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Lawyers asked to declare their ethnicity

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/05/2017

Kiwi lawyers are being asked to declare their ethnicity in a bid to better understand how much diversity there is in the profession.

A 2013 Census - in which 88 per cent of lawyers described themselves as European, 7 per cent as Asian, 6 per cent as Maori and 2 per cent as Pacific peoples - is currently the best information available.

However, the New Zealand Law Society now plans to update that by asking all those applying for certificates to practice law to declare their ethnicity.

Lawyers can decline to answer if they wish, but the society's North Island vice-president, Tiana Epati, says it's important to gain an accurate picture.

Lawyers dealt first-hand with a "challenging cultural mix and the wide range of access to justice issues and other influencers affecting the practice of law" in New Zealand, she said.

The Law Society has already been collecting information about ethnicity since 2009, but 44 per cent of the country's 12,800 lawyers have so far opted not to specify.

Ms Epati also noted how the ethnicity of lawyers was noticeably different at the time of the 2013 Census to the the ethnicity of the wider population.

She said 77 per cent of all New Zealanders in 2013 identified as European, 11 per cent as Maori, 11 per cent as Asian and 5 per cent as Pacific peoples.

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