COVID-19: A message from the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui o Aotearoa
Tēnā tatou katoa,
As we come to the end of a highly disrupted and remarkable week, I wanted to briefly summarise what the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa is doing to support the profession. Our resources are focused in two areas:
- Guidance and information. We have been providing, and will continue to provide, guidance and information as soon as it comes to hand – particularly as to how access to justice will continue to function. Court lawyers have required urgent support to deal with the challenges of balancing their own health and safety with the need for justice to continue as an essential service for their clients. Together with the New Zealand Bar Association and the Criminal Bar Association we have advocated for a safe environment and certainty around Legal Aid payments. The situation with the courts is fluid and, for the moment at least, has been changing daily. Therefore, it is vitally important that all court lawyers check the www.courtsofnz.govt.nz website and your email every evening for updates from the Chief Justice. It is the one source of truth.
There is also a wealth of information, updated daily, for all lawyers on our COVID-19 web page. For example, our Family Law and Property Law Sections have been working very hard to provide interim guidance to the profession on a multitude of issues. That guidance is set out on this page. The page also contains answers to common questions that have been asked of our Regulatory staff about topics such as CPD declarations and completing Inspectorate certificates. The answers to many of the questions which come to our special email, [email protected] are on that page, so I would encourage you all to keep checking it for updates.
We are also providing practical assistance to the profession. We are starting a free webinar series on how to navigate COVID-19 related issues. We will begin with tackling the on-going challenge of working from home, which will cover issues like technology tips, through to health and safety obligations of employers in this context.
- Well-being and connectivity. I have already written to you about the free confidential counselling that is available through our Legal Community Counselling Service available to all legal employees (not just lawyers) – you can access it here.
We need to stay connected and maintain our sense of community. We are going to accelerate our Law Society National Mentoring pilot to the whole of the profession. We have had this running successfully as a pilot for the last nine months in Auckland and Christchurch. The programme uses two methods of matching: an app called Mentorloop and person to person matching by an administrator. Guidance is provided to both parties and this will be refined to respond to the unique context we are in. It is structured to be able to count as CPD. This is about well-being and staying united across the country. Particularly, as we completely self-isolate. Building networks, figuring out the pivots, adaptive thinking, how to thrive in different ways of working are all the types of things you can discuss and learn from each other. And it will be great to just connect and talk to someone.
There is a lot of uncertainty about how the courts and legal process will operate. I know how frustrating and scary that is. A lot of the profession have never worked from home. Nothing is normal. We are not going to be perfect. In fact, sometimes we will be far from it. We will have to be easy with ourselves, and with each other.
I know everyone is tired of hearing that we are all in this together, but we really are. We need to remember the whakatauki – He waka eke noa, kia kotahi te hoe o te waka – we are on the same waka and we need to paddle as one. We can choose to be united and be best of ourselves in this extraordinary time. I believe we will.
Keep safe and strong everyone. Our community is going to need us, and we will need each other, in the challenging months ahead.
Kia kaha, kia māia, kia manawanui. Kia kotahi te hoe a tō tatau waka.
Be strong. Be brave. Be stout of heart. Let us paddle our waka as one.