AGM and Annual Report

ADLS held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday 14 March 2017 and celebrated a year of pleasing growth in membership, engagement with the profession and a host of other achievements and innovations.

 Brian Keene QC

ADLS President Brian Keene QC reflected on his time in office and the progress of the Society since 2011, during which time it has moved to become the “competent, commercial organisation” that it is today – “A hallmark of collegiality and a national body which is listened to and respected.”

Mr Keene QC also spoke to ADLS’ Annual Report for the year ended 30 September 2016 (which was approved at the meeting), and drew attention to ADLS’ growing membership and increasing national outlook, key relationships (including with younger lawyers who “have lowered the age demographic in this Society by quite some” and “are looking to us across New Zealand to help them find ways to integrate with the profession”). For other highlights from the past year, he referred the meeting to the Annual Report (more on that below).

This year’s AGM marked the retirement of Mr Keene QC and the confirmation of Joanna Pidgeon, who has served as Vice President during the past two terms, as the Society’s new President. Mr Keene QC congratulated her and noted the pleasing continuity of support for the Council which bodes well for the future.

Results of the elections for the other three open Council Member positions were also announced. Sitting Council Members Stephanie Nicolson (who has led the charge on young lawyer and law student engagement) and Bernard Smith (who was appointed late last year to temporarily fill a Council vacancy until elections could be held) were both re-elected. Christchurch practitioner Tony Herring was also elected as a new Council member for the forthcoming term. Mr Keene QC noted that the Council was pleased by the election of someone from outside Auckland, underscoring as it does the national character of ADLS.

John Hagen, who has served as one of the Council’s Appointed Members, also retired from Council as of the AGM. Describing him as a “commercial and accounting genius” who has acted as the Council’s “right hand man”, Mr Keene QC thanked Mr Hagen for his service which “has made a huge difference”.

Craig Fisher was appointed to replace John Hagen in the role of Appointed Councillor, and Mr Keene QC is very confident that he will play an equally important role. “The Council was vastly impressed by his energy and desire to make things work and I’m sure he will be a valuable member of Council.”

Changes to the Society’s Rules proposed by Council to enable the remote participation by members in meetings and remote voting were voted on and passed at the AGM (with some minor technical amendments from the floor). These changes were part of an omnibus motion to facilitate increased participation by members from around the country in the democratic process due to the organisation’s now national nature.

A number of other member-sponsored proposed Rule amendments were discussed but were unsuccessful. There was also discussion about the possibility of reinstating the traditional ADLS “Opening of the legal year” church service and it was agreed to revisit this question.

Highlights from the Annual Report

Financial performance

Between 2013 and September 2016, the Society’s revenues have continued to rise, derived mainly from the key areas of CPD, WebForms and membership subscriptions. Since 2013, ADLS has produced a surplus which has been earmarked for future capital programmes.

The Council has also recently leased, on favourable terms, a significant area of the ground floor for an upmarket restaurant. Likewise, there are stable tenancies on the other, non-ADLS utilised floors.

Membership and national connections

ADLS welcomed more than 500 new members in 2015/16, with membership now at 4,235, compared to 2,673 in 2012. This represents a 15.8% increase on the previous year and a 60% increase on where we were at three years ago.

An increasing number of legal professionals from the regions of New Zealand are choosing to join ADLS. At 30 September 2016, 41% of our paid membership was located outside of Auckland, and 30% of events were held outside of Auckland, a new record that reflects our growing national membership. It is expected that these trends will increase even further in the years to come.

Expanding our collegial outreach

In 2016, ADLS expanded its already busy events calendar, delivering a diverse and expanded series of events both in Auckland and around the country, including a new annual event for young lawyers. ADLS’ law dinners celebrating significant contributions from leaders of the profession continue to have a strong following, and the events that are mainstays on our calendar, such as the annual Golf Tournament, Lawyers’ Lunches (in both Auckland and Hamilton), the end-of-year Committees “Thank You” evening and the “Meet the Judiciary” event proved as popular as ever.

We held breakfasts for Attorney-General the Hon Chris Finlayson QC in both Auckland and Christchurch and for the Minister of Justice in Auckland and the Associate Minister of Justice in Tauranga, along with well-attended cocktail functions in Hamilton, Tauranga, Christchurch and Dunedin, and the extension of the Lawyers’ Lunch series to Hamilton. The collegial atmosphere of ADLS events is always appreciated and favourably commented on by attendees.

Young lawyer engagement

ADLS Council Member Stephanie Nicolson has worked tirelessly in forging closer engagement between the Society and younger lawyers and law students around the country, with the aim of bringing “new blood” into what can be an ageing demographic. The mutual advantages are obvious, with increased participation by younger lawyers (including the appointment of EJP students to ADLS’ specialist Committees) allowing the Society to harness their energy, technological savviness and research skills, while giving the next generation exposure to the knowledge and experience of more seasoned practitioners.

ADLS also extended its already successful work experience and buddy initiatives in 2016 – from being first piloted with the University of Auckland Law Students’ Association in August 2015, our programmes are now operating with four of New Zealand’s six law student associations, and we plan to expand further in the coming year.

Innovation enhances CPD’s popularity ADLS continues to set the standard for the sector with its provision of an extensive learning and development programme and the use of innovative new technologies for CPD delivery, including a new delivery platform for online CPD which has further enhanced the learning experience. The ADLS CPD team delivered over 90 CPD activities this year, including courses in Christchurch and Wellington this year, and reached thousands of lawyers all over the country, whether in person or via the hugely popular live-streaming and “anytime, anywhere” on-demand services.


One of ADLS’ flagship innovation projects for the 2016 period was the upgrade of the WebForms system. Already setting the “gold standard” for the profession in enabling efficient creation of documents and agreements, the new, online WebForms system developed over the past year offers improved efficiency – a powerful and comprehensive document creation and management tool that pairs ADLS’ 230 widely-recognised and trusted forms and precedents with the latest in online cloud-based technology. With the new state-of-the-art system lawyers can customise standard form templates. New services and functionality include personalised dashboards, an archiving feature and automatic reminders.

The response to the new system has been overwhelmingly positive and a number of new firms and users have joined WebForms since its launch in June 2016. With a philosophy of continuous improvement ADLS plans to continue to regularly extend and enhance the WebForms system. The first of these major enhancements will be released in 2017.

Committees continue to influence development of law

ADLS’ 14 specialist legal Committees comment on policy reform, make submissions to Parliament, promote the interests of members and the wider profession and educate and inform the ADLS community by contributing to CPD events and LawNews. Their work is highly valuable and appreciated – Government Select Committees, the Law Commission and other like agencies have all provided feedback thanking ADLS for its balanced and independent commentary on a wide range of subjects.

A significant development in 2016 was the establishment of a specialist Health and Safety Law Committee, which had a successful launch function in April 2016 to coincide with the coming into force of the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. The Committee contributed to the new “Health and Safety Law” Legal Practice Manual Chapter.

In addition, a “Newly Suited” Committee of young lawyers was launched to develop more opportunities for young lawyers to connect with ADLS, its members and the profession. The Newly Suited Committee had its inaugural meeting in September 2016. Committee members range from recent graduates through to lawyers with five years’ PQE and are drawn from a diverse range of firms and practice areas and hail from Palmerston North and Hamilton as well as from Auckland. It intends to promote and create networking and mentoring opportunities, collegiality events and to address professional issues for newly admitted lawyers.

A team effort

Mr Keene QC also took the opportunity in the Annual Report to thank CEO Sue Keppel and the team at ADLS for all of their work towards the success of the Society and its members, and for the support given to the Council. He also thanked Joanna Pidgeon for her dedication during her time as Vice President, as well as the other Councillors for their valuable contributions.

A copy of the Annual Report is available to members on MYADLS.

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