All members of the legal profession need to take responsibility for fostering a professional culture where harassment of any kind is unacceptable, the President of the Otago branch of the New Zealand Law Society, John Farrow, says.
Writing in the latest issue of the branch’s newsletter Cur Adv Vult, Mr Farrow says the Otago Women Lawyers Society (OWLS) recently issued a statement condemning sexual harassment.
“OWLS wishes to promote the legal profession to women as a valued and worthwhile career choice and it aims to work with all members of the legal profession to ensure that an appropriate and respectful culture prevails in every workplace for lawyers,” he says.
“I believe those sentiments are shared by the vast majority of our profession, whether female or male. However, I believe that, as men, we do need to be more visible and outspoken on such issues in support of our female colleagues.”
Mr Farrow says harassment of any kind often involves a power imbalance and with that the risk of career damage.
“It can be extremely difficult for many practitioners to identify who they may confide in for support, advice and guidance in addressing and reporting behaviour of concern.
“This is an issue that impacts on us all and threatens the integrity of our profession. I think we all need to take responsibility for fostering a professional culture where harassment of any kind is unacceptable. This includes encouraging and incentivising the reporting of such behaviour.”