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Law Society takes action against harassment and bullying

29 March 2018

The New Zealand Law Society has launched a number of initiatives and is working on others to tackle harassment and bullying in the legal profession.

Recent announcements have been made on the launch of a workplace harassment support phone line, an online facility for confidential reports and a national survey of workplace environments.

The Law Society earlier announced a working group chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright to look at the processes for reporting and taking action on harassment and inappropriate behaviour in legal workplaces.

A webinar on preventing and dealing with harassment and bullying will be available to all lawyers on Wednesday, 4 April.

Law Care 0800 0800 28 and online reporting

The 0800 0800 28 Law Care phone line went live on Tuesday, 3 April and is staffed by five specially trained people.

This is being launched simultaneously with an online facility for lawyers to submit confidential reports of harassment and other unacceptable behaviour to the Law Society, building on an existing obligation to report such matters.

Callers to the phone line will be able to discuss sensitive matters such as workplace harassment and the options and support they can access, and on how to lodge a report.

Operators will be able to guide callers toward registered counsellors or clinical psychologists, and members of the Law Society’s National Friends Panel.

The Law Care line will initially operate from Monday to Thursday between 9am and 7:30pm and on Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Regulatory working group

The five-member regulator working group chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright is being set up to look at the processes for reporting and taking action on harassment and inappropriate behaviour in legal workplaces.

The composition of the group is being finalised, but it will include two lawyers selected from a large number who responded to a call for expressions of interest.

National survey on workplace environments

In addition, the Law Society’s national survey of New Zealand lawyers will assess workplace environments in the profession.

As well as seeking information on harassment and bullying, the Workplace Environment Survey will also include questions on stress and wellbeing. Survey responses will be confidential.

Research firm Colmar Brunton has been commissioned to carry out the survey, which will be sent to over 13,000 New Zealand-based practising lawyers on 6 April. 

“The survey will help the New Zealand Law Society measure lawyers’ perceptions and experiences of the legal workplace environment, including sexual and other harassment,” says Law Society General Manager Representative Glenda Macdonald.

Webinar on 4 April

Meanwhile, all lawyers are being encouraged to view a free, live webinar on preventing and dealing with harassment and bullying in the workplace.

The New Zealand Law Society CLE-hosted webinar will take place from 11am to 12.30pm on Wednesday, 4 April. Registration is free but must be done before 3pm the previous day.

The webinar will look at harassment and bullying, and workplace obligations. It will identify and discuss environmental red flags – the work hard/play hard mentality, power imbalances, and what should ring alarm bells.

The speakers are three experienced employment lawyers - Steph Dyhrberg of Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law, Susan Hornsby-Geluk of Dundas Street Employment Lawyers, and Hamish Kynaston of Buddle Findlay.

They will discuss the steps you can take, and tools that can be used to address these issues and minimise risk. They will provide guidance for dealing with complaints, the investigation process, and the difficulties and sensitivities of dealing with sexual harassment claims, together with the importance of not being a bystander.

Email CLE to register

View PDF brochure and registration form here.

The webinar can be viewed an unlimited number of times at no cost, and can also be seen by anyone who has registered before the deadline but is unable to view it on the day.

Meetings with key interest groups

The Law Society is organising and facilitating meetings of key interest groups to look more generally at harassment in the legal profession and ways in which this can be addressed. This will be followed by establishment of a national committee to work on the issue.

Provision of more information and resources

Work is also well advanced on provision of information and practical guidance. The Law Society website will be updated with a range of materials on 5 April, which will include draft policies. The April issue of LawTalk included a number of articles on sexual harassment in the profession, including It's not that bad, except that it isOther alternatives for reporting sexual assault, It's time to say 'Time's up', Should our Code of Conduct specifically address discrimination in the workplace?, and What tools does the Law Society currently have for reporting unacceptable conduct?.

Last updated on the 3rd April 2018