendly setting would be a boon. Sometimes just that little piece of advice, assistance person assistance or information can make all the difference to a person who is vulnerable.
The provision of such a service is a direct check and balance to the powers of the State and of corporations. Whilst in Aotearoa we enjoy a number of civil liberties, we don’t teach them in schools. A lot of people don’t know their rights: the recent misbehaviour by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (issuing “warning letters” when they had no legal right to do so) is a small but significant example of this. In a fiduciary relationship, one that is defined by one party having power over the other, a balance to that power is always going to be needed: the temptation to abuse power is too great otherwise.
Community Law Centres are a small but effective weight on the scales of justice, giving strength to the vulnerable and to Māori, with a specialist Māori land law office based in Dunedin grievances supporting the Ngāi/Kāi Tahu rohe. Community Law also provide specialist support for people with disabilities, and for young people.
Recently some CLCs started providing legal aid, to the distress and dissatisfaction of a number of practitioners. We say "good on them!" but at the same time urge Community Law Centres o Aotearoa to join other legal aid providers and push the Ministry of Justice for less bureaucracy and greater levels of trust. Community Law is not ‘competition’ to regular law firms – they perform a valid and valuable function in our society and sit on the margin between law and social service. Aside from a good source of referrals, they also provide essential training opportunities to young lawyers, participate in the process of making laws (through submissions to select committees) and play an important role in the maintenance of human rights.
Kia kaha Community Law!