New Zealand's six law schools have cut ties with Russell McVeagh following allegations of sexual harassment. According to the New Zealand Herald, Waikato, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago universities all said they had temporarily banned any Russell McVeagh-related events.The University of Auckland's Dean of Law Professor Andrew Stockley told staff and students its relationship with the firm was "on hold" for the rest of the year and that the school would not allow any of its students to be subjected to inappropriate behaviour or sexual harassment. 'There is widespread feeling that there should have been a much stronger apology and public recognition of the harm that some women law students have experienced, and that the answers reported in the media have been unduly legalistic and narrow,' he told the Herald.
Law Society takes action
Meanwhile the New Zealand Law Society has announced a working group to focus on sexual harassment reporting. The group is tasked with looking at what improvements could be made to enable better reporting of harassment in the legal profession to the Law Society. 'There is no place for a culture of sexual harassment in our profession. It must stop. The Law Society is determined to do all it can to tackle a complex issue in an innovative and practical manner,' Law Society president Kathryn Beck said. She said it was one of a number of actions the Law Society was taking 'to address a matter which impacts on all lawyers and their clients. The public discussion has been sobering but it has also highlighted matters that we need to resolve so we can be more proactive without re-victimising victims. Alongside our processes, we have looked at the practical actions which are needed to openly and fully address the issue of sexual harassment in the legal profession. This includes providing support for people who are affected by it.'
Other plans include the development of an online portal and dedicated helpline which enables reporting of concerns related to workplace harassment. It is also looking at organising and facilitating meetings of key interest groups such as those for women lawyers and young lawyers to look at the issues, what needs to be done and to develop appropriate resources as well as carrying out a national survey of all lawyers looking at the current workplace environment for legal practice is being scoped.