Bank and KiwiSaver providers’ lockdown document positions

Pile of mail waiting to be sorted

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.

ANZ

ANZ’s final guidance for solicitors document can be found here: ANZ – We’re here to help – managing ANZ lending and security transactions during Covid-19 Alert Level 3 (pdf) (updated email on 30 April 2020).

The Co-operative Bank

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

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:

  1. on the LINZ website; and
  2. 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

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

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

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

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).

ANZ KiwiSaver

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).

See also the guidance on their website (email on 23 April 2020).

Aon

Aon will accept statutory declarations completed remotely via video conference in line with the NZLS guidelines (email on 15 April 2020).

ASB KiwiSaver

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 KiwiSaver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 KiwiSaver

Westpac will accept complete documentation via email. Solicitors should scan and email documents to btunit[email protected] (email on 14 April 2020).

Photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon

Lockdown survival tips for New Zealand lawyers

Survival tips for New Zealand lawyers working through the COVID-19 lockdown

Fence in a field by Omar Lopez - omarlopez1
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

This post is not legal advice, but a collection of points that lawyers may find useful to consider while working during the COVID-19 lockdown. If you require legal advice you should instruct a lawyer.

Other posts in this series:

Witnessing affidavits/declarations remotely

  • On 16 April 2020 the Epidemic Preparedness (Oaths and Declarations Act 1957) Immediate Modification Order 2020 came into force which modifies the Oaths and Declarations Act. This came into force after the NZ Law Society opinion mentioned below was written.
  • 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?

Signing documents electronically

Wills/Enduring Powers of Attorney

See also information from the Property Law Section from 16 April 2020 with guidance on drafting wills and enduring powers of attorney during the lockdown and executing them via AVL (pdf) however note this was drafted prior to the Wills Act immediate modification order which includes a modified attestation section.

  • [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.

Family law

Resources for children/parents

Links collated by the Family Law Section (pdf):

Shared care

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.”

Care and Protection

See Oranga Tamariki’s internal guidance on Family Group Conferences (PDF) and access (PDF).

Conveyancing

Deferring settlement

See the Property Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa‘s suggested wording to defer settlement:

“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.”

But consider:

  • 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.

Accessing Landonline

  • 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?

Authority & Instruction forms (A&Is)

KiwiSaver

If your clients’ are relying on KiwiSaver funds for a future settlement, are their funds at risk from market fluctuation, or are they in a cash fund?

Courts

Priority proceedings

  • See the list on the Ministry of Justice website.
  • 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’.

Filing documents electronically

Service

  • 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?
    • See the Principal Family Court Judge Jackie Moran’s Guidelines for Family Law Practitioners during period of epidemic notice (pdf)
      • 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

From the Principal Family Court Judge Jackie Moran, reported in Family Law Section Bulletin 420 – 25 March 2020 (pdf):

“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.

See the protocols on the Courts of New Zealand website.

Criminal

Emailing documents to prisons

See this letter from the CEO of Department of Corrections (pdf) regarding emailing documents for prison staff to print.

List of prison email addresses (pdf) last updated 8 April 2020.

  • Consider a cover letter and/or stamp over the documents regarding legal privilege.

Note that family and friends can also email prisoners, see here, however prisoners cannot reply by email. Prisoners will be given a $5 phone card every week until visits recommence, see here.

Contacting clients in prison

See the information from the Department of Corrections to request phone or AVL meetings with clients (PDF, from around 15 April 2020) and the update from 20 April 2020 (PDF).

Bail

See the 7 April 2020 letter from Crown Law to Crown solicitors and public prosecutors (pdf); the 15 April 2020 letter from Crown Law for distribution to lawyers (pdf); and the 15 April 2020 letter from Crown Law to Crown solicitors and public prosecutors (pdf) regarding the approach to bail.

See the 16 April 2020 letter from barrister Douglas A. Ewen in reply (pdf).

Legal aid

  • Application forms do not need to be signed, see update here (emailed out on 25 March 2020 and updated online 7 April 2020).

Family Legal Advice Service (FLAS)

  • Family Legal Advice Service (FLAS) funding forms do not need to be signed by the client, see update here (9 April 2020).

Leases

Health Act orders

Other resources

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.

Zoom Video Conferencing Guide For Lawyers

Zoom on an iPhone and Coronavirus news on a Macbook by Allie Smith creativegangsters

New Zealand is in lockdown, and everyone, including lawyers, are trying new ways of working. For most of us this involves Zoom. Here’s what to consider when Zoom as a lawyer.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, but I use Zoom and other software mentioned regularly and would recommend them regardless.

Other posts in this series:

In this post:

Sign up for Zoom

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.

Zoom profile screen with the change link selected.

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:

Zoom screenshot of profile page with show beside Host Key highlighted.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings page, audio type with telephone and computer audio selected.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings page - personal meeting ID

7. Settings -> Meeting -> Password settings

Keep these settings enabled. Depending on your account they may be locked on. They mitigate an issue that has been recently been in the news about people crashing Zoom calls by guessing or otherwise acquiring meeting IDs.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings page - password settings.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - mute participants upon entry.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - require encryption for 3rd party endpoints.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Chat.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Private chat.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Play sound when participants join or leave

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Allow host to put attendee on hold.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Screen sharing.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Annotation and Whiteboard.

17. Settings -> Meeting -> Remote control

Useful to leave enabled so that you can also use Zoom screen sharing as a tech support tool.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Remote control.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Nonverbal feedback.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Breakout room.

20. Settings -> Meeting -> Identify guest participants

Enable this so that team members who are logged into a Zoom account connected to yours are identifiable in the meeting participants list.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Identify guest participants in the meeting/webinar.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Use HTML format email for Outlook plugin.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Waiting room.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Show a 'Join from your browser' link

24. Settings -> Meeting -> Blur snapshot

Enable this so sensitive information isn’t inadvertently screen shared from an iPhone.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting settings - Blur snapshot on iOS task switcher

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.”

Screenshot of Zoom recording settings - Local recording

26. Settings -> Recording -> Automatic recording

Leave this off.

Screenshot of Zoom recording settings - Automatic recording.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom recording settings - Recording disclaimer.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom recording settings - Multiple audio notifications of recorded meeting

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.

Screenshot of Zoom telephony settings - Mask phone number in the participant list.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom telephony settings - Global Dial-in Countries/Regions.
Screenshot ©2019 Zoom Video Communications, Inc.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom telephony settings - Global Dial-in Countries/Regions.
Screenshot ©2019 Zoom Video Communications, Inc.

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.

Screenshot of Zoom schedule a 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.
Screenshot of Zoom schedule a meeting.

Other settings:

  • 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

Screenshot of Zoom manage meeting - Calendar sharing buttons

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).

Screenshot of Zoom manage meeting - Copy the invitation link
Screenshot of Zoom manage meeting - Copy Meeting Invitation button

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.

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting - Join audio dialog.

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.

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting.

The key buttons are:

  • Unmute/mute
    • 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.
  • Manage Participants/Participants
  • 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.

Participants window

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’.

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting - Participants window - Participant options

There are other options to manage the meeting available by clicking the ‘More’ button at the bottom of the Participants window:

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting - Participants window - More options

Note that the Participants window is also where one of the ‘Raise/Lower Hand’ buttons (and ‘Claim Host’ button) is for non-hosts:

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting - Participants window - Raise hand button

Chat

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:

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting - Chat window - Chat options.

Zoom tips

  • 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.
  • Consider lighting.
  • 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

Webinars

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.

Help Center

You can search the Zoom Help Center for answers to your questions.

One minute videos

Zoom has a number of one minute training videos which you or your participants may find useful.

Best practice guides

See the best practice guides linked to at the bottom of this page.

Header photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Remote Working Resources For NZ Lawyers and Small Businesses

Laptop, glasses, book, and pen.
Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

New Zealand is currently in a four-week+ lockdown due to COVID-19 with the majority of the country’s workers working remotely.

Here are some resources and tools lawyers and small businesses might find useful after being pushed into working remotely.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, but these are tools I would recommend anyway.

If you’re an employee you should check with your IT policy/manager before using new tools for work.

Other posts in this series:

Video conferencing

Zoom

Zoom logo

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.

Website: https://zoom.us/pricing

Price: One-on-one meetings of unlimited length are free. You’ll need a paid account for group meetings longer than 40 minutes at USD $14.99/month (or USD$149.90/year).

Editing PDFs/electronic signing documents/requesting signatures

Choose electronic signing services carefully regarding the intended use of the document. See the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017. Some documents won’t be able to be signed electronically.

Nitro

Nitro logo

What: “Do more with PDFs

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.

Website: https://www.gonitro.com/

Price: 14 day free trial then USD$159/person. Send unlimited signing requests.

Secured Signing

Secured Signing logo

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.

Website: https://securedsigning.com

Price: 3 documents/month are free, then NZD $9.95 + GST month for 10 documents.

ADLS WebForms (based on Secured Signing)

ADLS WebForms logo

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.

Website: https://webforms.adls.org.nz/

Price: NZD $3+/document (pdf)

HelloSign

HelloSign logo

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.

Website: https://www.hellosign.com/features

Price: 30 day free trial then USD$15/month (or USD$156/year)

Scanning documents without a scanner

Microsoft Office Lens

Microsoft Office Lens app icon

What: “Office Lens trims, enhances and makes pictures of whiteboards and documents readable. Office Lens can convert images to editable Word and PowerPoint files too.”

Why: Made by Microsoft so you can trust it, you can scan documents without a scanner or ask your clients to use it to return documents to you electronically instead of sending you photos.

Website: iPhone download | Android download (or search the App/Play Store)

Price: Free

Email/storage

G Suite by Google

G Suite logo

What: “Simplify how you work. Use G Suite for business email, video conferencing, cloud storage, and file sharing. Get all the tools your team needs to collaborate and get more done.”

Why: Powered by Google, global and resilient. Email, calendar, and file storage that doesn’t rely on your physical server. Google Hangouts is a Zoom alternative.

Website: https://gsuite.google.com/pricing.html

Price: 14 day free trial then USD$6/person/month (basic) or USD$12/person/month (business). Non-profits can use G Suite for free.

Password management

LastPass

LastPass logo

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.

Website: https://lastpass.com

Price: Personal is free, teams is USD$4/person/month for 5-50 users.

Protect your devices

Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes logo

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.

Website: https://www.malwarebytes.com/pricing/

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’.

Set a passcode, encrypt your devices and all those other things CERT NZ recommends

CERT NZ logo

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.”.

See their information on COVID-19 and working from home quick reference guide (pdf).

Back up your data

Backblaze

Backblaze logo

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.

Website: https://www.backblaze.com/business-backup.html

Price: 15 day free trial then USD$60/computer/year.

Secure communication

Signal

Signal app logo

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).

Website: https://signal.org/ | iPhone download | Android download (or search Signal in the App/Play Store)

Price: Free

Phone plan

2degrees $19 monthly plan

2degrees mobile logo

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.

Website: https://www.2degreesmobile.co.nz/mobile/prepay/

Price: $19/month/phone. If you need more minutes the $40/month plan has unlimited minutes and 4GB carryover data.

Expense tracking

Expensify

Expensify logo

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.

Website: https://expensify.com

Price: Free for 5 “smart scans” a month or a paid plan is NZD$8/person/month after a six week free trial.

Health and safety

ACC Habit at Work

ACC logo

What: “Use this tool to prevent and manage discomfort, pain and injury in the office environment”

Why: Home-based workers are still your workers. With a slightly old-school design this tool from ACC covers how to set up workstations properly and prevent injury.

Website: http://www.habitatwork.co.nz/index.html

Price: Free

Headspace

Headspace logo

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.

Website: https://www.headspace.com/

Price: There is a free version, or Headspace Plus is USD$12.99/month after a one week free trial.

NZLS Legal Community Counselling Service

Vitae logo

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.

Website: https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/practice-resources/practising-well/legal-community-counselling-service

Price: Free (two to three sessions).

Get extra technology

Noel Leeming, JB Hi-Fi, The Warehouse and other retailers can now sell essential items online, like phones, computers, headsets and printers. PB Tech is selling monitors.

Destroy confidential documents

DIY

If you don’t have a shredder, save up documents until you’re back into the office.

If there’s no safe place to store them, and you’re not collecting your mail you could mail them to your PO Box.

Manage your mail

NZ Post business mail redirection

You can’t do it now as PostShops are closed, but if there’s another lockdown, redirect your business mail to where you will be. For personal mail you can set up a redirection online.

Price: $130 for two months (business).

Forward your faxes

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

Man holding phone
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

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.

Updated 19 April 2020: Added Secured Signing.

On Pride and the Silent T in Corporate LGBTQIA+ Initiatives

Bert and Ernie

 

Westpac, BNZ, ANZ, and Vodafone have it wrong with their recent withdrawal of support for the Auckland Pride Parade, but the T is almost always silent in corporate LGBTQIA+ initiatives.

The background of the Pride Parade situation hasn’t been widely reported. The Auckland Pride Board has consultation meetings each year and this year many LGBTQIA+ people shared their personal experiences of Police mistreatment. Their statement says “complaints about Police consistently outnumbered feedback about any other institution or organisation” and “the visibility of the Police uniform, in particular, had made them feel less safe about participating in the Auckland Pride Parade”. This might be surprising for White people who pass as straight, but reality is different for others, especially trans people and people of colour.

So, a compromise was reached. The Pride Board said Police were welcome to march in the Parade, just not in their Police uniforms. In response, Police decided they would not march at all, and a number of companies, including Westpac, BNZ, ANZ, and Vodafone pulled out of Pride in solidarity with the Police.

This has brought a tension that’s existed inside corporate Rainbow groups into the public eye. Most people involved are White and cisgender (the gender they identify with is the same as their birth sex). Most also have class privilege, being employed in white-collar jobs. Sometimes ‘allies’ (non-Rainbow people) are involved in the groups as well. It certainly seems in the cases of at least Westpac and Vodafone that non-Rainbow employees were involved in the decision to pull out of the Pride Parade. But even if they weren’t, the majority of Rainbow employees would have very different experiences with the Police to trans and Rainbow people of colour, whose experiences with Police are largely negative.

Westpac, BNZ, ANZ and Vodafone have all indicated that the Police uniform being present at Pride is more important from an inclusivity perspective than making all members of the Rainbow community feel comfortable at Pride. They’ve got it wrong, and it’s partly because their groups of Rainbow employees, and employees generally are not diverse.

Corporates, even if they’re Rainbow Tick certified, often fall short in relation to the trans community. The lack of lived experiences of trans people in corporate Rainbow groups is evident with how difficult some trans customers find it to change their title, name, or gender. Have a look at your driver licence – it doesn’t list a title, or a gender, and most organisations will let you open an account using it as identification. But trans and other gender diverse people have to jump through hoops to have their title or gender changed, even though they never provided ‘proof’ of their current gender or title when opening their account. For example, they might like their title (e.g. Mr/Ms) on the mail sent to their house or flat to match the gender they present as – but this is sometimes a big ask.

Cisgender people, even if they’re part of the Rainbow community and employees of the organisation would never have experienced this. They’d also never experience a code being placed on their profile without their knowledge ‘outing’ them as trans or gender diverse to all staff so call centre staff don’t lock them out of their accounts for sounding like the “wrong gender”. This is one way to address a poor experience – staff otherwise using how someone sounds on the phone as an indicator that they’re talking to the right person – but the other is simply to train staff not to consider how someone sounds on the phone if they pass all other authentication questions, avoiding storing highly sensitive information about customers. It’s tough to rely on corporate Rainbow groups to make sure companies get things like that right. Even if one person raises a concern they can be drowned out by the majority of White and cisgender members, or by the White, straight, cisgender decision-maker.

It’s unfortunate that some people seem to have forgotten that their experience of the world as a member of the Rainbow community might be very different to other’s. Maybe at next year’s less corporate Pride Parade we can reflect on that.

Massey University’s Refreshing Defence of Professor Jan Thomas

Professor Jan Thomas
Professor Jan Thomas

Stuff reported on Massey University Chancellor Michael Ahie’s refreshing defence of vice-chancellor Professor Jan Thomas. He acknowledged a review of dealing with security threats is underway, and Professor Thomas has revised her position on defunding university clubs:

“[Massey University Council] is encouraged that Professor Thomas has already initiated a review of how staff assess security threats at its campuses.” “It also noted that Professor Thomas has acknowledged to students’ associations her regret that in one email she raised the possibility of restricting funding to clubs and associations.”

“In a student forum at Wellington [on Thursday] she provided an assurance that she supports their independent voice and that there would be no changes to the current processes around determining funding of students’ associations.”

Professor Jan Thomas spoke on Thursday, addressing calls, mainly from Simon Bridges, Don Brash, Mike Hosking, and David Farrar for her to resign, saying:

“Everyone’s entitled to their views. My response to that is I don’t intend to resign.”

When asked if she regretted the decision, she said being a vice-chancellor or any leader of a complex organisation was not easy.

“The reality is every day, all day and most nights, the things that come across my radar are large and complex and often have no easy answers or no good outcome.”

“And there are often times you make decisions in that greyness and complexity in a way that if you had your time again, you see you might have had more information, you might have done other stuff, you might have done many things.”

Thomas said she does what she thinks is right at the time, and lives with the consequences.

“I have absolute tried to live my life and particularly my personal life with a level of integrity.”

She said she regretted her decision caused a lot of distress and distrust in her leadership.

Radio New Zealand reported her further comments:

“There are limits where there is non-evidence based targeting of groups of people based on a particular characteristic that they have, rather than any idea they have or anything. For example with ethnicities, gender fluidity, those sorts of things.”

“If that voice leads to damage, psychological damage, or silencing, or suppression of those particular groups of people, I personally have some challenges with that.”

Image credit: David Wiltshireown work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Kayo Matsuzawa’s Unsolved Murder

Kayo Matsuzawa
Kayo Matsuzawa (The Inv}estigator)

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.

TVNZ Cold Case‘s recent documentary is the second documentary that has been made about Kayo’s unsolved murder. Bryan Bruce’s The Investigator documentary is available on YouTube in three parts (one, two, three).

Timeline and map

  • Friday 11 September 1998
    • 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.

Key central Auckland locations relating to Kayo Matsuzawa's murder
Key central Auckland locations relating to Kayo Matsuzawa’s murder (NZ Police)

Kayo

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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.”

A postcard from Kayo Matsuzawa
A postcard from Kayo Matsuzawa (Cold Case)

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”.

But Kayo’s mother, Humiko Matsuzawa, said the following to Bryan Bruce after being asked about naïvety:

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.

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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 buildings

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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.

The Mills Lane/131 Queen Street carpark roller door, today
The Mills Lane/131 Queen Street car park roller door, today (Google Maps)

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.

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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.

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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.

Writing on the utility room door: "FIRE ALARM PANEL + BATTS in here!"
Writing on the utility room door: “FIRE ALARM PANEL + BATTS in here!” (TVNZ archive footage)

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.

Utility room door handle
Utility room door handle (TVNZ archive footage)

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)

This was Bryan Bruce’s theory in his documentary, stating “the murderer must have had security access to the building“. The Mills Lane car park was described as “one of two ways you can get in[to the building]”. A DKS key was required to enter or exit using the car park roller door.

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.

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DNA

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?”

Newest suspect

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

An actress wearing the clothing Kayo Matsuzawa is thought to have been wearing when she went missing
An actress wearing the clothing Kayo Matsuzawa is thought to have been wearing when she went missing (Cold Case)

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.

Recreation of what Kayo Matsuzawa's missing ring looked like
Recreation of what Kayo Matsuzawa’s missing ring looked like (The Investigator)

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.

Kayo Matsuzawa's passport
Kayo Matsuzawa’s passport (The Investigator)

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.

Police officers search Greenmount Landfill in East Tamaki for items belonging to Kayo Matsuzawa in 1998
Police officers search Greenmount Landfill in East Tamaki for items belonging to Kayo Matsuzawa in 1998 (NZ Herald)

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.

A sign advertising the international foodhall outside the Centrecourt building
A sign advertising the international foodhall outside the Centrecourt building. A sign advertising the QF Tavern is in the bottom-left of the photograph. (TVNZ)

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.

Profile

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 and the Super-injunction

High Court of New Zealand Wellington court papers - Matt Taylor

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.

Related posts:

How did the Law Society get here?

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.

Secrecy

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.

Five Things Wrong With The Russell McVeagh Report and the Law Society Complaint Process

Wellington, New Zealand - Supreme Court building - inside the court room by Buffy May

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.

Dame Margaret Bazley’s independent review of Russell McVeagh’s response to sexual misconduct allegations, embedded below, was published yesterday. It’s highly critical of Russell McVeagh’s culture and policies that led to sexual misconduct against employees and the poor handling of subsequent complaints.

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.

Related posts:

The report’s recommendations

Dame Margaret Bazley’s report is overall quite good, but the recommendations fall short in at least two areas.
  1. 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.
  2. The report assumes that raising a family and having a career is an issue that is only relevant to, and that should be addressed by women.

Law Society’s processes

The report also illustrates shortcomings with the Law Society’s complaint processes, disclosing publicly for the first time that there are complaints before the Law Society in relation to the employment reference provided by Russell McVeagh, and Russell McVeagh lawyers’ failure to make a report to the Law Society.
It’s time for an independent review of the Law Society to address issues with the complaints process, for example:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The Law Society has a conflict of interest in deciding whether to publish details about upheld complaints.

Image credit: Buffy May, Wellington Supreme Court building, CC BY-SA 2.0.

EQC settlement agreements suppress complaints and critical public comment

Christchurch earthquake shop window cracked by Matt Taylor
A Christchurch shop window. Matt Taylor

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”.

EQC has been the subject of hundreds of complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner. Experts EQC has engaged have also been the subject of complaints. Labour’s Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission, Megan Woods, has said she wants “a royal commission of inquiry into defective earthquake repairs”. Overseas royal commissions have had to address the issue of obtaining evidence which would otherwise be shielded by confidentiality agreements.

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.

The full document is embedded below.