New Zealand International Trade in Legal Services

New Zealand International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006

Under what title do lawyers practise?

Barrister or barrister and solicitor

How does an individual lawyer obtain a "licence" to practise law? How often must this be renewed?







To practise as or to call yourself a New Zealand lawyer you must:
1. Complete a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB) approved by the New Zealand Council of Legal Education (NZCLE). Overseas law graduates or those who have been admitted in another jurisdiction (except Australia) may be required to complete further New Zealand university subjects and/ or parts of the New Zealand Law and Practice Examination;
2. Complete the Professional Legal Studies Course at either the Institute of Professional Legal Studies or College of Law. Overseas trained lawyers may be exempted from this, once their qualifications and experience have been assessed by the NZCLE;
3. Obtain a certificate of completion from the NZCLE;
4. Obtain a certificate of character from the NZLS and be admitted to the roll of barristers and solicitors of the High Court of New Zealand;
5. Hold a current practising certificate issued by the Law Society.
The practising certificate must be renewed annually and a declaration made that nothing has occurred during the previous 12 months that might affect the lawyer’s ability to practise.

Does this entitle the holder to practise throughout the country? If the law license only permits one to practice on a sub-national level, please explain the jurisdictional limits

The practising certificate entitles lawyers to practise throughout New Zealand.

Are there certain activities that are "reserved" to those who are licensed to practise law in the jurisdiction?

Yes, only lawyers who hold practising certificates are able to carry out work in the reserved areas of work.  These are set out in s6 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act.

Do you need to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law?


What legal forms can lawyers work in? (e.g. self employment, partnership, limited liability partnership, multi-disciplinary partnership, incorporation)

Lawyers may be employed (by law firms or non-law firms) or be self-employed as a barrister or a sole practitioner, practice in partnership in a law firm or in an incorporated law firm.
Multi-disciplinary practices are not permitted.

What other ethical or regulatory requirements must a licensed lawyer comply with? 

Lawyers must comply with the Rules of Conduct and Client Care:
In addition lawyers must comply with the fundamental obligations of lawyers as set out in s4 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act.

Do law firms need to receive a "license" (or permission/approval) to practice law?

No.  In New Zealand, only the lawyers themselves are ‘licensed’ ie.  Hold practising certificates.

Which authority issues licences? Are there different authorities for individuals and firms? 

The New Zealand Law Society issues practising certificates for all lawyers in New Zealand



Are there any explicit rules or restrictions other than visas on fly in fly out practice of law? Ie. Do you need to obtain a licence for temporary practice?

There is an express rule allowing temporary practice by foreign lawyers.
The relevant legislation is sections 25 and 27(1) (b) (ii) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. 

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a visa to visit clients or to market but not to practice?

Yes. See

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a licence to establish and practise as a foreign legal consultant and what is the scope of this limited licence?

Foreign lawyers do not need a licence to practise foreign law in New Zealand.  See s25 Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2005

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled once a foreign lawyer has been granted a limited licence (e.g. residency requirement)

Not applicable

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled for a foreign lawyer to qualify for a limited licence? (e.g. prior practice)

Not applicable

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation? Yes – as this is not work reserved to lawyers in New Zealand it is merely subject to any visa requirements.

Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?

Yes, foreign lawyers can provide legal services (including appearing) in New Zealand in relation to any proceedings before a court or other body if knowledge of the law of another country or international law is essential for the purposes of the proceedings.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?




Yes but in order to obtain a full licence to practise law in this jurisdiction, a foreign lawyer must have his or her overseas qualifications assessed (see, complete any equivalence requirements, obtain a certificate of character and certificate of completion, seek admission as a barrister and solicitor, and apply to the New Zealand Law Society for a practising certificate. 
Australian lawyers (those with current practising certificates) are able to seek registration (for admission and a practising certificate) under the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997. 


Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence to open an office?

Foreign firms are permitted but are not required to establish a commercial presence (a permanent office) to offer advisory services in foreign and international law. The NZLS does not regulate foreign law firms.

Even if a foreign law firm does not require a legal licence must they register in some form in order to set up an office? (e.g. with a ministry of company affairs etc)

The Companies Act 1993 (“the Companies Act”) sets out the main requirements for companies domiciled overseas to operate in New Zealand. This can be achieved by:
- Incorporation of a new subsidiary company under the Companies Act 1993; or
 - Registering the foreign company as a branch in New Zealand; or
 - Acquiring shares in a pre-existing New Zealand company or entering a joint venture with a New Zealand company.  In all instances, registration with the Companies Office is required
Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)

There is no requirement for foreign law firms to be licensed.

Is there a quota on the number of licences available?

Not applicable

Are there geographical restrictions on foreign firm licences or on the number of branches a foreign firm can have?

Not applicable

Are there "scope of practice" rules that apply directly to foreign law firms (as opposed to lawyers themselves)? (e.g. home, host, international law), if so, what are they? There are no limitations. Foreign law firms may practise the law of their own jurisdiction in NZ or may carry out legal work so long as  it is not part of the work reserved for lawyers as defined in s 6 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006.
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? There are no limitations on law firms beyond those required of all foreign companies by the New Zealand Companies Act 1993
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? No.  Although it may be a breach of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (and therefore an offence)   if the name of a foreign law firm is misleading and could lead members of the public to think it was a firm practising New Zealand law and consisting of NZ lawyers.
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL There is no licensing requirement for foreign law firms. Foreign law firms would be regulated by their own jurisdiction if that was required.


Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?

Yes.  Foreign lawyers cannot hold an ownership share of an incorporated law firm if they do not hold a New Zealand practising on their own account.

May a domestic lawyer be employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm?

If a domestic lawyer was employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm that lawyer would be deemed to be an in house lawyer and could only give advice to the employer – not to clients of the foreign law firm.

Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer?

Foreign firms are not permitted to enter into commercial association with local lawyers or law firms.  This is because multi disciplinary practices are not permitted and lawyers from other jurisdictions are not classified as “lawyers” within New Zealand.

Can a domestic lawyer or domestic law firm employ a foreign lawyer?

Yes.  However, it must be clear to the public that the foreign lawyer does not hold a New Zealand practising certificate. The foreign lawyer cannot work in the areas of work reserved for holders of New Zealand practising certificates although there are exceptions if the work is done under the direct supervision of the employer.



Other useful sources or comments or links

New Zealand Law Society: