“It was like a frat house” – she said of one law firm
Queenstown mayoral candidate Olivia Wensley is one of the new entrants on LawFuel’s soon-to-be-published Power List of New Zealand’s 50 most powerful lawyers.
The former #Metoo activist and lawyer is presently standing for the Queenstown mayoralty and has also been a vocal critic of the Law Society’s handling of the Russell McVeagh scandal involving the sexual assault of interns during the 2015/2017 period and reported extensively in LawFuel.
Her LinkedIn post from February 2018, ‘We Need to Talk About Law’s Dirty Little Secret’, was republished on Stuff and went viral, capturing international attention and disclosed sexual harassment that Wensley had experienced in law firms and where she also reported on stories of rape, assault and harassment in the legal profession.
“At one firm I worked at, they ranked all the women by attractiveness and they\’d refer to them by numbers. So they’d say: ‘Oh, number 3’,” she said in one report.
“It was like a frat house.”
Wensley gave a number of recommendations to help stop this kind of behaviour – and particularly about making sure such behaviour was brought to light.
Among the recommendations was a call for the creation of an independent committee to formally investigate this issue and ways to fix it, an anonymous tip-off service and the compulsory notification of any settlement where sexual allegations have been made.
“Probably 95% of lawyers are great. But then there are some really awful people who get these power kicks out of saying these things,” she told the Otago Daily Times.
She also met with then Justice Minister Andrew Little during 2018 to discuss workplace harassment in the legal profession and related matters, never hesitating to forcefully advocate for change and dealing with those who perpetuate harassment in the legal workplace.
The Law Society subsequently undertook its own review of workplace harassment issues.
A graduate of the University of Canterbury and the University of Waikato, she has previously worked as a lawyer in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.
In 2019 she was also a nominee for New Zealander of the Year.