A group of women who are lawyers (from the New Zealand Women's Law Journal — Te Aho Kawe Kaupapa Ture a ngā Wāhine, and the Auckland, Wellington and Otago Women Lawyers' Associations) have kicked off a project to engage all people connected to the legal profession about workplace expectations, sexual harassment, bullying and gender equality.
Many of the issues in the profession have already been discussed or addressed by other initiatives, with possible solutions being formulated at the firm or Law Society level. This is important work, but everyone involved with the legal profession has important ideas for how the profession can change. Lawyers, non-legal support staff, law students, academics and non-practicing lawyers are all encouraged to have their say about possible solutions to the difficult and longstanding issues in the legal profession. A report will be produced collecting everyone’s ideas, which will then be passed on to the New Zealand Law Society, Minister of Justice, law firms, law faculties and other interested and related organisations and parties.
There has been good documentation of the problem through other fora, so the focus of this project is on capturing as many creative options for change as possible. The report is aimed at being a useful resource for these organisations when thinking about how to tackle the difficult and longstanding problems in the profession.
This project is not affiliated with any particular organisation or sector of the profession. The idea is to encourage free and critical engagement with the issues. The organisers are pleased to see various initiatives being undertaken by firms, however, are conscious that staff in firms cannot necessarily contribute with as free and radical ideas as they might like when the process is bound up in their employment and advancement. This is why it is vital to have a process that stands outside the traditional self-regulatory structure of the Law Society and firms.
The success of the project will be measured by the extent of participation, and the response from stakeholders once it is published. In particular, we will be keeping an eye out for uptake of the ideas.
Views will be gathered through workshops around the country and through the website where people can leave named or anonymous comments on threads covering different topics. Comments can also be sent privately to the coordinators by email. More information is available at the website www.genderlawreport.co.nz and the organisers can be contacted on email@example.com.
Ana Lenard is one of the Editors-in-Chief of the New Zealand Women's Law Journal — Te Aho Kawe Kaupapa Ture a ngā Wāhine.