Law Society President Kathryn Beck says the Law Society is stepping up its initiatives over sexual harrassment and has called on law firms to take action. Her intervention comes after a previous statement by the Law Society saying it was unable to confirm whether or not a complaint has been made related to the allegations of sexual misconduct towards students in a 2016 summer law clerk programme at Russell McVeagh. Ms Beck said that the wide-ranging discussion on sexual harassment and work environments in the legal profession could not be allowed to die away. 'The disclosures over the past week will have made every lawyer in New Zealand consider their workplace and also their profession. We know that sexual and other harassment is not something unique to lawyers. However, we must also take this as a call to action. The legal profession cannot sit and wait for things to go away or slowly change,' she said.
Ms Beck said that the 'whole legal profession must take responsibility for the way it works and the way it treats sexual harassment of any degree. It is not OK and I am calling on all lawyers and others in legal workplaces to speak out if anything happens to them or if they see or hear of anything happening to their workmates.' She added that workplaces must be safe. 'As a profession our goal must now be to create workplaces which are safe environments for everyone. Some firms will need a cultural change and this must become a focus and an imperative. Other firms will be models of what a safe workplace should be, and it would be sad that their efforts are obscured just because they are in the legal profession.'
Stepping up initiatives
She added that the Law Society was stepping up the initiatives it has been developing to encourage change.'We will strive to provide support and make other processes available so that this change can occur as quickly as possible.'