Legal executives are not qualified as lawyers; however most hold the New
Zealand Diploma in Legal Executive Studies or its predecessor, the New
Zealand Law Society
Legal Executive qualification.
Legal executives are skilled in one or more aspects of law and attend to a wide range of legal work, generally specialising in one or more of the following: residential and/or commercial conveyancing, estate administration, trust formation and administration, estate planning and some aspects of litigation.
Experienced legal executives can achieve a high degree of autonomy and independence. Their work is people-oriented and requires them to have the same high ethical standards as lawyers. They are told many things in confidence and have to apply tact, sympathy, patience and understanding to resolving clients’ problems and giving them appropriate advice.
Most legal executives work in law firms, although there are opportunities in government departments, local authorities and financial institutions. A career as a legal executive offers equal opportunity to men and women.
The legal executive qualification was originally developed, back in the
1970s, for people working in law firms in clerical, secretarial or other
support roles, who enjoyed working in law and wanted to grow their careers.
Face to face classes were taught in lunchtimes and after work.
Fast forward to today… The New Zealand Diploma in Legal Executive Studies is currently offered by Open Polytechnic and Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and is taught via distance learning using modern technology.
Employers seek experience as well as qualifications. You cannot assume that you will be employed as a legal executive once you have qualified if you have no related work experience.
If you are interested in becoming a legal executive we strongly recommend that you find employment in a law-related or property-related environment while you are studying. For example: law firm, bank, government department, insurance company, trustee company, property developer, retirement village company, mortgage broker, finance company.
This might mean that you start out as the office junior or a trainee receptionist, but you will:
PLEASE NOTE that the qualification alone does not bestow registration
Registered Legal Executives must be employed as legal executives.
If you recently qualified but are not yet in legal executive employment, you can apply for Support membership in order to take advantage of the benefits of membership.
Then, when you are employed as a legal executive you can apply to upgrade to Affiliate membership (and registered status).
A Registered Legal Executive is an Affiliate, Associate or Fellow member
of The New Zealand Institute of Legal Executives Inc.
Registration for our Affiliate, Associate and Fellow members was implemented in 2000, with the support of the New Zealand Law Society.
Registration differentiates qualified and experienced legal executives from non-members whose firms call their staff legal executives, but who may or may not be qualified or even doing the work of a legal executive.
Registered Legal Executives are, with lawyers and appointed officers of trustee corporations, the only people eligible to witness donor signatures to enduring powers of attorney under the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Amendment Act 2007.
If you have a New Zealand legal executive qualification and are employed as a legal executive under the supervision of a lawyer, you may be eligible for Affiliate membership and ‘Registered Legal Executive’ status.
If you have been working in a legal executive capacity for at least 12 months you would be eligible, once membership is approved, to witness enduring powers of attorney under the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act.
Registered Legal Executives may do ‘other’ work (i.e. office management, trust account management, secretarial, PA) but the percentage of other work should not exceed 30% of their role. In addition, if part-time, they need to be working in a legal executive capacity for at least 15 hours per week.
If you don’t yet meet the criteria for Affiliate membership you can apply for Support membership, however Support members are not Registered Legal Executives .
Legal executives who do not work under the supervision of a lawyer with a current practising certificate are eligible for Support membership.
NZILE Fellows who work in the employment of a lawyer may take statutory declarations, pursuant to the Oaths and Declarations Amendment Act 2001
Registered Legal Executives, being NZILE Fellows, Associates, and Affiliates with at least 12 months experience as legal executives may witness enduring powers of attorney, pursuant to the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Amendment Act 2007