The Law Society “Taskforce” designed to ‘drive and guide’ systems and culture change in the legal community has met for the first time since the May release of the Legal Workplace Environment Survey and in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal involving Russell McVeagh.
The survey indicated that almost one in three female lawyers had suffered from sexual harssment at work and that more than half of all lawyers have been bullied at work.
The Taskforce is chaired by Law Society President Kathryn Beck and comprises three Queens’ Counsel and
New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck is chairing the 17-member Taskforce, of whom 12 are female.
“I feel a huge personal disappointment as to what has occurred in the legal profession and I’m personally committed to leading the change required,” Ms Beck said in a press statement today.
“My term as President ends early next year and chairing this Taskforce will assist with continuity and enable me to see this critically important issue through,” she says.
Ms Beck says she had been delighted with the level of interest in the voluntary Taskforce positions, with more than 80 applications received.
The Taskforce comprises 14 members of the legal profession from across the country representing a range of experience and fields of law. It also contains two non-lawyers, including a legal executive and a practice manager.
The members are: Julia Batchelor-Smith (Auckland, lawyer), John Billington QC (Auckland, lawyer), Lindsay Butler (Waikato, practice manager), Jenny Cooper QC (Auckland, lawyer), Allanah Colley (Wellington, lawyer), Mark Cunliffe (Wellington, lawyer), Carmen Franich (Auckland, legal executive), William Fussey (Auckland, lawyer), Roshni Kaur (Auckland, lawyer), Stephanie Mann (Canterbury, lawyer), Emily Morrow (Auckland, lawyer), Jared Ormsby (Canterbury, lawyer), Emma Priest (Auckland, lawyer), Jonathan Robinson (Wellington, lawyer), Mary Scholtens QC (Wellington, lawyer), Josie Te Rata (Wellington, lawyer).
“The quality of the Taskforce members gives me great confidence that the cultural change we are committed to in our legal community is within our grasp. We can and will achieve the building of a culture within the legal profession that is healthy, safe, respectful and inclusive and which we can all be proud of,” Ms Beck says.
“I’m pleased that as we get into action as a Taskforce, most of the legal profession is also in action in leading change at a workplace and personal level.”
The Taskforce has been established for an initial term of three years and will deliver an initial draft strategy and action plan to the Law Society by 30 November 2019.
The Taskforce Members
Julia Batchelor-Smith holds a senior legal and strategic role with MinterEllisonRuddWatts in Auckland. She has over 15 years’ experience in New Zealand and overseas. Julia is the author of Balancing Work and Life: a Practical Guide for Lawyers (LexisNexis 2015), providing strategies to achieve work/life balance, effective practice management, and diversity within the legal profession. In researching and writing her book, Julia interviewed a wide spectrum of lawyers including members of the Judiciary, general counsel of listed companies and large corporates, partners and solicitors from all major law firms, and former lawyers. The resulting 90 case studies provide Julia with solid base knowledge of the cultural pressure points that need addressing for the future of the profession. As a keynote speaker, Julia has addressed local and central Government, Universities, legal associations, private corporations, and industry bodies. Julia is married with two young children, and works part-time. Her non-linear career path provides her with perspective on the challenges some lawyers face to either take an unequivocal road to partnership, or leave the law. Julia ardently supports developing strategies to keep women in the law as a means of creating better gender diversity in the upper echelons of the profession.
Kathryn Beck (Chair)
Kathryn Beck is the current President of the New Zealand Law Society. She was elected to the position in 2016 having served as Vice-President of the Law Society and as a Council member of the Auckland branch of the Law Society. Kathryn specialises in employment, health and education law. She has had more than 25 years’ experience in the New Zealand legal community and advises a range of entities, from large corporates to charitable organisations. Kathryn also acts as a mediator and facilitator. She is based in Auckland and is a partner in a specialist employment law firm.
John Billington QC
John Billington attended Victoria University of Wellington where he studied law. He first commenced practice in a mid-sized litigation firm in Wellington where he later became the Senior Common Law Partner. John joined the independent Bar in 1989 and took silk in 1996. John has wide experience in all forms of litigation and in particular in trial work where he has acted as senior counsel in a number of nationally significant cases. While John dedicates most of his time to the law, he has a background in representative golf, motor sport and currently is an avid sailor. John’s interest in sport has led to his having a significant involvement in sports law issues. John acts as pro bono counsel for the SPCA and Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc.
Lindsay Butler has been involved in working in legal firms since 2010. Her first legal role was as a Practice Manager in a mid-size Waikato law firm where a large part of her role was taken up with HR management. In 2016 she joined Tompkins Wake where her focus was on people and performance and on the development of talent and building great lawyers. She works closely with the CEO and partners as well as across all levels of the firm. Lindsay is a system focused person and with her practice management background has provided a thorough understanding of process and systems in legal firms. She is a member of the Waikato Bay of Plenty Practice Managers group, a member of HRINZ Waikato branch and the Waikato Property Investors organisation. Outside of work, Lindsay has six grown children living in different parts of the world that she enjoys visiting and spending time with, along with her Fiancé.
Jenny Cooper QC
Jenny Cooper QC is a barrister specialising in company and securities law, fair trading and consumer finance law, competition law, and insolvency. She is a council member of the New Zealand Bar Association and is also on the council of the Legal Research Foundation. Jenny has a long-standing interest and involvement in gender equity issues. She is a member of the Bar Association’s Gender Equity Committee and was closely involved in creating the Law Society and New Zealand Bar Association’s joint Gender Equitable Engagement and Instruction Policy, which was launched in December 2017. Along with Gretta Schumacher she also co-authored the Bar Association’s recent report on Gender Ratio of Counsel Appearing in the Higher Courts, which was funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation. Prior to joining Shortland Chambers in 2011, Jenny was a litigation partner at Bell Gully, which she joined after spending five years working for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and The Hague. She is a graduate of the University of Otago and holds post-graduate degrees in Law and International Relations from Oxford University, which she attended as a Rhodes Scholar.
Allanah Colley has a BA/LLB (Hons) degree from the University of Auckland and is a Judges’ Clerk based in Wellington. She is one of the founders and Co-Editors-in-Chief of the New Zealand Women’s Law Journal – Te Aho Kawe Kaupapa Ture a ngā Wāhine. Allanah was also a member of the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute delegation that attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York in early 2018.
Mark is the General Counsel at the Takeovers Panel where he works with a team of four other lawyers. Prior to his current role, Mark was with Bell Gully for seven years, following stints at Simpson Grierson and Travers Smith in London. Mark is genuinely passionate about working with younger lawyers to help them develop and ensure that they have the best possible experience working in the law. Outside of his professional life, Mark is married to Sheena and has two children, Mikaela and Sawyer. As a father who shares in all aspects of parenting, Mark is also acutely aware of the demands which being a lawyer can place on family life.
Carmen Franich is a Registered Legal Executive, and seasoned legal practitioner, having worked in law her whole career. She is an Associate at West Auckland’s largest law firm – Smith and Partners Lawyers – where she specialises in residential and commercial property matters. Carmen manages the team of Legal Executives at Smith and Partners, and serves on the firm’s Management team – actively influencing decisions regarding strategy, culture and hiring. Carmen is also President of the Auckland Branch of The New Zealand Institute of Legal Executives, a position she has held for over three years.
William Fussey is a senior solicitor at EY Law working in the areas of employment, health and safety and privacy law after being admitted to the legal profession in March 2016. William completed his LLB and LLM (Distinction) at Victoria University, before moving to Auckland. William has volunteered at the Community Law Centre for a number of years and is a member of the Auckland Young Lawyers’ Committee. He is also part of a mentoring programme for students at Manurewa High School. Alongside the wider EY Law team, William works with a wide range of businesses advising them on developing a culture based on mutual trust and knowledge flow, both in the employment and health and safety space. William is a strong believer in the transformative power of a positive and inclusive workplace culture for both employers and employees. He is looking forward to being part of driving a culture change in the profession and consulting widely to represent the thoughts and ideas of those in the early stages of their legal career.
Roshni Kaur practices in the field of litigation in the areas of family, civil and employment law, and says she is about to make the courageous move to the Bar. She obtained her LLB from the University of Otago in 2011 and is a proud ‘scarfie’ at heart. Roshni is from Malaysia, of Punjabi heritage, and speaks four languages. She says she had the privilege to travel and learn about many cultures due to having parents who both worked in the aviation industry. Growing up around different cultures and understanding how people approach conflict has made Roshni have a special interest in alternative dispute resolution, which is what she specialised in when gaining her LLM from the University of Auckland in 2018. In her time at university and in practice, Roshni has held several organisational roles such as Competitions Vice President for the National Law Students’ Association. She enjoys working with people of varying levels within the legal profession and understands how messages need to be delivered to different groups of people.
Aside from navigating the litigation life, Roshni has many outside interests including practising Bikram Yoga.
Stephanie Mann is a senior solicitor with Duncan Cotterill in Christchurch, She practises in civil litigation which involves advising on insurance matters, estate and trust disputes and health and safety. Stephanie has been involved with, and has convened, the Young Lawyers’ Committee in the Law Society’s Canterbury-Westland branch. Her involvement led to her being appointed onto the Law Society’s Women’s Advisory Panel which launched the Gender Equality Charter in April this year. Stephanie was also on the winning team for the young lawyers’ national mooting competition in 2016. In her final year at the University of Canterbury, Ms Mann worked one day a week at Young Hunter in Christchurch. After graduating with an LLB and BSc in psychology in 2010, she joined the firm full time. She then moved to Duncan Cotterill in 2015 and since returning to the firm from parental leave in June 2018, has a flexible four day a week working arrangement. Stephanie is married with one child.
For over 25 years, Emily Morrow was a senior partner with a large law firm in Vermont and now works as a consultant to lawyers and law firms across New Zealand. Her knowledge of the business of law, combined with her deep understanding of human dynamics comes from extensive experience as a practising lawyer and former chair of a major bank board. Before obtaining her doctorate in law, Emily obtained a multi-disciplinary baccalaureate degree in sociology, psychology and anthropology. Emily is a frequent contributor to LawTalk and LawNews and has been a keynote speaker at numerous professional conferences.
Jared Ormsby was the Executive Chair/National Managing Partner of Wynn Williams from 2012 to 2018 and served on the board of the firm from 2009 before announcing his intention to practise at the independent bar later this year. During that time Jared successfully managed the growth of one of New Zealand’s fastest growing national firms. Jared was the winner of the 2017 Managing Partner of the Year New Zealand Law Award and is a finalist in the 2018 awards. Aside from being a prominent civil litigator, Jared has presented previously to law firms on diversity and equality including consulting on cultural and strategic change. He has been a member of the FMRC Large Law Firm Group and the Managing Partner and General Manager forum for Lawlink. Jared has managed significant change within a rapidly growing law firm environment with a focus on diversity, inclusion, equality, safe and responsible workplaces and cultural reform. This has included work on flexible working practices and remuneration including pay equity analysis, the introduction of wellness programmes for staff and partners, independent leadership coaching, and a published Partner Charter for partner accountability in the workplace environment.
Emma Priest was admitted to the Bar in 1999 with an LLM (first class) and a BA (Psyc). She is a specialist criminal barrister appearing across all courts. After work as a law clerk and solicitor she worked at Meredith Connell from 2002 to 2013 and became a Senior Crown Prosecutor and Associate of the firm. She then joined the Public Defence Service as a Senior Criminal Lawyer before leaving to re-establish Auckland’s Blackstone Chambers, New Zealand’s oldest legal chambers, from February 2016. Emma facilitates the barristers’ component of the NZLS stepping up programme, represents the NZLS at stakeholder meetings and has presented criminal law papers with College of Law, Legalwise and at the Criminal Bar Association national conference. She worked to develop a client and document management system for criminal barristers with Actionstep when she went to the Bar. Emma is also a non-executive director on the board for Variety NZ and has experience in consensus governance though Playcentre. Along with Sue Gray, Emma Priest founded The Good Lawyer, a not-for-profit which provides shirts and books to prisoners. Emma’s motivation for joining the NZLS Workplace Culture Change Taskforce is on improving the culture of the core workplace for Barristers: the courtroom.
Jonathan Robinson was appointed Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel (Director Access to Legislation) at the NZ Parliamentary Counsel Office in August 2016. Previously, he was Executive Director of Resources and Legal Services at the Environment Agency in England (an organisation of 10,000 staff with an annual budget of over NZ$2bn). Jonathan is admitted in England and New Zealand, and his previous roles include Chief Legal Adviser at the Ministry of Social Development (NZ) and at the Department of Communities and Local Government (UK). He has managed legal advisory and drafting teams in the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (UK), and worked on international environmental law and policy as an official of the European Commission. He qualified originally at Baker & McKenzie.
Mary Scholtens QC
Mary Scholtens QC is an experienced Queen’s Counsel who has acted predominantly as a public, civil, constitutional and regulatory lawyer since commencing practice 36 years ago in 1982. She spent some years in government legal sections and a year in London before serving ten years at Crown Law. Mary joined the independent bar in 1996 and was made a Queen’s Counsel in 2002. Mary has been involved in many continuing education activities, particularly in the public law and litigation skills area. She has served as a faculty member on numerous NZLS Litigation Skills, Advanced Litigation Skills and Expert Witness Litigation Skills courses. She has been a member of the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal and its predecessor since 2007, last year chairing a division on a long-running matter. She is an accredited mediator and a marriage/civil union celebrant. Over the last 5 years Mary has been involved in running professional development courses for women, and has a heartfelt wish to see the law a healthier, more diverse and inclusive profession for everyone. Mary is married with an adult son, 3 adult step children and 9 grandchildren.
Josie Te Rata
Nō Ngāti Raukawa me Ngāti Pākehā. Josie is a Judge’s clerk in Wellington and Deputy Editor at the New Zealand Women’s Law Journal – Te Aho Kawe Kaupapa Ture a ngā Wāhine, which promotes awareness about women’s issues in the law to support women in the New Zealand legal profession in their careers. Josie graduated with an LLB from the University of Otago in 2016.