The measure is a response to the travel restrictions enacted in light of COVID-19 alert level 4
In light of the restrictions set due to COVID-19 alert level 4, the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa is providing identification to practitioners in order to facilitate their travel while delivering essential services.
On the week of 6 April, Law Society President Tiana Epati sent out an email to all practicing lawyers on the Law Society’s Register of Lawyers to confirm that the recipients hold a current practicing certificate issued by the Law Society.
The email also reinforced the ruling by Secretary for Justice Andrew Kibblewhite that courts and tribunals are regarded as essential services based on court protocols laid out by Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann, thereby ensuring that practitioners are able to travel in order to provide essential legal services.
Kibblewhite indicated that lawyers who must appear in priority court and tribunals proceedings are allowed to support this essential business. In this respect, Epati highlights the importance of travel for practitioners in carrying out their work.
“The provision of legal services is essential to the effective functioning of the courts. Travel by lawyers for the purposes of attending to priority court proceedings is allowed. This includes travel to police stations and courts for the purposes of taking instructions from clients and attending hearings,” she said in her email.
Thus, lawyers who are asked by police to confirm that they are indeed delivering essential services may show the letter as proof that they are legal practitioners. Lawyers who have not received the “confirmation of being a practising lawyer” letter may send an email to the Law Society to get a replacement letter.
In addition to the email, the Law Society also advises lawyers who are in transit to have other proofs of identification on hand, such as “photo identification, a business card (or letterhead), and documentation relevant to their reason for travel (e.g., court documentation).”
For lawyers who are not working on what is considered “essential business,” the inability to travel does not mean the cessation of operations.
“To the extent that the provision of legal services means a lawyer does not leave their 'bubble', legal services could still be provided. This includes legal services that are otherwise ‘usual’ but also connected to COVID-19, for example helping people organise wills and powers of attorney,” said Kibblewhite.