A streamlined lawyer complaints process launched today will handle more than half of all client clashes and is expected to bring them to an end four times faster than the old system.
More than four grievance claims are laid against lawyers every day, and until now the New Zealand Law Society's disputes management service has taken around four months to handle each case.
But now, a less formal, more hands-on Early Resolution Service (ERS) has been introduced to handle around 60 per cent of complaints.
"The longer a conflict goes on, the worse it becomes, whatever the subject matter," says Law Society executive director Christine Grice. "This is about getting on the phone, actually talking to people to find out what the real issues are, and meeting their needs, rather than just saying, 'This is what the process is and that's it'."
In the past, all complaints, even minor dust-ups over a "rude or abrupt" solicitor, would have been delayed by detailed investigations.
"They can often be dealt with by remedies that wouldn't be available through the formal process - by way of apology, assurances the service will be better next time around, etc," Ms Grice said.
The Lawyers Complaints Service operated by the Law Society has been trialling the ERS since November 2011 around the country and it has received "very positive" feedback.
During the 2011/12 year, the Law Society received 1625 complaints. It took 124 days on average to resolve each dispute, while under the ERS pilot they took just 30 days.