Legal aid practice standards

The practice standards for legal aid providers set out requirements for legal aid lawyers in the conduct of their work and their relationships with clients and others.

The practice standards form part of legal aid providers’ contracts with the Ministry of Justice. The revised standards were published in December 2016, following consultation with lawyers and the public.

Download the practice standards for legal aid providers [PDF, 526 KB]

General legal aid practice standards

General practice standards apply to all legal aid lawyers’ legal aid work. In summary, these require lawyers to:

  • understand the law relating to the cases they work on
  • understand legal aid entitlements and processes
  • recognise cross-cultural issues and issues facing disadvantaged people
  • only take on work they have the experience, skills and capacity for
  • exercise independent professional judgment on a client’s behalf
  • exercise due care in advising and representing clients
  • communicate clearly and appropriately with clients
  • keep a proper record of the instructions they get and the advice they give
  • be respectful and not inflame disputes
  • have adequate backup in case of illness or unavailability
  • adequately supervise and review the work of lawyers acting under their supervision
  • maintain the privacy of the people named in court documents.

The practice standards also set out specific requirements for legal aid lawyers’ responsibilities to clients, relationships with clients, conduct of legal aid cases, and their dealings with others such as judges, experts, and court and Ministry of Justice staff. There are also specific practice standards for legal aid cases related to criminal, family, Māori Land Court/Māori Appellate Court, Waitangi Tribunal, and mental health.

Other requirements

As well as complying with the practice standards and the terms of their contracts, legal aid lawyers have to comply with all relevant laws and regulations, including the rules of conduct and client care for lawyers.

Find out more about those rules on the New Zealand Law Society’s website(external link)

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