A compilation of New Zealand banks and KiwiSaver providers’ positions on accepting electronically signed documents and/or video conference witnessed statutory declarations during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Note: Before relying on this information you should check directly with the relevant organisation.
Banks – loan documentation
ASB and BNZ were approached for their position but had not provided a response as at the last time this post was updated.
The Co-operative Bank will accept documents completed, signed, and witnessed virtually, along with the usual solicitor certificate undertakings. However, if signing is completed electronically they require proper signed copies of the loan contract within 14 days following a return to COVID-19 level 2 (email on 21 April 2020, updated on 30 April 2020).
Kiwibank say: “We’re taking a case-by-case approach to this, and we recommend that customers or their solicitors contact us directly to work through this.
During lockdown we may accept digital signatures on the basis that they comply with the requirements set out:
in Part 4, Subpart 3 of the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017.
We may also accept video conference witnessing, where we’ll work directly with you or your solicitor on what’s required.”
(updated email on 23 April 2020)
SBS will accept electronic signatures during the lockdown as long as the solicitor has advised that they are aware these are electronic, can verify them, and advises that the signatures are electronic due to the lockdown (email on 14 April 2020).
TSB will accept documents that are completed, signed and witnessed virtually along with the usual undertakings contained in the solicitor’s certificate.
If signing is completed electronically TSB needs to receive proper signed copies of the loan contract within 14 days following a return to COVID-19 level 2 response (email on 14 April 2020).
Westpac are accepting electronic signatures for existing customers topping up loans, but are not accepting electronic signatures for new lending at this stage (email on 15 April 2020).
KiwiSaver providers – First home withdrawals
AMP will accept digital signatures or no signature if a customer is unable to do a digital one. They will call and email to complete identification checks. Identification can be verified by a photo being sent through of the customer holding their identification. They will accept non-certified supporting documents. Solicitors can email documents to [email protected]. A representative from AMP will be in contact with customers regarding the statutory declaration once their application has been submitted (email on 15 April 2020).
While restrictions remain in place ANZ will accept electronic documents (such as an online bill) or scanned/photographed images of paper documents as long as: the document is able to be read clearly, and all images within the document are sharp and in focus. However they say that documents have to be verified by a solicitor or a JP. Some ANZ branches are open on Wednesdays from 9am to noon and branch staff can verify documents as well (email on 14 April 2020).
Aon will accept statutory declarations completed remotely via video conference in line with the NZLS guidelines (email on 15 April 2020).
ASB will accept statutory declarations completed remotely via video conference in line with the NZLS guidelines. They will accept a first home withdrawal application and certified copies of identification by email. They are aware that this will pose challenges for some members and ASB along with other KiwiSaver providers are raising their concerns with the government (email on 15 April 2020).
BNZ will accept email applications sent from solicitors including emailed copies of certified IDs and statutory declarations. BNZ will accept a remotely witnessed statutory declaration in line with the NZLS memo (email on 14 April 2020).
Booster will accept statutory declarations completed via video conference. They can attempt to verify customer ID remotely through an online verification service (email on 14 April 2020).
Craigs Investment Partners
Craigs Investment Partners will accept scanned and emailed copies of withdrawal forms (with the originals posted at COVID-19 level 2 or lower). They will also accept statutory declarations completed remotely via video conference in line with the NZLS guidelines (email on 20 April 2020).
Fisher Funds say: “Due to the current COVID-19 lockdown period there may be some delay in Fisher Funds receiving the withdrawal forms via mail. If your client’s statutory declaration has been correctly witnessed, we can potentially grant a temporary exemption to this as the forms have been received via email. This would be granted on the understanding the application is fully completed and originals are sent once the lockdown has been lifted” (email on 14 April 2020).
Kiwi Wealth will accept statutory declarations completed remotely via video conference. They have an electronic verification process that can be used if the certified ID/proof of address documents received are not satisfactory. They will accept documents emailed to [email protected] from a solicitor or the member’s registered email address (email on 15 April 2020).
Lifestages will accept electronic documentation from solicitors. Will accept identity verification and statutory declarations done over video conference by solicitors (email on 14 April 2020).
MAS will accept a statutory declaration that a solicitor has taken by video conference along with a statement per the guidelines. ID and address verification of many customers can be completed remotely with photographs of the identification if the customer agrees to MAS using a third-party service to do so (email on 14 April 2020).
Mercer will accept first home withdrawal documents electronically. Current New Zealand driver licences and passports may be able to be used to verify identity electronically. They will accept statutory declarations completed remotely via video conference in line with the NZLS guidelines (email on 15 April 2020).
Simplicity are accepting first home withdrawal applications with documents witnessed via video conferencing technology in accordance with the NZLS guidelines (email on 14 April 2020).
SuperLife continues to accept scanned and emailed versions of the first home withdrawal documents. They are able to perform identity and address verification of customers remotely. They will accept statutory declarations completed remotely via video conference in line with the NZLS guidelines (email on 14 April 2020).
Westpac will accept complete documentation via email. Solicitors should scan and email documents to [email protected] (email on 14 April 2020).
If the client does not have access to video chat/a printer/a scanner can they extend their bubble to include someone who does?
If the client and independent lawyer both have a printer and scanner, see Paul Collins’ opinion on remote witnessing for the NZ Law Society here, and draft certificate here (docx), if not, see the below section Signing documents/unsworn affidavits.
If a deponent does not have access to a physical bible, can they affirm their affidavit instead of swearing, or bring up an online bible/bible app on their phone?
If the client does not have access to video chat/a printer/a scanner can they extend their bubble to include someone who does?
Email or post the will out to the person and record in a file note (or have the client send to you in writing) that the will has been drafted in accordance with their instructions and no changes are required; and post-lockdown have it executed correctly? (see section 14 of the Wills Act 2007)
[No longer relevant, see the immediate modification order] Consider whether the suggested clause iv. may place doubt over the document if the client does not have it witnessed in the traditional way when physically able to.
See the linked attachments including Paul Collins’ opinion, Theresa Donnelly of Perpetual Guardian’s document on validation applications, and checklists for drafting EPAs/wills during this time.
Witnessing relationship property agreements by video conference
See Ingrid Squire’s 2014 article in the New Zealand Law Society Family Law Section’s Family Advocate, To Skype or not to Skype: that is the question (pdf) on things to consider when witnessing a relationship property agreement by video conference.
Example of an audio-visual clause for inclusion in a relationship property agreement (republished with permission from Lady Deborah Chambers QC):
“Both [party one] and [party two] acknowledge and agree that both parties will execute this agreement before their lawyer using a Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp connection and on that basis their lawyers will witness their signatures and give an explanation as to the effects and implications of this agreement.
The parties agree to this document being executed using that technology and agree that they will not attempt to set aside the agreement on the basis that execution and witness of signature occurred using internet connection. They also agree that it will be necessary for each party to send a scanned copy of their signed agreement to their lawyers in New Zealand for them to then complete the document. The fact that it is a scanned copy will also not invalidate the document.
The parties may sign separate copies of this agreement but once all parties have signed separate copies they will form a final binding agreement.”
“The parties agree that settlement is hereby deferred to the 10th working day after the Government reduces the COVID-19 Level to Level 2 or below, or to such other date as may be mutually agreed. For the sake of clarity neither party shall have any claim against the other in relation to this deferral.”
If the property, both lawyers, and the seller and purchaser are not in the same area, what if there are regional differences in the COVID-19 level?
Workload if all settlements are deferred to the 10th working day.
Can you remote onto the computer your digital certificate is stored on?
Can you transfer your certificate to another computer? See the information on the LINZ website here or contact LINZ.
Is there another user (e.g. a colleague, your attorney) that would be able to access your workspace?
If needing to travel for priority proceedings, print or save/screenshot to your phone the email from the Law Society sent to all lawyers on 8 April 2020, subject ‘Confirmation of being a practising lawyer’.
Court bailiffs may not be serving documents at all (check with the Court), so unless service will be undertaken by Police, address service in application/interlocutory application.
One option if electronic (email/social media) service is not available (from Wellington Family Law Section):
Ask the Court to direct the respondent to attend the registry to collect the documents as arranged by the registry. The case officer is to contact the respondent by telephone to advise the documents are ready to be collected. The notice period begins from the time the registry advise the respondent and they are to be advised that if they do not make arrangements with the registry to collect or otherwise obtain a copy of the documents, they will be deemed to have had notice of the proceedings and the court will continue to progress the application as directed.
Signing documents/unsworn affidavits
If the deponent has a printer, can they print and sign the document and scan it to you or take a photo of it (or at least the jurat page) using a scanning app like Microsoft Office Lens?
If the client does not have access to video chat/a printer/a scanner can they extend their bubble to include someone who does?
Can they sign the document electronically? See options in this post.
Can you amend the lawyer’s certificate to explain why the document is unsigned/signed in a different way, or file a memorandum of counsel?
An adaption of the without notice certificate statement in those guidelines: “The affidavit filed in support of this application was prepared in accordance with the deponent’s specific instructions. [It was read/An electronic version was provided] to them. The deponent confirmed that they fully understood the affidavit and that the contents of it were true and correct to the best of their knowledge and belief.”
Note the difficulties of providing an undertaking as worded in the guidelines that you will file an affidavit when 1) that is not solely under your control and 2) circumstances may have changed which makes filing an affidavit containing the same information misleading.
Information in without notice Family Court affidavits
“Judges on the e-duty platform have encountered a lack of specificity in some affidavits filed in support of without notice applications seeking orders for day-to-day care and/or the enforcement of day-to-day care orders due to [COVID-19].
It is imperative that affidavits contain all relevant information including, but not exclusive to, the following: • the terms of the parenting order; • the occupants of the property/properties; • whether any occupants are engaged in an essential service; • steps taken to ensure compliance with the lock down; • comprehensive details of any health issues; • the mode of travel between the respective homes and who will undertake that travel; and • the distance between the homes.”
Appearing via AVL
Tips from the NZLS heads of bench webinar:
Robes are not necessary. Dress in formal business attire.
You do not need to stand up when speaking.
Raise your hand toward the screen to signal an interruption (instead of standing up in a courtroom to signal you would like to speak) but these should be rare.
Set up your workspace appropriately and consider your background.
Read the information that the Court has provided you.
Follow the other usual rules that apply during hearings.
Also, consider if participating remotely will be particularly difficult for your client for example: for linguistic reasons, developmental reasons or that there is no private space away from children.
Updated 19 April 2020: Added information on contacting clients in prison; updated wills section and added information on enduring powers of attorney; added information on appearing by AVL.
Updated 20 April 2020: Explained where the Family Advocate article is from; added information about the Wills Act and Oaths and Declarations Act immediate modification orders; added information about bail.
Updated 30 April 2020: Updated conveyancing, A&I, affidavits/declarations, wills/EPAs, shared care, leases, appearing via AVL, contacting clients in prison, Health Act orders, signing documents, and other resources sections. Added care and protection section.
You need a Zoom account to host meetings, but not to participate in them.
Click here to sign up. If you want to try things out, you can sign up for free, or you can dive straight into the Pro plan for USD $14.99/month (or USD$149.90/year if you pay annually).
Use the coupon code ZOOMCARES for 20% off a Pro plan billed annually.
Reasons to get a Pro account:
No time limit on group meetings. Group meetings are meetings with more than 2 people. On a basic account the meeting will automatically end after 40 minutes – not a good client experience, although participants can immediately rejoin using the same link.
Due to increased demand because of COVID-19, the dial-in by phone function may be turned off intermittently for Basic accounts.
Polling, cloud recording, co-hosting, and other features are included.
How many accounts do you need?
If you’re a small organisation, you can start out with one Pro account. Think of each Pro account like a meeting boardroom in a physical office. You need one Pro (or higher) account per group meeting over 40 minutes that you want to hold at the same time. So if you’d like to be able to run two group meetings longer than 40 minutes at the same time you need two Pro accounts.
Group meetings longer than 40 minutes need to be scheduled on a Pro account – you either need to share the password for the Pro account with your team (see the LastPass section in this post), assign a person to schedule meetings on the Pro account, or upgrade a person’s Basic account to a Pro account.
You might hold more group meetings than you think – a client meeting with a support person joining from a different location, or a client meeting with a remote translator joining will both be group meetings.
You can invite the rest of your team to create an account under the Pro account. With free Basic accounts each team member can host unlimited one-on-one meetings.
Using Zoom as lawyer for child, for mediations or for round-table meetings
There are some particular settings to consider if you’re going to use Zoom to host mediations, or round-table meetings. They’re marked below with the # symbol.
If you’re the lawyer for child or mediator you should run the Zoom meeting as host from a Zoom account you control.
Consider whether running a pre-meeting briefing by Zoom for groups of parties/lawyers would make them more comfortable with the software and allow you to identify if there are issues that would stop people from participating effectively.
You may want to set some ground rules in advance, consider things like:
Will everyone share their video?
Will everyone be in a room by themselves unless there is agreement from everyone else?
Use the hand up function to indicate that you would like to speak.
Stay muted unless you are talking, and don’t talk while someone else is talking.
Parties won’t send private messages to each other.
Hayden Wilson from Dentons Kensington Swan suggests that:
You get agreement:
That participants will limit distractions.
That there will be no recording of the chat/screen/audio (unless to record an agreement and with the consent of all parties).
On taking/not taking notes.
On when an agreement is reached (signed document?) and how any agreement reached will be recorded, which could be using electronic tools.
That participants won’t share the meeting login details (e.g. meeting ID/password).
You have contact details for everyone in the meeting and they have a way to contact you in case of problems.
You consider how to deal with a ‘walk out’ which is much easier for someone to do virtually.
Each set of parties/lawyers has a non-Zoom communication method available.
Setting up your Zoom account
You’ll need to sign up for Zoom (see above) if you’re creating the first account in your organisation. Otherwise you may have received an invitation to join Zoom, or to convert your existing Zoom account to an organisation account.
You can also change some settings across all of the accounts that are under a Pro account through ‘Admin’ options.
1. Profile -> Profile photo
You might want to upload a photo of yourself. This will show up instead of your camera feed if you have your video turned off on a Zoom call.
Once you’re logged in, on the Zoom profile page, click change under the profile photo icon.
2. Profile -> Date format
Zoom defaults to the United States date format of mm/dd/yyyy – you can change this to dd/mm/yyyy on the profile page.
3. Profile -> If you’re sharing a Pro account, share the Host Key too
If you’re sharing a Pro account (see ‘How many accounts do you need?’ above) you should share the Host Key of the Pro account with your team too. This allows someone not logged in as the Pro account to ‘Claim Host’ rights (the ‘Claim Host’ button is at the bottom of the participants window).
The Host Key is on the profile page:
4. Settings -> Meeting -> Audio Type
Zoom allows people to connect by computer/device audio (e.g. their webcam/phone camera and inbuilt speaker/microphone or headset) or by calling a phone number.
You can change this setting per meeting when scheduling a meeting.
Zoom has Auckland and Wellington numbers in New Zealand. If you pay extra participants can also access a toll-free number.
# Leaving this as the default’ Telephone and Computer Audio’ setting provides the most flexibility, however note unless you turn on the ‘phone number masking’ setting discussed below, everyone on the call (including opposing parties in lawyer for child matters) will be able to see the phone numbers of anyone who phones in.
5. Settings -> Meeting -> Enable join before host
Enable this especially if you’re sharing a Pro account to book group meetings, and the team member running the meeting isn’t necessarily going to be logged into the Pro account.
This would also let other participants join and start the meeting without you if you are running late.
If this option is not enabled, participants see a “Please wait for the host to start the meeting” screen if they join the meeting before the host.
You can change this setting per meeting when scheduling a meeting.
6. Settings -> Meeting -> A warning about Personal Meeting IDs
Some people use Personal Meeting IDs (a meeting ID that does not change) for internal meetings between members of their team etc. I would recommend avoiding the use of Personal Meeting IDs and leaving the Personal Meeting ID settings below off. This is because anyone who knows your Personal Meeting ID can join meetings you host using it (i.e. crash another meeting), even if they’re not invited to that particular meeting.
8. Settings -> Meeting -> Mute participants on entry
It is best practice to enable this setting which especially avoids disruption if someone joins a meeting late, however keep in mind that this also means everyone needs to work out how to unmute themselves (or be unmuted by the host) in order to speak. The larger the meetings you hold, the more useful this setting becomes.
You can change this setting per meeting when scheduling a meeting.
9. Settings -> Meeting -> Require Encryption for 3rd Party Endpoints
This setting will block people from joining Zoom meetings using H323/SIP systems (corporate meeting room systems e.g. the Polycom or LifeSize TV screens in meeting rooms) unless encryption is enabled on their device.
You should enable this setting.
Meeting participants will see a “Please enable encryption option on your room system” message if they need to enable encryption.
This setting doesn’t affect encryption on Zoom software downloaded onto computers, phones etc where encryption can’t be turned off.
10. Settings -> Meeting -> Chat #
Chat is a useful feature and chat messages that are visible to everyone are unlikely to be problematic e.g. in round-table meeting situations. However you may wish to consider preventing participants from saving the chat to reinforce, for example, the without prejudice nature of a meeting.
Note that this setting will not disable the ability for participants to screenshot or otherwise record the chat.
Warning on saving the chat: The saved chat log will include private messages the person saving the chat has sent and received, so check these logs carefully before sharing.
11. Settings -> Meeting -> Private chat #
This setting is useful so that parties and their lawyers can communicate privately without leaving Zoom, however a meeting host may wish to share their expectations around the use of private chat, for example that the parties or lawyers will not send private messages directly to each other.
Note the ethical obligation for lawyers to not communicate directly with a represented party.
12. Settings -> Meeting -> Play sound when participants join or leave
It is useful to enable this setting so that it is obvious that someone has joined the meeting.
With ‘Record and play their own voice’ enabled participants joining by telephone will be asked to record their name to identify themselves.
13. Settings -> Meeting -> File transfer
Although this setting could be useful, you should disable it as it bypasses the anti-virus/anti-malware protection your email provider will be providing you.
Share documents via email, or if you need to collaborate directly, using a shared document on G Suite or a similar service.
14. Settings -> Meeting -> Allow host to put attendee on hold
A useful setting to enable to temporarily remove one or more participants from the call.
15. Settings -> Meeting – > Screen sharing
Screen sharing is another Zoom setting that has been in the news recently due to “Zoom bombing” or people joining Zoom calls and screen sharing explicit material.
Leaving this enabled is lower risk if all your meetings are protected with passwords, as recommended above. You can reduce your risk even further by only allowing hosts to screen share.
Warning about screen sharing: Close unrelated documents and applications and clear your desktop before sharing your screen. Share specific applications using the Share Screen function rather than your entire desktop to limit the chance of inadvertently sharing confidential information.
You can use the ‘Pause Sharing’ button to freeze the shared screen that participants can see so you can do something in private.
16. Settings -> Meeting -> Annotation and Whiteboard
These are useful settings to keep enabled. Consider enabling the ‘auto save’ feature so whiteboard content is not lost when the whiteboard is closed.
17. Settings -> Meeting -> Remote control
Useful to leave enabled so that you can also use Zoom screen sharing as a tech support tool.
18. Settings -> Meeting -> Non-verbal feedback
‘Raise hand’ is available whether this setting is on or off.
Non-verbal feedback includes thumbs up, go faster, go slower, request for a break etc.
# Note this setting also allows participants to provide other less constructive non-verbal feedback like a thumbs down.
19. Settings -> Meeting -> Breakout room #
Enable this so you can set up private discussion rooms which you can send participants to during the meeting, e.g. a room for each of the parties and their respective lawyer(s).
A host can join a breakout room in progress and from the breakout room a participant can still message the host or use a button to get the host’s attention.
You can, but don’t need to, assign breakout rooms when scheduling a meeting.
Enable this so that team members who are logged into a Zoom account connected to yours are identifiable in the meeting participants list.
21. Settings -> Meeting -> Use HTML format email for Outlook plugin
This setting makes Zoom invitations sent using the Outlook plugin look slightly nicer.
You can download the plugin here: Microsoft Outlook plugin. If you’re sharing a Pro account: log in to the plugin with your account and schedule meetings on the Pro account through the web interface.
22. Settings -> Meeting -> Waiting room #
A very good idea to enable this (or disable join before host) for meetings where opposing parties are attending so they are not left alone together.
Allows the host to control who can join the meeting and when they can join.
Requires you to be logged into the host account the meeting is scheduled on.
Can’t be used with the ‘join before host’ setting enabled – you need to choose one or the other.
A message will be shown to those in the waiting room along the lines of “Thank you for joining, the meeting host will let you in soon”. You can customise this message if you have a Pro or higher account.
Those in the waiting room do not see/hear each other (if there’s more than one person in the waiting room) or any of your meeting content.
You can change this setting per meeting when scheduling.
23. Settings -> Meeting -> Join from your browser link
This enables participants to join a Zoom meeting without having to download anything on their computer. It is useful for locked-down corporate devices, however the functionality is limited.
24. Settings -> Meeting -> Blur snapshot
Enable this so sensitive information isn’t inadvertently screen shared from an iPhone.
25. Settings -> Recording -> Local recording
Useful to keep enabled to be able to record verbal agreements that are going to be written up later. A Pro account gives you access to a ‘Cloud recording’ setting below this.
A warning about recordings: note rule 10.8 of the Conduct and Client Care Rules that “a lawyer must not, in the course of his or her professional activity, make a video or sound recording of any person without first informing the person of the lawyer’s intention to do so.”
26. Settings -> Recording -> Automatic recording
Leave this off.
27. Settings -> Recording -> Recording disclaimer
Enabling these settings may enable you to more easily meet your professional obligations regarding recordings, and ensure active consent from participants, even if you accidentally press the record button or have accidentally given a participant recording ability.
28. Settings -> Recording -> Multiple audio notifications of recorded meeting
Enable this – this setting makes it clear to participants who have phoned in each time recording starts or stops.
29. Settings -> Telephony -> Mask phone number #
Consider whether to enable this option. A New Zealand mobile number will turn into, for example 6422****123. The number is also masked for the host, which may make it more difficult to identify participants telephoning in to the meeting.
Warning about the privacy implications of leaving this setting disabled: If this setting is not enabled anyone in the meeting can see the phone number of anyone telephoning into the meeting.
30. Settings -> Telephony -> Global Dial-in Countries/Regions
Dial-in is generally available on all accounts but Zoom is limiting the availability of this feature on Basic accounts during increased demand due to COVID-19.
Your meetings and invitations will default to including Zoom’s United States telephone numbers. Zoom offers an Auckland and Wellington landline number, and if you pay extra, a toll-free number, for participants to be able to phone in to meetings.
Change the default phone numbers that are listed in your invitations by editing the Global Dial-in Countries/Regions.
1) Click on the pencil icon beside the list of countries – this is probably set to ‘United States’ by default.
2) Search for New Zealand in the list on the left-hand side and tick the box beside it. Click on the Delete button beside other countries in the list on the right-hand side.
3) Click Save.
Scheduling a meeting
You can schedule a meeting a number of ways including through the Zoom web interface, Zoom program/app, and Zoom Outlook plugin.
If you’re sharing a Pro account I suggest scheduling group meetings on the web interface either in an incognito/private browsing window or different browser. This is so you aren’t using the Pro account’s capacity for one-on-one meetings which could be scheduled on a non-paid Basic account.
On the web go to My Account -> Meetings -> Schedule a New Meeting.
The important things to change:
Topic: This will also be the title of the calendar event for your meeting.
When: The start date/time.
Duration: Your meeting will not end when this duration is reached, however try to be accurate for your guests, and especially if you are sharing a Pro account so there are no scheduling conflicts.
Meeting ID: Leave this set to ‘generate automatically’.
Meeting password: Even if you have the option to turn this off I recommend leaving it on.
Video: I recommend leaving these off so the host and participants can choose when to start showing their video.
Audio: Leave this set to ‘Both’
Meeting Options: Consider whether for this meeting to enable/disable the following settings (see explanations above):
Enable join before host
Mute participants upon entry
Enable waiting room
Click Save and you’ll be taken to the manage meeting page.
Sharing a meeting/inviting others
From the manage meeting page either:
1) Click on one of the calendar buttons and invite people to your calendar event, or
2) Click on the ‘Copy the invitation’ link beside the Join URL, then the ‘Copy Meeting Invitation’ button and paste the text into an email (or anywhere else).
In meeting controls
The screenshots below are for the computer Zoom software. The mobile app software will look slightly different.
When you join a meeting, you first need to click on the ‘Join With Computer Audio’ button. You can also test your speaker and microphone.
If it is available there will also be an option on this screen to phone into the meeting to hear others and to speak rather than using computer/device audio.
Hosts and guests both see a black bar at the bottom of the screen (wiggle your mouse if it is not displaying). The bar in the screenshot below may look slightly different for you, and will look different for participants who are not hosts of the meeting.
The key buttons are:
The up arrow beside the Unmute/Mute button is to change which audio device you are using, or test your audio.
The Start/Stop Video button
The arrow beside the Start/Stop Video button is to change which camera device you are using.
Share – this button is to screen share/open a whiteboard
Some buttons won’t display unless you have those settings enabled in the Zoom web interface.
You have options in the participants window as a host to Unmute or Mute a specific participant (hover over their name first), to Mute All participants, and to Unmute All participants. There are additional options to manage a participant if you hover over their name then click ‘More’.
There are other options to manage the meeting available by clicking the ‘More’ button at the bottom of the Participants window:
Note that the Participants window is also where one of the ‘Raise/Lower Hand’ buttons (and ‘Claim Host’ button) is for non-hosts:
Note that private chats between participants are not visible to anyone else, including the host. However, private chats that a person has sent/received will be saved along with the public chat if that person uses the save chat function.
There are also options to control the chat in the chat window – open Chat then click on the three dots:
For the best audio experience use a headset if you have one available.
Test your audio/video in advance (you could use your Personal Meeting ID for this).
Consider your background.
Check your video (your hair, your background) before starting it by clicking on the up arrow beside ‘Start Video’, then ‘Video Settings’.
Mute your microphone when you are not talking.
Have a test meeting with your team before hosting your first meeting.
Have your webcam at eye level and look at it when speaking – it will make people feel like you are making eye contact with them.
If you are lagging/having connection difficulties (you might get a message about your internet connection being unstable) turn your video off and quit other applications you have open.
Double-check who you are sending a chat message to before pressing send/enter.
Further training on Zoom
Zoom offers free training webinars on Zoom – you can sign up for a live one, or watch a recording. See the list here.
There is a 30 minute ‘Getting Started with Zoom Meetings’ training and a 60 minute ‘Zoom Meetings’ training. You can ask questions at the end of the live versions.
What: “Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, collaboration, chat, and webinars across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems.”
Why: You can use it on almost any device (Mac, PC, iPhone, Android, phoning in by telephone), it’s easy to install, your guests don’t need to sign up for an account, you can share your computer screen, and you can easily schedule and send invitations for meetings.
Zoom has a page of resources for beginners and is running daily training as it is so popular because of the current situation.
With a rich feature set, intuitive interface, and advanced security, Nitro Pro enables you to quickly and easily create, convert, edit, sign, review, and protect PDF documents—without the hassle.”
Why: No need to print and scan documents to turn them into PDFs, edit out pages or do bates numbering for bundles. You can email documents for signing electronically. A one off cost instead of AUD$234.48/year for Adobe Standard DC.
What: “Invite other people to sign Docx, Doc, ODT, ODS, Xls, Xlsx, RTF & PDF documents
For many businesses signing contracts or obtaining customer signatures in order to close a deal often proves challenging. The traditional paper process is often time consuming and costly and may take a few days or several weeks to complete. With Secured Signing technology you will be able to close deals and sign contracts within minutes.
Simply create your document, add it to Secured Signing Service and invite your business associate, customers, suppliers, partners or others to sign.”
Why: A New Zealand company. This is the platform that ADLS WebForms signing service is based on. A more robust process than Nitro or HelloSign’s signature request functions. Free for a few documents a month. ID verification (Real Me/NZ passport/NZ driver licence) is extra.
What: “WebForms™ is a web-based legal document creation service, creating efficiency for busy professionals seeking to draw on proven legal forms. WebForms protects the integrity of each document, while allowing users to tailor forms to meet the needs of individuals or specific transactions.
Digital Signing is included with WebForms subscriptions. A secure tool, enabling you to provide legal services to your clients remotely.”
Why: If you want to request signatures electronically, don’t mind paying per document, and want RealMe/driver licence verification of signatories.
What: “HelloSign allows you to electronically request and add legally valid signatures to any document, from new hire agreements to loans, to NDAs. HelloSign is available in an intuitive web interface, a developer-friendly API, or as a Salesforce add-on.”
Why: Email documents for signing, powered by Dropbox. Not necessary if you opt for Nitro above which also includes electronic signing, but useful if you use a different PDF editor.
What: “The best way to manage passwords. Just remember your master password and LastPass remembers the rest. See for yourself how easy password management can be.”
Why: LastPass as in the last password you’ll have to remember. It sounds counterintuitive, but you and your team storing all your work passwords in an (encrypted) database online means you can use secure, long, and unique passwords for each service. Accounts are compromised in data breaches all the time (look up your email here – if you’re using the same password everywhere a domino analogy would apply). Web browser plugins and phone apps available.
Passwords can be securely shared using the team plan.
What: “Crushes cyberthreats. Restores confidence. Traditional antivirus simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Malwarebytes crushes the latest threats before others even recognize they exist.”
Why: Protect your devices from malware. Ransomware will ruin your day and possibly your business especially if you don’t have up-to-date backups. Works with Windows Defender*. If you. have an IT provider they are probably taking care of this for you on work devices – ask.
Price: Free version or Premium from USD$49.99/device/year after 14 day trial.
Caution on relying on the free version: “The free version of Malwarebytes for Windows is great for getting rid of existing infections, but some infections, like ransomware, only need a moment to wreak havoc on your PC. To stop infections before they happen, stay one step ahead with the Real-Time Protection of Malwarebytes Premium.”
*To get Malwarebytes Premium and Windows Defender working together, in Malwarebytes go to Settings -> Security -> untick ‘Always register Malwarebytes in the Windows Security Center’.
What:CERT NZ is “here to improve cyber security in New Zealand. We work alongside other government agencies and organisations — both locally and internationally — to help New Zealand better understand and stay resilient to cyber security threats.”.
What: “Backblaze helps you protect business data. Easily deployed across laptops and desktops. Centrally managed. Securing all your user data for just $60/year per computer for unlimited backup.”
Why: Automatically backup your data to the cloud and protect yourself from natural disasters, theft, ransomware etc. Not necessary if your files are on a server and your IT people take care of offsite backups.
Price: 15 day free trial then USD$60/computer/year.
What: “Millions of people use Signal every day for free and instantaneous communication anywhere in the world. Send and receive high-fidelity messages, participate in HD voice/video calls, and explore a growing set of new features that help you stay connected. Signal’s advanced privacy-preserving technology is always enabled, so you can focus on sharing the moments that matter with the people who matter to you.”
Why: Mobile networks are under strain with phone calls and texts and using an app like Signal over Wi-Fi or mobile data avoids this. Send texts/photos, call, and video chat. Encrypted (your telco almost certainly keeps a record of your text messages) and recommended by Edward Snowden. Clients can easily download it for free. Not WhatsApp (owned by Facebook).
What: 1.25 GB carryover data (hotspotting – using your phone’s data on your laptop – included), 200 carryover minutes, unlimited texts to New Zealand and Australia. Unlimited calling to 2degrees mobiles.
Why: Free calling to your team (if they’re also on 2degrees), no contracts, one hour of free data a day, and unused minutes/data rollover to the next month.
What: “Expensify is the world’s leading application for expense management, receipt scanning, and business travel. Snap a photo of your receipt using SmartScan and Expensify takes care of the rest.”
Why: Create expense reports by taking photos of receipts. The Expensify robots automatically grab the merchant, cost etc. from the photo. Apps for iPhone and Android and you can forward email receipts.
What: “Live a healthier, happier, more well-rested life in just a few minutes a day with the Headspace app.”
“There are a lot of unknowns in the world right now. But one thing is certain — Headspace is here for you. To help support you through this time of crisis, we’re offering some meditations you can listen to anytime.
These are part of a larger collection in the Headspace app — free for everyone — called Weathering the storm. It includes meditations, sleep, and movement exercises to help you out, however you’re feeling. It’s our small way of helping you find some space and kindness for yourself and those around you.”
Why: Headspace brings mindfulness meditation, including specific COVID-19 resources, to your pocket in these uncertain times.
What: “Anyone who works in a legal workplace can contact Vitae if they want to access the Legal Community Counselling Service.
The Law Society has engaged Vitae to provide short-term, solution-focussed counselling by trained and accredited clinicians (counsellors, psychologists or psychotherapists). The service is individual and confidential.”
Why: Free, professional, independent counselling. Your practising certificate fees fund this. Available to lawyers and law firm staff.
Your multifunction device/photocopier probably has an option to forward your faxes to an email address automatically (but you may not be able to activate this remotely). Google the model number and a phrase like ‘fax to email’.
Hide your phone number
Using your personal phone? See the Privacy Commissioner’s page on hiding your phone number (e.g. from clients) when making calls. Doesn’t work for text messages.
29-year-old Japanese tourist Kayo Matsuzawa was a daughter, younger sister, flatmate, friend, and if she were alive today, would have been an aunt. She went missing from Auckland, New Zealand 20 years ago today, around 11 September 1998. Her body was found in a utility cupboard in a stairwell 11 days later on 22 September.
Approximately midday: Kayo arrived in Auckland on flight AN626 (a title card in Bryan Bruce’s documentary incorrectly says this was 1999).
2:14 pm: Security camera footage shows Kayo getting off an airport bus on Queen Street, checks into Queen Street Backpackers.
3:32 pm: BNZ CCTV shows Kayo walking past the Countrywide building on Queen Street.
Access card records missing (implied in The Investigator).
Monday 14 September 1998
Kayo due to check out of hostel.
Access card records missing (implied in The Investigator).
Wednesday 16 September 1998 (reported as five days after Kayo went missing)
Kayo’s day bag, passport, and insurance papers found in rubbish bin.
Tuesday 22 September 1998
Kayo’s body found.
One person of interest leaves the country.
Kayo’s family were worried about her going to New Zealand. Her plan was to learn English here for a year, and she left Yamagata, Japan for New Zealand in November 1997. In Christchurch she enrolled at the Dominion English School. She also worked in a restaurant.
At the school she met her friend Naomi Saishu who she flatted and travelled New Zealand with, including visiting Queenstown. “She was such a happy cheerful person; never said a bad word about anyone.“ “We’d go shopping together and to any events that were on in Christchurch. We went to the Santa parade and got so sunburnt a friend said she had never seen such dark Japanese people before.”
Kayo sent postcards back home regularly. Around August she sent her mother a postcard: “Dear mum. Happy birthday! I’ve decided to come home to Japan on November 4, so another three months to go … Take care. Love, Kayo.“
Kayo’s mother said that: “she had a lot of friends and she’d make anyone around her happy. I can’t describe how kind and nice she was” “she was very friendly and she talked to most people, she wasn’t shy about meeting new people.”
Kayo told Naomi about her plans to travel the North Island. She wanted to visit the Bay of Islands for five days, and visit Auckland. Naomi couldn’t afford to go with her. Kayo promised to send her a postcard.
In The Investigator documentary, Bryan Bruce says that “Kayo didn’t like travelling on her own” and a Police officer described her as a “young, wary … tourist”.
Bryan: “In English we have a word: ‘naïve’, it means to be so innocent that you do not appreciate that people could be actually meaning you harm; that she would take people as we say, on face value, she would tend to trust people.”
Humiko (through a translator): “Mmm that’s right, she would never mistrust a person.”
Naomi said: “she was the kind of person who would make friends with anyone. It wouldn’t be an issue for her to make friends at the backpackers and go out with people she just met. I think that this could be the reason this happened.” “After 10 days, no postcard came, so I did start to wonder. The police showed up at my work and drove me to the station, that’s where they told me, but I already knew by then, it must be Kayo.”
Other friends described her as kind, said she could speak English very well, and reported that she didn’t take drugs.
One postcard she sent from New Zealand to her brother, Junichi Matsuzawa, read: “Thank you so much for your support when I left. It’s much colder here than expected. But it’s such a beautiful place. Everyone here is so kind, I will probably not get killed. I’d better get going now. Please don’t do too much overtime at work, and take good care of yourself”.
Queen Street backpackers
Kayo arrived in Auckland city by bus at around 2:14pm.
Kayo paid for and checked into a single room on the second floor of Queen Street Backpackers (4 Fort Street) for three nights on 11 September. She spoke to staff and set up her room in a neat, orderly fashion. Then she left her room for what was likely the last time.
At the time, there was a travel centre across the road.
She was last photographed on CCTV at 3:32pm walking past the Countrywide building on Queen Street.
The 11 September was a Friday afternoon, and soon people would be on Queen Street making their way home, or having drinks after work.
The fire alarm tester
Dennis Groves was a fire alarm compliance tester, who on 22 September had just finished servicing the system at the Auckland City Library, then went to the Centrecourt building’s utility room where the fire panel was.
He discovered Kayo’s body.
He told Cold Case “the first smell that I was aware of was the smell of ammonia, then it became a real vile smell”. At first he thought Kayo’s naked body was a mannequin. He went down the stairs to Queen Street and used his phone to call the police. He said “I had a darn good look at the body because I thought I might be called as a witness later on”.
The Centrecourt building in Central Auckland at 131 Queen Street is six storeys high. It shares a stairwell with the old BNZ building beside it.
From the backpackers, turning right then turning left onto Queen Street off of Fort Street brings you to the Centrecourt building after a two-minute walk.
The primary tenant in the Centrecourt building was KEY Education, an English language school with mainly Asian students, on the second floor. In The Investigator it’s described as a Japanese language school.
The shared stairwell is a confusing maze of stairs and doors. There was access to it from a car park, the Centrecourt food court, QF Tavern – a bar/pub, and presumably each floor in the Centrecourt and BNZ buildings.
The Centrecourt car park was accessible from a roller door entrance around the back of the building, on Mills Lane.
From the car park there are lifts that go up through the building and the stairwell. Down one flight of stairs is the corridor where the utility room is, and there’s another car park one level down. The door on the left of the utility room corridor is the fire exit stairwell for the BNZ building.
From the BNZ stairwell down one floor is an exit to Queen Street. Bryan Bruce points out there is an alarm PIR beside this door, but it’s unclear if it was there in 1998 or at what times it was armed. Down one floor is a door to the BNZ food court. Up one floor is the BNZ car park and then other BNZ tower floors.
The utility room
Kayo hadn’t been reported missing when her body was found. Kayo’s fingerprints were matched to fingerprints on her belongings left in her hostel room. Dental records from Japan and in person family identification were also used.
Kayo’s cause of death remains unknown because of the time that passed between her death and her body being found.
The room Kayo was found in has been described in various ways. An “alarm room”, probably because there was writing on the door that the “fire alarm panel” was in the room. It’s probably also accurately described as a “small utility room” (Cold Case), or a stairwell cupboard. It may have been a room that firefighters would need to access if they were called to the building.
The room could be opened easily using a screwdriver, and that’s how Dennis gained access, as the building manager was difficult to find and keys were not given out readily. The door to the room was designated a smoke control door, and had an auto-closer on it. When Bryan Bruce was filming his documentary nine years later there was no way to hold the door open without using another item.
The room was dark and the light switch was in an unusual location.
Bryan Bruce notes that the room was chosen by the murderer over potentially more discreet methods of hiding Kayo’s body, for example using a vehicle parked in the attached car park to transport the body to another location. He uses this to support his theory that the person did not have access to a vehicle. It’s possible that they did have access to a vehicle, but saw moving the body as a risk, either because they might have been seen in the car park, pulled over with the body in their vehicle, or left forensic evidence behind in their vehicle. They chose not to move the body even though it’s likely they returned to the room to clean up (building access records were missing for two periods of time, and some of Kayo’s belongings were disposed of days later).
There were probably rubbish bins in the building that they also chose not to use, a roof area, or even moving Kayo’s body from the building in a suitcase or other container. Kayo only weighed 50kg or 110 pounds.
Theory: building access
The original investigation appears to have focused on who had access to the buildings connected to the stairwell, and checking their alibis. This numbered in the hundreds of people who worked across the two buildings. As well as controlled access, including from the building car park, which was controlled by DKS (Data Key System) key access, the stairwell was accessible to the public via the Centrecourt food court/foodhall, and the QF Tavern – a bar/pub on the street.
“Centrecourt tenants reported that people often accessed the stairwell without a swipe card. Toilets and public areas were messy after the weekends, and the bar downstairs had a fire exit into the stairwell where patrons went to smoke. Police want to hear from anyone who was in the Centrecourt building over the time Kayo went missing and noticed anything unusual.” (Cold Case)
One part of the investigation that was not mentioned in the Cold Case documentary was the missing building access records.
Some of the doors to the Centrecourt and BNZ buildings were controlled by DKS and Cardax access control systems. Access control records for each system are stored in two separate physical locations across both buildings. Records for certain times on the weekend that Kayo was murdered are missing. One of the computers is hidden away in another utility cupboard in the Centrecourt building. The other Cardax system’s computer is in the BNZ Tower Management office. The Cardax system prints paper records that were also missing. The Investigator implies the dates that records are missing are Friday 11 September 1998 and Monday 14 September 1998.
Police revealed on August 2018’s episode of Cold Case that using Y-STR DNA testing they had found male DNA under Kayo’s fingernails. Police would be able to compare it to a DNA sample taken from a male suspect.
People of interest
Fire alarm tester
Dennis, the fire alarm tester was initially a person of interest, but was ruled out by Police. His movements as part of his job were electronically monitored.
Language school associate
One person of interest was associated with the Centrecourt language school. The timings of their alibi didn’t check out, but the Police later concluded that this was due to an honest mistake.
British serial killer
Around 2000 it was reported that Alan Michael Grimson, who in 2001 was convicted of killing two young men in England, was based at the Devonport Naval Base fire school in Auckland, New Zealand as a trainer at the time of Kayo’s murder.
Graham Osborne, manager of the fire alarm maintenance company responsible for the Centrecourt building, Wormald, said he had met Grimson a few times at the fire school, but that there was no reason for Grimson to have known about the Centrecourt building.
Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Baker observed that Grimson appeared to have targeted young men. Police suspect that Grimson trawled nightclubs for victims, and that there are more, unknown victims who may have been murdered on December 12 of various years.
Ukrainian backpacker resident
Another person of interest was a Ukrainian man who was a long-term resident at the Queen Street Backpackers. He was described as eccentric, paranoid, and with a mental health history.
He matched a description that a witness gave that they saw an older chap with a dishevelled look walking with an Asian female. The witness thought the Asian female could have been Kayo. This man left the country on the day Kayo’s body was found. He dealt in second-hand jewellery, and had pawned jewellery in Australia that matched the description of Kayo’s missing jewellery. Police say they tracked down the jewellery that he pawned and conclusively eliminated it as being Kayo’s jewellery.
Two years later he was found by French police squatting in an airport and triggered an INTERPOL alert. He was extradited back to NZ and an officer spent two days interviewing him. The officer explains why the man was ruled out: “my gut instinct is that it wasn’t him… a guy with a clear mental health history… was he the kind of person who would have been able to approach Kayo, strike up a conversation and entice her into the stairwell?”
Around 2018 another district advised Auckland Police of a potential person of interest. The district is not necessarily in New Zealand. Police say that he “looks really good” as a suspect. Bank records show that this person used their EFTPOS or ATM card at the Queen Street’s BNZ building ATM on the same afternoon that Kayo arrived. From the emphasis placed on it in the Cold Case documentary, it’s likely this person’s previous offending has involved spiking the drinks of their victims.
Clothing and belongings
Security camera footage shows that Kayo was wearing black bootleg pants, a black jacket, black shoes, and a backpack. Her clothing as well as her jewellery (small silver crescent-shaped earrings and a small delicate gold band ring with a single pink stone) has not been found.
Five days after Kayo went missing, which would have been around Wednesday 16 September 1998, some of Kayo’s possessions (including her day bag, passport, and insurance papers) were found in a public rubbish bin on the corner of Albert Street and Swanson Street by a rubbish collector. The bins in the central city are emptied two to three times a day.
In the Cold Case documentary the series of events were described as: the rubbish collector emptied the contents of the rubbish bin into a truck, property spilled out including Kayo’s purse and passport, the collector took the passport back to the office where it sat before reports of Kayo’s homicide hit the media. An office administrator contacted Police after media reported an unidentified body being found.
In Bryan Bruce’s documentary, The Investigator, the rubbish collector was described as finding Kayo’s passport and insurance-type papers, and taking them home, then Police were contacted after media reported an unidentified body was found.
No additional fingerprints were found on the passport.
As a result of this information, the Police spent approximately two weeks sifting through the rubbish at Greenmount Landfill, East Tamaki.
Theory: drink spiking
The primary theory Police seem to be pursuing now is that Kayo’s drink was spiked.
In the Police’s opinion though, she wasn’t a drinker of alcoholic drinks. Her friend Naomi said “she could only drink a small amount, she couldn’t even finish a bottle of beer. It’s hard to imagine she’d be willing to drink unless someone forced her.” However, in Bryan Bruce’s documentary the following conversation occurred with Kayo’s friends:
“Voiceover: Did Kayo always stick to the rules? Did she take drugs for example? No, say her friends. But she did like to have a drink. Friend: [Describing a photograph] We are sharing a liquor. And only a few glasses makes her drunken. And Kayo was so attractive cute lady so she was quite popular among men. And she can speak to everybody because her English capability is quite good. And in addition to it she was a good dancer.”
Taking into account both statements, a sound conclusion to draw would probably be that Kayo would have been unlikely to visit a bar, like the one attached to the Centrecourt building, unless she was with someone else.
Kayo had just arrived off a midday flight – it’s possible she went to the Centrecourt food court for a late lunch. The building was advertised as having a ‘international foodhall’ and an observation deck. It’s less likely, but still possible that her drink or food was spiked there.
At some point Kayo ends up in the Centrecourt stairwell, probably sometime that evening. People would be less likely to be leaving work via the stairwell after 5:30pm or 6:00pm. But later into the night the stairwell turned into the place for patrons from QF Tavern to smoke.
The suspect has been described as:
having the confidence to go back to the scene,
being confident or comfortable enough to approach a tourist, possibly someone around Kayo’s age, someone she was comfortable enough to stay with for one or two hours, and someone who looked trustworthy (on the other hand, drink spiking may mean this isn’t as important),
forensically aware – there were no fingerprints on the belongings found in the rubbish bin, and apart from under Kayo’s fingernails, no DNA was found,
someone who has probably been involved in an act like this before,
being premeditated, and
having a sexual connotation behind their offending.
Can you help?
People, including tourists visiting Auckland, who were 20 in 1998 and might have been visiting the QF Tavern or otherwise been on Queen Street on or around 11 September 1998 would be around 40-years-old now.
Kayo’s murder is one of 65 cold case murders in New Zealand and was revisited by the documentary series Cold Case. Police would like to hear from anyone with information on 0800 COLD CASE (0800 2653 2273). You can also call the Auckland Police on +64 9 302 6400 from overseas, visit their website, or visit the Cold Case Facebook page.
The New Zealand Law Society has had a bad run lately. They claimed they were surprised that sexual harassment at scale was occurring in law firms and was underreported to them; they were unable to say what the public needs to hear – that the ‘Russell McVeagh lawyers’ are under investigation; and their National Standards Committee decided to expend time and resources investigating a family violence lawyer’s legitimate criticism of a judge.
Adding to that list, four months ago the Law Society obtained a “super-injunction”, a special type of gag order, against me. On Thursday that order was modified by the High Court, which means I can disclose its existence for the first time.
Injunctions and super-injunctions
An injunction is a court order. Usually they prohibit someone from doing something, like disclosing information. A super-injunction is an injunction about the injunction. In other words, a court order prohibiting disclosing that an injunction or the related court proceedings even exist. They’re rare. In the United Kingdom, the Guardian is aware of and able to report on only 40 cases. And they’re rarer here, in humble, less litigious Aotearoa New Zealand.
Super-injunctions challenge the principle of open justice; that cases should be determined in open, not secret courts, to prevent overreach of judicial power. Super-injunctions are uncommon, they are onerous, and they are costly to apply for and to defend against. The group of people who a respondent can safely discuss a super-injunction with is tiny: their lawyer.
Super-injunctions have been the subject of considerable controversy in the UK. Lord Neuberger’s committee published a 112 page report in 2011 that was highly critical of super and other similar injunctions. The most controversial super-injunctions usually involve a powerful person or organisation trying to suppress unfavourable but true information.
The Law Society’s super-injunction
The super-injunction was served on me on 5 April 2018, but had been granted several days earlier by Justice Churchman at the Wellington High Court, without notice and under urgency.
The injunction prohibited the publication or disclosure of information accidentally emailed to me by NZLS on 21 March. The contents of that email is still subject to suppression, except for the fact that it “attached a complaint made to the plaintiff [NZLS] by a legal practitioner about his own conduct; and such conduct was alleged to amount to sexual harassment or bullying”.
The super part of the injunction was that the fact that the High Court proceedings, New Zealand Law Society v Taylor, even existed could not be published, and that the Court file could not be searched. One effect of this has been that for several weeks NZLS has been able to avoid public scrutiny of their mistake of emailing confidential information to the wrong person.
The court was persuaded by the lukewarm argument that I have “a blog (in addition to being active on other social media such as Twitter)”, and because I had not replied to emails, a text message, and voicemail from the Law Society (I was seeking legal advice). In fact, the night before the injunction was granted I sent an email to NZLS’ barrister and a senior staff member. The injunction was stated to be interim, but the case had no next appearance timetabled, so it was effectively permanent.
The Law Society is a surprising applicant for a super-injunction. Not a celebrity trying to cover up an affair or someone trying to neutralise a blackmail attempt, they are the regulatory body responsible for policing the conduct of New Zealand lawyers. The Law Society submits on legislation before Select Committees calling out overreach. They even have their own Rule Of Law Committee. And ironically, during the time the super-injunction was in force, in response to criticism of their Committee’s investigation of Catriona MacLennan, they publicly denied that they suppress free speech. But they, via a partner at top-tier law firm Meredith Connell, applied for a super-injunction. Their application was urgent without notice to any other party. That means I had no knowledge that the proceedings had been commenced against me, and no one provided the judge with arguments against the super-injunction being granted before the decision was made.
NZLS continued to escalate court proceedings while I was corresponding with their lawyers, filing a statement of claim in the proceedings in response to me declining an invitation to meet with the Law Society’s president. They did this even though I had told them I had no intention of publishing the information; had deleted the information; and had been extremely careful not to disclose identifying details, even to my own lawyers. By the time we settled proceedings they had involved a barrister, a partner, a solicitor, a Queen’s Counsel, and a junior barrister.
In contrast to not being prepared to pay the lawyers who volunteer on their “workplace culture” group, the NZLS has spent several thousand dollars on this case, including reimbursing my legal costs as part of our settlement.
Lawyers subject to sexual misconduct are afraid of speaking out, fearing their careers, more likely to leave a firm than be the “squeaky wheel”. Perhaps Human Resources find out about an “incident”, but they’re conflicted as their staff are employed by the partnership of which the harasser is commonly a member of. The wider partnership might find out too, but they’re conflicted as well if their business partner is the person at the centre of serious allegations, more content to accept assurances that “it won’t happen again”. Rarely, it seems, is that the case.
If a complaint makes it to the Law Society, although many lawyers seem intent on ignoring their compulsory reporting obligations under their rules, that is secret too. There is no visibility that complaints are even being made or investigated. There is no default opportunity for other victims to become aware of a complaint or investigation and indicate that a practitioner is a serial abuser. The Law Society appears to be fine with this secrecy, confident that it was Parliament’s intention. They don’t think anything substantive needs to change.
Even for a complaint that ends up being upheld, the only time proceedings are public by default is if the matter is so serious that it is referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal by a Standards Committee. If a Standards Committee finds unsatisfactory conduct they can order the publication of the practitioner’s name, but this is after the interests of wide group of people are considered, and publication is signed off by the NZLS board. The interests considered include those of: the complainant; clients of the practitioner; relatives of the practitioner; partners, employees and associates of the practitioner; and the practitioner.
By 30 June all lawyers in New Zealand intending to continue practising law needed to have renewed their practising certificate. It’s an annual task, and probably one most lawyers do on autopilot, declaring they are of good enough character to remain a lawyer.
Several lawyers who are facing credible allegations of sexual harassment still retain their practising certificates.
Will anything change in the legal profession? Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants, but at the moment it seems the Law Society is content with sexual misconduct reported to them staying behind closed doors.
This post refers to sexual harassment and bullying. Need help? In New Zealand, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354, Youthline on 0800 37 66 33 or find out about other crisis services here. Rape Prevention Education has a list of sexual assault support centers on their website. The Human Rights Commission provides confidential advice and support, and you can complain about sexual harassment to them.
Similar events that occurred at Russell McVeagh have also occurred at other New Zealand law firms without attracting media attention, and there are several recommendations in the Russell McVeagh report and aspects of the Law Society’s complaint processes that could be improved.
Other New Zealand law firms
The series of alleged events disclosed in the Russell McVeagh report are similar to those that have occurred in multiple law firms around New Zealand.
A senior lawyer, often a partner, sexually harasses a junior employee. Often the sexual harassment happens outside of the office, but in a work-related context at a bar, hotel, or staff member’s home. It’s unlikely sexual harassment is the only problematic conduct occurring at the firm, or that this is the first incident of sexual harassment the senior lawyer has been involved in.
At this stage, often prompt and effective action could be taken by the law firm to resolve the issue to the junior employee’s satisfaction, however it rarely occurs. Although the firm often has human resources staff, they are not equipped to deal with complaints of sexual harassment.
After some time, the offending lawyer, who is often respected in the profession, is quietly exited from the firm, often retaining their practising certificate and going on to practise as a barrister sole. A formal investigation is rarely conducted by the firm. In any case the firm is unlikely to have the resources, and it’s unlikely to be appropriate, for the firm to conduct the investigation itself. If a public statement is made by the firm it doesn’t mention that the lawyer exited “under a cloud”.
By this time the junior employee has often resigned from the firm. If they have taken action under employment law and signed a settlement agreement they are often bound by a confidentiality clause.
Dame Margaret Bazley’s report is overall quite good, but the recommendations fall short in at least two areas.
There is no recommendation regarding each member of the partnership’s ethical and legal obligation to report suspected misconduct to the Law Society. Even if the lawyer allegations have been made against leaves the firm, if a complaint or disclosure to the Law Society is not made there is no barrier to the lawyer obtaining another legal job without having to address their conduct.
It’s time for an independent review of the Law Society to address issues with the complaints process, for example:
The Law Society doesn’t accept complaints about conduct without the complainant knowing the names of the practitioner allegations have been made against, even if the allegations themselves are public. Even though the complaint regulations state that the Law Society should provide reasonable assistance, the Law Society’s position is that this does not extend to a preliminary investigation to request information, for example the lawyer’s name, from the law firm involved.
Complaints, when they are made, are shrouded by intense secrecy. Other potential complainants have no indication that a person’s conduct is being investigated, even though being part of a group of complainants may make them more comfortable to come forward. The Russell McVeagh report highlighted this when the group of summer clerks “told each other about their experiences with the same partner” and felt comfortable making a disclosure as a group.
The Law Society has a conflict of interest in deciding whether to publish details about upheld complaints.
The Earthquake Commission is using contracts containing broad confidentiality clauses in an attempt to avoid future legal proceedings, complaints, and critical public comment from disgruntled homeowners, a document publicly available on the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand’s EQC Mediation Service website shows.
The pro forma agreement is used when disputes heard by the EQC Mediation Service are settled, however similar clauses are included in settlement agreements presented for claimants to sign when they are not represented by a lawyer and have not elected to mediate their dispute.
The clauses include an agreement that the claimant will not “commence any proceedings in New Zealand or elsewhere which in any way arise out of or relate to the Dispute, against EQC or any of its related persons, servants, employees or agents or against any other person”.
Claimants agree to “not make any complaint in relation to the Dispute to any professional, governmental or other body about the conduct of EQC or any of its related persons, servants, employees or agents or against any other person and to withdraw any complaint already made”.
An additional clause prohibits claimants from making “any public comment critical of EQC or any of its related persons, servants, employees or agents or against any other person in respect of any matters which in any way arise out of or relate to the Dispute”. This clause would prevent disgruntled homeowners from talking about their experiences on TV, at a public meeting, or on Facebook.
“No further proceedings” clauses may be appropriate when parties have received legal advice, but clauses relating to complaints and public comment seem like bullying behaviour from a government agency trying to hide their mistakes.
This post refers to sexual harassment and bullying. Need help? In New Zealand, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354, Youthline on 0800 37 66 33 or find out about other crisis services here. Rape Prevention Education has a list of sexual assault support centers on their website. The Human Rights Commission provides confidential advice and support, and you can complain about sexual harassment to them.
It’s possible the last time the legal profession was under an intense spotlight was in the 1990s due to a string of fraud cases. The most memorable involved two partners of law firm Renshaw Edwards who were both, separately and unknown to each other, stealing money from the firm’s clients. The New Zealand Law Society had a fund to reimburse theft by lawyers but not on that scale. So the Law Society intervened and raised a levy from around 2,800 principals of law firms, mainly law firm partners, of $10,000 each. This contribution reflected and reminded senior lawyers of their obligation to conduct themselves with integrity, ensure their colleagues act with integrity, and to self-regulate. Recent stories of sexual misconduct at law firms gives the impression that those lessons, and integrity in general, have been left at the law firm door.
The lessons that need to be relearned now are similar, although obviously the impact on the people involved is wildly different between fraud and sexual misconduct. Graeme Hunt, in a book about fraud in New Zealand wrote that at first there was a lack of understanding about fraud, difficulty of obtaining sufficient evidence to lead to a conviction, and that “many companies were unwilling to do more than sack offending employees”. Hunt “argued that ‘sheltered’ professions (medicine and law in particular) are less likely to identify wrongdoing among their members than those professions that have to compete fiercely in the marketplace.” NBR’s Jock Anderson similarly identified the lack of fraud prosecutions before the 1970s as due to the “closed nature of the legal profession rather than the [good] behaviour of practitioners” saying matters “were kept in-house and charges were very rarely put”. But if the lessons are the same, there’s hope. Anderson says things “changed in the 1970s. It was a more open period for investigative journalism and for people to challenge authority”.
The Law Society and sexual misconduct
The reports by Newsroom of incidents at Russell McVeagh weren’t the first time sexual harassment in law firms had been recently brought to the Law Society’s attention. In November 2017 a lawyer wrote an anonymous article for LawTalk, the New Zealand Law Society’s magazine, describing two incidents of sexual harassment she experienced as a young lawyer. The Law Society responded with a statement titled “Law Society targets sexual harassment in the workplace” but it was empty of any concrete actions being taken to target sexual harassment, and ended stating “as a profession we must also look at ourselves and agree that any harassment in our workplaces is absolutely unacceptable”.
The latest issue of LawTalk contained a number of articles about sexual harassment in the legal profession. Tim Jones, Auckland Vice-President of the New Zealand Law Society, wrote in the issue’s ‘from the Law Society’ editorial that the “Society receives very few complaints of harassment in the workplace”. Notably missing from the list of conduct the New Zealand Lawyers & Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has typically found to be misconduct is “discrimination, sexual harassment and assault”.
The issue of LawTalk also notably publicly names John Revans Eichelbaum for “failing to treat another lawyer [opposing counsel] with courtesy and respect” by, among other things, asking her to bend over. Former lawyer Olivia Wensley told the NZ Herald that she has knowledge of the complaint and the report published by the Law Society had been “sanitised”.
Sexual misconduct in law firms
Recent media and online reports have confirmed that serious sexual harassment (including harassment involving physical contact), bullying of employees and colleagues, and alcohol abuse is occurring in law firms across the country and remains underreported. This should be the subject of deep reflection and action by all law firms.
In many cases the law firm partners became aware of the conduct, but failed to protect their employees. There’s a hesitation to report misconduct of fellow business partners to the Law Society, in spite of their legal and ethical obligations as lawyers to do so. When faced with the prospect of protecting a partner who might be earning the firm $1 million of fees annually and protecting a solicitor who might be earning the firm $200,000 of fees annually the partner is often shielded from meaningful consequences for their actions. Sometimes human resources staff are aware of the conduct, but they are conflicted working for the partnership and managing a partner’s misconduct. Often there is a severe gender imbalance in these partnerships.
There is sometimes crossover between law firms this type of conduct occurs in and firms nominated for “Employer of Choice” awards, which raises the question of what policies and procedures should be in place and what culture should exist for a law firm to be nominated as a “good employer”.
Partners that eventually leave firms because of this sort of conduct often go on to work at other firms, perhaps due to inadequate reference information being sought or provided, or as independent barristers in New Zealand.
What’s the price of silence?
Complainants who leave the firm and pursue a claim under employment or human rights law often have their claims settled, with settlement amounts ranging from $25,000 to $100,000, including costs. Those agreements are generally subject to strict confidentiality clauses that largely protect the law firm and person or people accused of sexual misconduct, even explicitly prohibiting contact with the media and including prewritten media statements to give if the former employee is approached for comment.
The Law Society’s (lack of) response
Last Wednesday I emailed the Law Society several written questions about their approach to sexual and other harassment. They have not responded to those questions, although they had previously instructed a lawyer to send me a warning letter.
Those questions, in an edited form, are listed below.
Questions for the Law Society
Law Society training on sexual misconduct and bullying
1. Have the staff/tribunal/committee members involved in considering sexual misconduct complaints received any special training? If not, why not?
2. Does the Law Society collect statistics on sexual misconduct and workplace bullying complaints? If not, why not?
3. Does the Law Society survey the profession on sexual misconduct and workplace bullying? If not, why not? [The Law Society wrote in their latest issue of LawTalk that they are preparing a national survey on the workplace culture of the New Zealand legal profession. Will that survey be statistically robust?]
Help for practitioners
4. Does the Law Society assist practitioners to access professional mental health support and advice in relation to their wellbeing, alcohol use, inappropriate behaviours (for example sexual harassment and bullying), and when they are facing serious Law Society complaints? If not, why not?
5. What support does the Law Society provide to law firm employees, especially junior practitioners, who are being bullied including being turned down for promotion because they challenge an unsafe working environment?
6. Is conduct that could be considered as criminal conduct referred to the Police for investigation when it comes to the Law Society’s attention? If not, why not?
7. If a practitioner has employees and is accused of serious sexual misconduct or bullying, does the Law Society consider suspending that practitioner pending the completion of their investigation?
8. How often does the Law Society use supervision and law firm management professional development to address misconduct like this?
9. What is the Law Society doing to stop predatory behaviours (often from partners or senior employees) at the source, for example compulsory programmes on appropriate relationships and conduct, rather than placing the onus on employees to report or otherwise manage other people’s misconduct?
9. Are other employees involved in conduct complained about offered appropriate support (for example access to Employee Assistance Programme-type support and independent legal advice, and are they given the opportunity to engage in the Law Society complaints process? If not, why not?
10. Does the Law Society look at the whole firm when addressing complaints, including whether human resources staff and partners have appropriate training and direction, especially to deal with the misconduct of a partner?
11. Will the Law Society, of its own motion, pursue practitioners, including partners, who know of but fail to report matters constituting misconduct to the Law Society?
Career and family
12. What is the Law Society doing to support lawyers wanting to have a career and raise children?
Confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements
13. Does the Law Society support the inclusion of confidentiality clauses for the benefit of the law firm into law firm employees’ settlement agreements when the settlement relates to sexual harassment and/or assault by practitioners?
14. Are the use of these clauses for the benefit of the law firm appropriate conduct from the partnership, especially when a practitioner is the perpetrator?
15. What does the Law Society do to prevent similar conduct from recurring when addressing consequences for practitioners, for example publication of names or completion of sexual misconduct programmes?
Thank you for the opportunity to submit on this Bill.
I agree that this Bill is a good first step, however it does not go far enough and should be amended to ban all forms of child marriage and civil unions. The legal minimum age of marriage and civil union should be 18 with no exceptions. This includes no exceptions due to judicial or parental consent.
I study a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Laws.
As a young person, I think it is important that the voice of youth is taken into account during the Select Committee process at all times, but especially when issues relating to young people are being debated and discussed.
We set legal ages for many activities. When someone is 16 they can’t vote, they can’t get their full driver licence, they can’t buy alcohol or cigarettes, they can’t apply for a credit card, they can’t buy Instant Kiwi scratchies, and they can’t gamble in a casino. We set these limits because we are conscious of the development stages of children.
New Zealand has agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals. To achieve target 5.3 this Bill must be amended to ban all marriage for children under 18, with no exceptions.
The Sustainable Development Goals are the successor of the Millennium Development Goals and are intended to determine national and international development priorities up to 2030. There are 17 goals and 169 targets and one of them relates to child marriage.
All United Nations member states pledged their support toward achieving target 5.3, which is to end child marriage. Ending child marriage will contribute to achieving eight of the Sustainable Development Goals.
To be clear: New Zealand will not end child marriage by 2030 unless the practice is completely prohibited – this means there can be no loopholes such as obtaining judicial approval.
This Bill is the perfect opportunity to implement target 5.3 through an amendment that will prohibit child marriage entirely.
The Rights of the Child
The Committee for the Convention on the Rights of the Child recommends that the minimum age of marriage be 18 years.
Child marriage affects the rights of children, especially girls’ right to health, education, equality, and the right to live free from violence and exploitation.
Child marriage increases health risks.
For girls it encourages the start of sexual activity when they are still developing and when they might not know as much about their rights and sexual and reproductive health. Girls in a child marriage are forced to negotiate safe, consensual sex with usually much older husbands.
They are under social pressure to prove their fertility and so are more likely to experience early, unplanned and frequent pregnancies with an increased risk of pregnancy-related issues.
Girls married before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence than unmarried peers and to report that their first sexual experience was forced. Child brides more likely to believe that a man is sometimes justified in beating his wife compared to women who marry later.
A rubber-stamping process
My preference is for this Bill to be strengthened so that no marriages of children under 18 occur.
However, if the judicial consent avenue is taken the process needs to be strengthened.
From watching the speeches at the first reading of this Bill, it seems clear that the intention of the Bill is to reduce the number of these marriages, however the Bill provides no criteria for Family Court judges considering an application from a 16-17-year-old to take into account.
The Bill does not empower judges to seek funded expert reports, such as psychologist or cultural reports, or to order funded counselling. A lawyer for child should be appointed and reports such as cultural, medical, psychiatric, and psychological reports should be able to be requested by a Family Court judge. Family Court Act 1980 section 16D would need to be amended too.
There is no need for the Bill to include provisions around public/media presence and other matters that are covered by other Family Court legislation. Sufficient controls on the media and public are contained in the Family Court Act – a person under the age of 18 or a vulnerable person cannot be identified in a report and the public are not able to attend hearings without consent of the Family Court judge.
The Committee should consider amending Family Court Act 1980 section 12A rather than including an evidence subsection in the Marriage Act.
This Bill should be compared to the law in Australia. If the judicial approval approach is taken the legislation should be reworked to be much more similar to sections 11 to 21 Marriage Act 1961 (Australia). For example: that authorisation should only be granted in exceptional circumstances, parental authorisation should be required as well, expiry of consent etc. The Australian law makes it clear that the intention is to reduce child marriages: “the circumstances of the case [shall be] so exceptional and unusual as to justify the making of the order”. However, please note that even this does not meet the Sustainable Development Goal requirements.
child marriages should be voidable by either party with applications being able to be made within two years from the date the person reaches the age of majority (with considerations made regarding immigration status, division of property, and care of children);
in relation to penalties; and
child marriages taken place to date should be analysed.