Call for urgent culture change in legal profession

The New Zealand Bar Association has given its full support to seeing change in the legal profession following Dame Margaret Bazley’s review of law firm Russell McVeagh.

The review looked into allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying at the firm.

President of the Bar Association Clive Elliott QC says while the review was specific to Russell McVeagh, there are clear sign-posts for the need for a change in culture and behaviour across the whole of the legal profession.

“The immediate challenge for the Bar Association will be to translate the Bazley recommendations, which can relate immediately and directly to a large law firms, into smaller office/chambers environments where most of the country’s barristers work.

“It is important that the thoroughness and intent of the Bazley recommendations can in some way be applied across the whole of New Zealand’s legal profession, including the independent Bar,” says Clive Elliott.

“We know this is a profession wide problem, as demonstrated in Australia, where regulatory bodies in New South Wales and Victoria have recently announced investigations into sexual harassment within the legal profession in those jurisdictions,” he says.

The New Zealand Bar Association says it will continue to push for the implementation of codes of conduct in all legal profession workplaces, regardless of size. It has prepared a Conduct and Values Policy for barristers to implement in their workplaces. The policy sets out definitions of discrimination and harassment and suggests avenues for complaint and support.

The NZBA wishes to acknowledge everyone who has come forward to make complaints about workplace behaviour and to anyone who may do so in the future.  It also believes the reporting of this type of behaviour is the responsibility of all of those who witness it, not just the victims.

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