Lawyer At Centre of #MeToo Misconduct Complaint to Face Law Society Charges


It may have taken three years, but the Law Society has now pressed charges of alleged misconduct against the former partner

The former Russell McVeagh partner who left the firm following the allegations of #MeToo sexual misconduct involving summer interns is to face misconduct charges before the Law Society on May 17.

The former partner has name suppression and will face eight disciplinary charges of misconduct or unsatisfactory conduct brought by the Law Society’s Standards Committee and following a long-delayed investigation that has taken three years to get to the point where any charges have been laid.

The charges relate to alleged misconduct at the firm’s Christmas functions in 2015 and 2016, as reported in LawFuel. The charges are disciplinary and the lawyer does not face any criminal charge.

The scandal became the focus for the burgeoning #Metoo movement in New Zealand and subsequently saw Dame Margaret Bazley issue her report with 48 recommendations regarding Russell McVeagh’s staff management and related issues and they are close to implementing all of them, according to the firm.

Law Society president Tiana Epati issued a statement this month dealing with a new system for dealing with such conduct within the profession, which has been a significant issue throughout the law profession for some time.

The statement noted: “At the highest level we announced an independent review of statutory framework for legal services, including the structure and function of the Law Society, in October 2019 which will examine all aspects of the current system, including the complaints process. The Terms of Reference for that review will be consulted on early this year.

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We have also engaged with the profession and got agreement on significant changes to the current conduct rules applying to lawyers which we expect to come into force on 1 July 2021. These changes will clarify the threshold for reporting unacceptable conduct to the Law Society and create rules to protect anyone who makes a report or complaint.”

The #MeToo scandal that was broken by the Russell McVeagh events helped galvanise the Law Society into action, but the delays have also evidenced just how much of a slow-moving machine true change might take in a conservative profession involving positions of power.

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