When is a lawyer not a lawyer?

Lawyers and Conveyancers Act

Mr Duncan Webb has written two books on legal ethics in New Zealand as a law professor of Canterbury University.  His writings suggest that New Zealand lawyers left to their own devices are inherently averse to doing anything unethical and that most ethical rules are for the benefit of the public in maintaining trust in the profession.

Duncan Webb
Duncan Webb is a former Canterbury University associate professor.

When Parliament passed the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act in 2006, the legislation replaced the Lay Observer with the new Legal Complaints Review Officer position as an oversight of complaints against lawyers to the New Zealand Law Society.  The Act stipulated that the LCRO be a non-lawyer.

Mr Webb, who was a lawyer and sitting committee member on the NZLS at the time, simply forfeited his practicing certificate to technically comply with the requirement.  Disingenuous, certainly.  Unethical?  Mr Webb does not think so, even though his short legacy resulted in numerous charges of lawyer-friendly bias and complaint hedging.  Mr Webb’s abrupt departure from the position came a year before his term expired, amidst at least five court actions.

Given Mr Webb’s writings, one might expect him to conduct his affairs to a higher standard.  It is shocking then that he has been practicing law without a licence – as well as acting for clients where his independence is clearly compromised and he has a personally vested interest and conflict.

Mr Webb did not returned calls to his Christchurch office.