New Zealand Law Society - Concern over Workplace Environment Survey results for Pacific lawyers

Concern over Workplace Environment Survey results for Pacific lawyers

The New Zealand Law Society Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa shares the Pacific Lawyers Association’s concern over results released in this year’s Workplace Environment Survey (WPES) which show Pacific lawyers, particularly Pacific women, are experiencing bullying, harassment and discrimination at higher rates than the legal profession overall.

The Law Society commissioned additional reporting from data insights company Verian (formerly Kantar Public) to gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced by Pacific lawyers.

Law Society President Frazer Barton says “The Law Society shared this data with the Pacific Lawyers Association, and I look forward to partnering with them to make sure the issues are properly addressed.”

“These figures are concerning, disappointing, and obviously unacceptable. It’s an area that the whole legal profession needs to work on.”

“It is critically important that the profession provides a safe and inclusive environment where everyone belongs. The diversity of the profession needs to reflect the community it is serving,” he added.

While most of the 2023 statistics for lawyers and legal staff are traveling in the right direction, the position of Pacific lawyers has not significantly improved since the previous survey undertaken in 2018. The 2023 data is based on the responses of the 68 Pacific lawyers who took part in the survey.

President of the Pacific Lawyers Association Arti Chand says “The Pacific Lawyers Association considers that the specific findings from the 2023 Legal Workplace Environment Survey for Pacific

lawyers should be a real concern not just for the PLA, but for the wider legal profession.” She added, “we should acknowledge the progress that has been made by the legal profession since 2018, but it is important to keep the spotlight on the negative experiences of specific groups in our legal profession - who not only continue to experience unacceptable behaviour but, in some instances, are enduring more of it.”

Summary of findings relating to Pacific lawyers

Compared to all lawyers in 2023 Pacific lawyers hold less favourable perceptions of their workplace than average. 45% of Pacific lawyers agreed that major changes were needed to their workplace culture against 24% of all lawyers.

The questions on employment discrimination were new in the 2023 survey. The Law Society wanted to understand the extent of workplace discrimination following the specific prohibition on discrimination that was added to the Conduct and Client Care Rules (RCCC) in 2021 as part of changes to tackle harassment, bullying and discrimination.

  • 29% of Pacific lawyers have experienced employment discrimination in the last five years, significantly higher than among all lawyers at 11%. This disparity stems largely from women.
  • Pacific lawyers who have faced employment discrimination are most likely to attribute it to ethnicity (59%), social background (37%), and appearance (29%).
  • 53% of Pacific lawyers who experienced employment discrimination felt it led to a loss in confidence. 50% felt they experienced anxiety as a result, and 47% say it led to them resigning from their job.

The full summary of findings for Pacific lawyers is available here.