Law Society action over the #Metoo scandal are being done for the wrong reason, according to an RNZ report from a senior woman lawyer.
The complaints process following the Russell McVeagh complaints had been poorly managed, according to the report, echoing what others have said regarding the Law Society’s handling of the matter. The report also follows changes announced by the Law Society.
RNZ had agreed not to name the lawyer who said the motivation for the Law Society changes were questionable:
“The firms are now a lot more scared of that kind of thing happening because if it is made public they can see what the ramifications are and that it can have a real impact on the business,” the report said.
“Law firms are financial beasts and we’re only going to see real genuine change if there’s a financial implication for the firm when these things come out. And that’s only really going to happen if clients stand up and say this is unacceptable,” she said.
RNZ also quoted an intern who had agreed not to work at Russell McVeagh following the allegations, which may not be an eye-opener. Russell McVeagh have recently appointed a number of female partners and taken stringent steps to rectify the ‘cultural’ issues related to the #Metoo issues they faced.
“Apart from just it being a large law firm, I think they appear to invest in their people and that was something that really appealed to me. How they view even the juniors as investments,” the intern said.
Another intern, who RNZ has also agreed not to name, is about to start her first job at a law firm. She said a lot has changed in the industry.
“Our eyes have opened and we’re going into the industry aware of these things,” she said.
The universities also cut ties with Russell McVeagh.
“We still needed to see how their changes have played out at the firm and particularly to have a look at the experience of this year’s summer clerks going through as to what they were seeing happening in the firm and whether they could see a tangible difference in culture and policies and practices,” Otago University law dean Jessica Palmer said.
Law Society president Kathryn Beck said changes are starting to take effect. Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher
Before the scandal, the Law Society which polices the industry had not received any complaints of sexual misconduct.
After being criticised for not doing enough to stop sexual harassment, this year, it has received 25 complaints.
And a survey commissioned by the society found nearly a third of women lawyers have been sexually harassed at work.
“So this year we put in place a lot of things to try and make it better than it was before. We could have done better, we know that, and we’ve started,” Ms Beck said.
Changes are starting to take effect, Ms Beck said.