‘Zero Tolerance’ and Russell McVeagh’s ‘Hip Cool’ Former Partner . . The Publicity No Firm Wants

sexual harassment in law office

sexual harassment in law office

The ongoing Law Society tribunal hearing into Russell McVeagh’s former partner facing seven charges before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal in Wellington is just the sort of publicity no law firm needs.

But it also demonstrates the ‘work hard/play hard’ culture that pervades high performing law firms and lawyers – an issue that Russell McVeagh and many other near-miss firms have had to grapple with.

‘Zero tolerance’ and other policies are the weasel words we hear with great frequency from law firms on matters of this nature, but quite how to deal with the culture issue when the pressure is on for partners is a reality that can confound the best intentions in the world when it comes to avoiding harassment, bullying and similar anti-social behavior

The real question – and challenge – will doubtless focus upon the measures and procedures taken by the firm to avoid the issues that arose in the first place.

The incidents occurred in 2015/2016 and have taken that long to traverse their way through the Law Society before coming to the current, highly publicised head.

Russell McVeagh admitted to their ‘serious mistakes’ in the way the incidents were handled right back then, saying they “sincerely regret that these mistakes occurred and they point to a failure in some important aspects of our governance, leadership and management practices, and in our culture. These failings have undermined our commitment to a zero tolerance of sexual harassment and bullying. This does not reflect who we thought we were or who we want to be. We will not shy away from the issues raised in Dame Margaret’s Review.”

Meanwhile, the salivating details of drinks, spas and sloppy kisses continue to excite the attention of the media. It’s just that no-one should forget that Russell McVeagh is not alone in facing the music on this one.

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