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5. Job description, Parliamentary Counsel

Job description
Person specification



Parliamentary Counsel Office
Level 12
Reserve Bank Building
2 The Terrace
Wellington 6160

Reports to

Drafting Team Manager

Liaises with

Ministers of the Crown
Officials from Government departments and other Government agencies
Select committees
Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives
Cabinet Office
Other Parliamentary Counsel Office staff

Primary purpose

The primary purpose of the position is to draft Government Bills and Legislative Instruments.


A Counsel is accountable for:

1. working independently

2. the content of his or her own drafts

3. the content of any advice provided by him or her to Ministers, instructing agencies, and select committees

4. attending select committees and explaining changes to Bills (without assistance from other Counsel)

5. attending committee of the whole House and drafting any necessary amendments

6. undertaking the drafting of Legislative Instruments of any complexity

7. drafting lengthy Bills of low to medium complexity

8. drafting lengthy Bills of high complexity as part of a team

9. undertaking peer review of Legislative Instruments and Bills of low to medium complexity

10. supervising Associate Counsel on routine jobs

11. participating in significant office projects (as requested)

12. undertaking office-sanctioned studies or placements (if desired).

In addition the Counsel is accountable for meeting the Parliamentary Counsel accountabilities of:

13. undertaking the drafting of Government and other legislation as assigned by the Team Leader, in a timely, responsive, and professional manner. In addition the Counsel may also be required to provide drafting assistance on private Bills, local Bills, and approved Members Bills, and prepare some consultation drafts to accompany Law Commission reports

14. positively contributing to the achievement of the goals and objectives set out in the PCO's Statement of Intent, in particular, by drafting legislation that is clearly expressed and legally effective, and by contributing to the ongoing improvement of drafting practices

15. liaising with Cabinet Office, Office of the Clerk, and the Gazette Clerk in relation to drafting assignments

16. establishing and maintaining good relations with clients

17. providing advice to Ministers, Cabinet Committees, and select committees as required

18. providing other legislative advisory services as required

19. acquiring, maintaining, and developing drafting and other professional skills by participating fully in training and development programmes, and actively seeking to acquire, maintain, and develop drafting and other professional skills

20. participating and positively contributing to team work and special projects

21. undertaking any other duties associated with the Counsel role as required by the Drafting Team Manager.



1. A New Zealand or overseas degree or professional qualification in law is essential. The work requires a sound knowledge of the law, initiative, and the ability to analyse complex ideas and policies.


2. The position requires an experienced lawyer with post-qualifications experience in private practice, the public service, or another legal environment who has:

  • successfully completed the training and development required for an Associate Parliamentary Counsel; or
  • equivalent experience in legislative drafting in New Zealand or another Commonwealth jurisdiction (including experience in carrying out similar accountabilities).
Skill requirements

3. The Counsel is expected to have or acquire the PCO generic skills and the Counsel skills set out in Schedules 1 and 2 of the PCO Skills policy. A Counsel is expected to achieve those skills to the standard set out in the attachment to the Counsel Career and Remuneration framework. The PCO generic skills, in summary, relate to:

  • personal integrity
  • building and maintaining effective interpersonal relationships
  • effectively and efficiently coordinating, performing, and progressing work to completion
  • providing high quality results for each person for whom the Counsel provides a service.

4. With regard to the Counsel skills, the Counsel is expected to:

  • facilitate and guide by:
    • providing written and oral advice
    • presenting
    • identifying and communicating relevant risks
    • passing on knowledge
    • mediating
    • winning concessions without damaging relationships
  • draft coherent and effective legislation by:
    • creating robust legislative structures
    • researching precedents
    • using language clearly, concisely, and accurately
    • identifying drafting problems and helping to resolve them
    • providing alternative approaches (where appropriate)
    • contributing to coherence of the statute book
    • applying PCO norms and styles
    • using applicable office resources, including seeking advice
  • acquire and use knowledge to develop sound legislation by:
    • researching, understanding, and applying the law
    • understanding the relevant issues and background
    • assessing sufficiency of drafting instructions
    • identifying legal problems and helping to resolve them
    • assessing relevant legal risks
  • assist legislation through parliamentary, executive, and administrative processes by being familiar with:
    • relevant guidelines (Cabinet manual, drafting manual, LAC Guidelines)
    • quality assurance processes (Bill of Rights vetting, LAC, LDC, Regulations Review Committee requirements)
    • Standing Orders and House procedures (select committees and Committee of the whole)
    • regulation-making processes.

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