How do I find a good lawyer?

Finding a good lawyer who won’t break the bank can be a hard task. You can try to find a lawyer by;

  • Asking friends or family to recommend one to you
  • Looking in the Yellow Pages under “Lawyers” or “Barristers and Solicitors”
  • Checking out the online database on the New Zealand Law Society website. You can tailor your search to fit your requirements, e.g. search by town or city, area of legal practice (e.g. criminal, civil litigation, immigration etc), or language.  You can also search by a lawyer's (or law firm's) name if you are looking for a specific person or firm.    
  • Contacting your local District Law Society or branch of the New Zealand Law Society (in the White Pages, usually under the name of the town or city you live in)

Or you can look for a specific type of lawyer:

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Can I get a lawyer if I am arrested?

You have the right to talk to and instruct a lawyer - without delay, and in private.  

Under the Police Detention Legal Assistance (PDLA) scheme, you can access a lawyer for free.  The Police hold a list of the names and phone numbers of lawyers who provide their services under this scheme. 

The PDLA lawyers are available 24 hours a day, every day.  If you don't have a lawyer, ask the police for the list, pick a lawyer who is on duty at that time, and ask to use the police phone.  In some very complicated or serious cases, the lawyer may come to talk to you face-to-face.

You may also want to check if you are eligible for legal aid for ongoing legal assistance in relation to your case.

There's more information on our website about your rights in relations to the Police.

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Where can I get legal advice if I can’t afford a lawyer?

Community law centres (CLCs) are independent community organisations that provide free legal help for members of the public.  This help includes initial legal information and legal advice. 

Some CLCs may be able to provide ongoing legal assistance, and some can provide legal representation in tribunals or courts, for members of the public who meet the eligibility criteria for such assistance.

Citizens Advice Bureaux can help you access free legal advice.  Many of our Bureaux run free legal clinics out of the Bureau, where members of the public can receive free legal advice from a lawyer during specified times - for more information contact your local CAB.

All Bureaux are also able to link you with other free legal services available in your area such as the local community law centre or lawyers in the community who offer some pro bono legal advice.  If you need free legal advice, your local Bureau can help you.

The Legal Aid scheme is a government fund to pay for legal help for people in certain circumstances. 

In some specific situations legal aid is available to all members of the public regardless of income.  In other situations legal aid is only available to people who meet the eligibility criteria and it is means-tested, so some people who qualify may not have to pay any of the legal fees involved while others may have to pay a proportion of the cost. 

See our page on the Legal aid scheme for more information.

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When can I complain about my lawyer and how do I go about laying a complaint?

If you are not happy with the way a lawyer has handled your legal affairs, then the first step would usually be to raise the issue with the lawyer or their firm.  All lawyers must have procedures for dealing with complaints and they have to deal with complaints promptly and fairly.

However, if you are not satisfied with the outcome, or if you feel it is inappropriate to take your complaint to the lawyer or their firm, then you can approach the Complaints Service of the New Zealand Law Society for assistance. 

The Lawyers Complaints Service will take complaints about: 

  • A lawyer or a former lawyer,
  • An incorporated law firm or a previously incorporated law firm, or
  • An employee of a lawyer or an incorporated law firm (they don't have to be a lawyer)

You can complain about:

  • conduct: e.g. if you think your lawyer had a conflict of interest when they were dealing with your case,
  • poor service: e.g. if your lawyer has not done what they said they would do or gave you wrong or incomplete information, or
  • if you think their fees were not fair and reasonable (and the bill totalled more than $2,000 + GST and is not more than 2 years old).

The webpage for the Lawyers Complaints Service contains further information about the Complaints Service, a complaints form which people wishing to lodge a complaint with the Service must fill out, and information about the standards required of the New Zealand legal profession. 

Or you can contact the Lawyers Complaints Service on their freephone number at 0800 261 801.  A Complaints and Standards Officer will discuss your complaint with you and may be able to help you solve the problem informally.  Otherwise, they can help you lodge a formal complaint.          

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What happens to my complaint after I lodge it?

When the Lawyers Complaints Service gets your formal complaint, it will check the complaint to see if it is valid. If your complaint isn’t valid, no further action will be taken. If it is, a copy will be sent to the lawyer and to a Standards Committee for consideration.

The Standards Committee might:

  • Decide to inquire into the complaint
  • Ask you and the lawyer to use mediation, conciliation or negotiation to find a solution
  • Decide that no action is needed

If the Committee finds that the lawyer's conduct was unsatisfactory it can make one or more orders, for example: 

  • formally confirm the terms of an agreed settlement resulting from negotiation, conciliation or mediation between you and the lawyer,
  • censure or reprimand the lawyer,
  • require the lawyer to apologise to you,
  • require the lawyer to pay you some compensation,
  • fine the lawyer,
  • require the lawyer to take some steps to improve their standard of practice.

If the matter is very serious, the Standards Committee may refer your complaint to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.