Tom Burnett, contributor –
As if the #Metoo sex abuse issue is not enough, now leading law firm Russell McVeagh must concern itself with whether clients will head for the exit in the wake of the sexual assault claims in recent days.
The most recent harassment claim against the firm related to “consensual sexual” encounters reportedly in the firm boardroom and resulted in a statement over the weekend from the firm.
However the firm, with a raft of clients ranging from corporates like Spark and Fonterra to the equally important Crown entities it represents on a regular basis as a member of the All of Government External Legal Services panel providing high level services across government.
Questions were raised by National MP Melissa Lee last week who questioned Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s chief executive Carolyn Tremain at the MBIE annual review at Parliament.
“Is MBIE aware of anyone who was under investigation at Russell McVeagh who may have undertaken contract work for the government before they left the firm?”
Ms Carolyn Tremain said she personally was not but that she would ask questions about the matter with the super-ministry.
All of which has to raise fears for Russell McVeagh, particularly for its already reduced Wellington office, as to whether clients take fright in the #Metoo era and in the wake of serious and continuing allegations that are beginning to create something of a siege mentality within the firm.
As one of the country’s pre-eminent law firms, Russell McVeagh will continue to lead its way in corporate New Zealand, but the current scandal may well spook the horses and the one thing any leading law firm loathes beyond bad publicity, it is departing clients.
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