Russell McVeagh’s recruitment and summer clerk programme has taken a major hit with the recent revelations regarding the complaints made by interns at Wellington in 2016.
Promotional content such as the video below talking about “taking the fear out of joining the workforce”, according to Russell McVeagh HR Director who speaks about the unique offering provided by the firm and with up to 200 students in the programme.
Newsroom.co.nz’s articles about the goings-on at the firm reference former lawyers who heavily criticised the firm for the manner in which they handled the matter.
“My understanding of what they did is that they followed the path of least resistance with the men involved.”
He claimed a woman who supported clerks after they raised concerns was “ostracised and chastised for her involvement”, including receiving a call from a woman lawyer berating her.
The ex-staff lawyer named one partner as “leader of the clean-up crew”.
One of the complaints involved references to harassment occurring at Wellington’s El Horno bar in Courtenay Place, with a former staffer saying she had seen the young lives involved in the incident “being trashed” .
The female former staff member told Newsroom she observed the aftermath of the El Horno incident. “For three months I saw these young lives being trashed. There were no comms about it. It was handled very badly.”
The repercussions of the Russell McVeagh incident will undoubtedly spread to other firms also, although no others have been named to date. One recruiter noted that by no means would Russell McVeagh be the only firm to have been involved in such “sleazy behaviour” involving summer interns.
“The battle for summer interns is intense and firms are keen to provide a ‘good time’ and be seen as being part of the work hard, play hard culture’. I think that has to change,” the recruiter who did not wish to be named told LawFuel.
To add fuel to the Russell McVeagh fire, Wellington City Councillor and lawyer with the Public Service Association, Fleur Fitzsimons has taken on the new city safety portfolio and is reportedly tackling sexual harassment in the city saying that she believed what happened at Russell McVeagh was “the tip of the iceberg” in the legal profession.
“Sexual violence is an epidemic within law firms and needs to stop.”
However the fallout for Russell McVeagh is obvious, including publicity that has reach the UK with a Guardian story on the scandal.
The Guardian noted the firm’s leading position, reporting that it “acts for 11 of the top 15 companies in the country, including all of New Zealand’s retail banks and its largest company and largest listed company.
The allegations have sent shockwaves through the law community in New Zealand, with leading lawyers calling for a specialised sexual harassment officer being appointed by the New Zealand Law Association to manage complaints.”
It’s the sort of publicity any law firm pays a crisis manager for.