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Sexual harassment: Russell McVeagh commits to a safe environment

Statement from Russell McVeagh
Over two years ago we received serious allegations related to incidents in Wellington. Where allegations were made, we immediately conducted a full internal investigation at the time and initiated a formal process.

Those who were the subject of the allegations left the firm following the investigation. Out of respect for the privacy of the women involved, we have no further details to share.

As a responsible employer, Russell McVeagh has always taken employees’ concerns extremely seriously. Our firm is committed to ensuring our workplace is a supportive and safe environment for all of our staff and their safety and wellbeing is our utmost priority.

We have zero tolerance for bad behaviour and will have no hesitation to act if we are alerted to behaviour that contravenes our values, with robust processes in place to investigate and resolve any issues. We continue to take all possible steps to create a ‘speak out’ culture and as part of this, have made it clear to our staff that there will be no repercussions for speaking out in any circumstance.

We are committed to addressing any issues of harassment at Russell McVeagh and in our profession generally by making it known that any such behaviour is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

In addition, we have been and are working closely with many of the other major law firms and the universities to develop a ‘transition to work’ programme and have appointed an independent person, to provide additional support to our staff and graduates within the profession as they commence their careers from university.

We have been asked by the women affected to respect their privacy, and therefore, will not be commenting further.

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Statement from NZ Law Society
The New Zealand Law Society is unable to confirm whether or not a complaint has been made related to the allegations of sexual misconduct towards students in a summer law clerk programme at Russell McVeagh in Wellington.

Law Society President Kathryn Beck says while the Law Society will investigate all complaints received, the governing legislation does not allow disclosure of any information about complaints or investigations.

“If a complaint is not received, speaking generally, if sufficient evidence or information is received about the conduct of a lawyer which indicates they may have engaged in misconduct or unsatisfactory conduct, that is a matter which can be referred to a standards committee to decide whether to commence an investigation of its own motion.

“However, the provisions of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 mean we are unable to comment on specific matters or cases.”

Ms Beck says any form of sexual harassment is totally unacceptable in legal workplaces and there is no doubt that it is covered by the legislation.

“The purposes of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 are to maintain public confidence in the provision of legal services, to protect consumers of legal services and to recognise the status of the legal profession.

“While the Act focuses on the work lawyers or law firms carry out, it also makes it clear that it covers conduct which is unconnected with the provision of regulated services but which would justify a finding that the lawyer is not a fit and proper person or is otherwise unsuited to engage in practice as a lawyer.”