Lawyers and their clients are being urged to adopt a policy which requires them to commit to increasing the proportion of women lawyers leading court proceedings and other contentious matters.
The Gender Equitable Engagement and Instruction Policy has been launched in Auckland and Wellington at the offices of law firm Russell McVeagh.
A number of leading corporate clients and law firms have already committed to the policy, which is being jointly promoted and managed by the New Zealand Law Society and New Zealand Bar Association.
A key objective is that by 1 December 2018 policy adopters will use reasonable endeavours to have women lawyers with relevant expertise take a lead on at least 30% of court proceedings, arbitral proceedings, and major regulatory investigations.
“It is time to put a stake in the ground. It is immensely encouraging that some of the major players in the provision of legal services and some leading corporate organisations are early adopters of the policy,” Law Society President Kathryn Beck says.
“Women practising as barristers are often at a disadvantage in obtaining work because of attitudinal mindsets among law firms and clients. This policy is aimed at driving cultural change and giving greater opportunities to women,” New Zealand Bar Association President-Elect Kate Davenport QC says.
Corporate clients, law firms, barristers, and other organisations, and others involved in the legal services industry will be able to adopt the policy by notifying the Law Society. Policy adopters will be required to provide a biennial confidential report to the Law Society of results and the measures taken to achieve the target.
Sarah Keene, Polly Pope and Sarah Armstrong
sign the Policy for Russell McVeagh.
Russell McVeagh partners Sarah Keene, Polly Pope and Sarah Armstrong have been involved in the policy’s development and believe it is an important step for the legal profession.
“We are very proud to support and adopt this powerful initiative which will be instrumental in driving positive, enduring change,” says Ms Keene.
The Law Society and Bar Association will actively promote the policy and the benefits of its adoption to New Zealand’s lawyers. Both have the policy and supporting information on their websites.