In July of this year, Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley will release the next edition of our flagship publication, the Community Law Manual 2013-2014.
The recent history of the Community Law Manual
From July 2012, the Community Law Manual has been published in book form. Buyers can now choose to re-purchase the manual every year, as it is released. For the 2012-2013 edition, we secured nearly 500 sales of the printed manual. The online version (at www.communitylaw.org.nz) notched up over half a million hits in its first year. Law firms, city and local libraries, universities, schools, community groups, Citizens Advice Bureaux, and lawyers volunteering in CLCs all use the Community Law Manual as a starting point for a large range of legal questions. We are now more convinced than ever that the manual is the most relevant, preferred and needed source of plain English legal information in New Zealand.
An exciting future for the Community Law Manual
We have been working hard to make sure it’s worthwhile for buyers to purchase a new edition of the Community Law Manual every year. This year, we have been developing some major partnerships, and now have significant news to report. We will be launching three new chapters for the manual, each the result of successful collaborations with other national providers of legal information. These chapters are “Benefit Rights”, “Community Organisations and the Law”, and “Māori Land Law”.
“Community Organisations and the Law”
A partnership with Keeping it Legal and Social Development Partners
Social Development Partners (SDP) is a networking organisation which works with its many members to strengthen the capacity and influence of the community sector. SDP runs a range of initiatives, including TechSoup, CommVoices, and WorkplaceWellbeing (see www.socialdevelopment.org.nz). They have also been key in supporting community organisations with legal issues, publishing an online resource known as “Keeping it Legal: E Ai ki Te Ture” since 2006 (see www.keepingitlegal.net.nz).
Along similar lines, we at the Community Law Centre receive funding from the Wellington City Council to employ a full-time lawyer to provide direct legal assistance to Wellington’s community groups. We have also increased our capacity by brokering pro-bono relationships between many of Wellington’s firms and small groups with insufficient resources to pay for lawyers themselves. This has provided us with direct experience and expertise in the legal needs of community groups and what they need in the way of legal information.
Late last year, we saw the opportunity to draw on our shared wealth of experience and began discussions about whether Keeping it Legal could be adapted for and perhaps even replaced by the Community Law Manual. Because such a great number of our purchasers are community groups themselves (from small parents’ and community centres, to mental health or disability service providers, to large national charities), it made perfect sense to collaborate with SDP and create a “Community Organisations and the Law” chapter in the manual. Like SDP, we believe that strong community organisations are the heart of New Zealand’s democracy, and are proud to be able to support those groups in such a concrete way.
A partnership with the Benefit Rights Service, Wellington
If you have been involved with Community Law or with high-needs clients, you will no doubt be aware of the crucial need for client advocacy when facing the difficult bureaucracy of Work and Income NZ. For many years, beneficiary advocacy services throughout New Zealand have led the way in this work, stepping in where lawyers often fear to tread, as it goes without saying that there is no money in benefit law.
The Benefit Rights Service in Wellington is now located in the same building as Community Law Wellington. Apart from one-on-one advocacy, they also support their clients and beneficiaries nationwide by publishing the Benefit Fact File. The Fact File is a one-stop-shop providing beneficiaries and low-income New Zealanders with clear information about their rights and responsibilities in relation to Work and Income. The Fact File has many hundreds of subscribers nationally, and like the Community Law Manual itself, has been a labour intensive project to keep updated.
With major changes to social welfare underway, both our organisations felt that now would the right time to come together to update and expand the content, and publish this information in a resource that is increasingly becoming the single national resource for plain-English legal information. We believe that including a Benefit Rights chapter in the Community Law Manual will reinforce the idea that vulnerable and low-income New Zealanders are both the focus and priority of Community Law.
“Māori Land Law”
A partnership with our own Kaupapa Māori Legal Service
In 2011, Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley launched a new Kaupapa Māori legal service. This service has now expanded to include three lawyers and three community advocates across our two offices in Wellington and Te Awa Kairangi. Some of our lawyers have come via the Māori Land Court, and were in the perfect position to develop a chapter based around the most common Māori land law questions. They worked closely with lawyers in our sister CLC, Ngai Tahu Māori Law Centre, to craft a chapter making it easier for court applicants and their supporters to navigate land court processes. We remain committed to making Community Law relevant and useful for Māori and this chapter is one way of putting this commitment literally on paper.
To infinity… and beyond
For the Community Law Manual 2014-15, buyers can anticipate at least two new chapters again: a chapter on Internet and the Law (covering everything from internet safety to filesharing and internet trading) and a chapter on general Māori Legal Issues (for example, tangihana rights and user-friendly fisheries information).
We write and commission new content for the Community Law Manual based on the many and varied questions clients bring to us through in-house and outreach clinics, at education sessions, and as we engage in community development work. Our contact with the coalface of the community means we know what issues are hot, and what information is simply not available to meet the often urgent needs of those looking for answers. There is of course a limit to how many chapters we can include, without taking a moment to consider which existing chapters are no longer as relevant, or have a natural home elsewhere. For the 2014-15 edition, we will be looking closely at each chapter and consulting widely with the community, to work out what should stay, and what must sadly go.
If you don’t already have a copy of the Community Law Manual, place your advance order now by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Or, check us out for free at www.communitylaw.org.nz, and send us your feedback.