The New Zealand Law Society is confident that New Zealand's lawyers are embracing the workplace culture challenges and will continue to work towards healthy, safe, respectful and inclusive legal workplaces, Law Society President Kathryn Beck says.
In her introduction to the New Zealand Law Society Annual Report for 2017/18, Ms Beck says the legal profession is currently engaged in an unprecedented examination of the workplace environment and organisational structures from which legal services are delivered.
She says a number of initiatives are underway to provide resources, practical guidance and support to enable the profession to confront and to change the culture of bullying and harassment in some legal workplaces.
"As regulator of the practice of law, the Law Society's role as a change agent and facilitator has been questioned. It is very clear that regulation needs to play its part in addressing cultural issues in the profession, including sexual harassment and bullying," Ms Beck says.
"This will not only benefit lawyers and employees who work in the profession, but also the clients they serve and the reputation of the profession as a whole. The Law Society's April 2018 Workplace Environment Survey confirmed what had been widely reported - harassment, bullying and other unacceptable conduct is a problem in the legal profession."
Ms Beck says as regulator of the legal services, "we put our hands up as having failed to create a climate where people felt able to come to us with confidence that we would address such conduct in a way that would make a difference and provide them with the level of support they should expect."
She says the Law Society is now adapting its processes to ensure they do not cause further harm to any victim who comes forward and seeks assistance, through the mediums of complaint or support.
"We are also conscious that while the practice of law is deeply rewarding, it can also take its toll on people and so we are looking at ways we can better support the profession through our branches and our Practising Well initiative."