The New Zealand Law Society has apologised after a staff member sent confidential information to the wrong person.

The privacy breach occurred when the staff member intended to email a colleague but mistakenly emailed someone with a similar name.

"The email contained a complaint to the Law Society by a legal practitioner about his own conduct, alleged to amount to sexual harassment or bullying," the society said in a statement.

Law Society president, Kathryn Beck, said the privacy breach was unacceptable and preventable.

"This error has caused additional and unnecessary stress for those whose information was disclosed," she said.


"The Law Society was entrusted with information that it should have been able to properly protect and we fell short of our internal standards. We are profoundly sorry for this unacceptable mistake."

This "human error" was created by the email programme's "auto fill" response, the society said.

"The name of the intended recipient, a Law Society employee, was similar to the name of the person who ultimately received the information," it said.

The Law Society said it then sought a court order preventing the publication of the details of the email to protect the privacy of the people involved and stop the information spreading further.

Beck said the society accepted the incident raised questions about how it handles confidential information.

"Any breach of privacy undermines the integrity of an organisation," she said.

"This comes at a time where questions are being asked about our organisation's systems and processes."

She said the Law Society had since reviewed its processes and instructed staff on the need to follow the procedures at all times.


"It is vital that people contacting the Law Society about complaints can be assured that their information will be treated with absolute confidentiality," she said.

The Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, said he had reviewed the steps that the Law Society took following the privacy breach and considered "they were responsible steps".