With a number of major profession-wide initiatives underway to confront and tackle workplace cultural issues, individual legal workplaces have also been making changes. Between them, the 15 largest law firms in New Zealand (by lawyer numbers) are the workplaces of 27% of lawyers who work in firms with more than one lawyer. Each firm was contacted and asked if it could respond to the following question: “What changes has your firm made to its policies and procedures since February 2018 to address the workplace culture issues which have been identified in the legal profession?”
All 15 firms responded to our request. A word limit of 400 words was set, but we have not edited the responses where this was exceeded. Responses are published in order of receipt, with attribution to a spokesperson where indicated by the responding firm.
Ten of the firms belong to the Large Law Firms Group Ltd. The group has advised that members have been working together on the topic of safety and wellbeing, and has set up a group to facilitate discussion and share ideas, initiatives and policies to support each other in achieving the common objective of ensuring that the firms are places were all people feel safe and confident to perform at their fest, free from harassment (sexual or otherwise).
Our key focus, when reviewing the firm’s policies and procedures, has been to ensure our culture is supportive and allows multiple avenues to raise issues and give feedback. We’re comfortable that we have, and have had for many years, robust policies and procedures in place to support our people. Our ongoing reviews acknowledge the need to continually improve and respond to the concerns of our people.
We have engaged with our people on both new policies and revisions of existing policies, ensuring that we have a framework our people expect and as well as providing clarity for our people around procedures.
We have revised our ‘inappropriate behaviour and harassment policy (and complaint procedures)’, and surveyed all our people for their views on our flexible working practices. We have asked for feedback on our ‘host responsibility guidelines’ and our revised ‘relationships with co-workers and clients policy’. Our long-standing ‘code of conduct’ is also currently under review, as is our part-time working policy.
Our ‘peer support network’ has been revived, with 29 partners and people trained by an independent external consultant – a registered psychologist. This training included skills around active listening, understanding the support networks available to our people, and how to assist and support individuals. The revised policy provides an outline on the role of peer support and details the resources and channels available (including the New Zealand Law Society’s range of services).
In early 2018 we launched an employer brand exercise facilitated by our HR and BD Directors – speaking to 100+ of our people and nearly all partners. Peer groups were asked to provide anonymous feedback on a range of matters about their experience as an employee, and any potential changes we could make. The feedback revealed a passionate and dedicated team – highlighting a number of initiatives that focus on how we engage with and support our people. We plan to conduct an anonymous survey every 12 months to seek feedback on our progress.
Last year we introduced a partnership leadership programme run by an external organisation, compulsory for all Bell Gully partners. This includes 360° feedback and input from around the firm.
We have reviewed our policies, procedures, assumptions and expectations in light of specific developments in the market – the NZLS Workplace Environment survey and Dame Margaret Bazley’s report. The Managing Partner, HR Director and I facilitated a session at our partner conference to discuss the NZLS Workplace Environment survey, what we can learn from it and what our expectations are of each other as partners. The board and senior management have reviewed all recommendations made in the Bazley report – producing a gap analysis based on our policies and procedures which is being used to create future action plans.
We communicate regularly with our people on all issues through our People Updates (which I send) including the ongoing review of policies and procedures. We consistently receive positive and practical feedback on these updates. This, along with many of the internal initiatives we’ve put in place, assures us we are striving to provide a safe place to work where all our people can thrive.
Chair of the Board.
The workplace culture issues which have been identified in the legal profession since February 2018 have prompted much discussion between and among members of the board of management, partners and staff at Anderson Lloyd. Our CEO distributed the Bazley Report on its release date to all staff, who were asked to provide feedback to identify any areas for improvement in our firm.
The partners and management of Anderson Lloyd believe it’s critical to have clear and robust policies and procedures that align with our values, underpinning a culture that enables our people to speak up, be heard, and have action taken in response to issues raised.
Since February 2018 we have:
- Reviewed and refreshed our workplace policies and procedures, including making improvements to our pre-existing standalone workplace bullying and harassment policy and health and safety policies.
- Introduced new questions in our next engagement survey enabling anonymous feedback on ‘feeling safe at work’ and ‘seeing or experiencing unacceptable behaviours’. Our recent engagement survey provided constructive feedback, and outcomes were workshopped with all staff.
- Extended our independent support services for staff who may want to raise issues with an independent party.
- Commenced our second senior leadership programme, which supports the development of strong, value-based leaders in our firm.
- Signed the NZLS Gender Equality Charter and reviewed our diversity and inclusion programme and associated targets.
- Provided staff and partners with the opportunity to participate in further training on sexual harassment and bullying, cultural intelligence and unconscious bias.
Chief Executive Officer.
Tompkins Wake has continued on our journey to be an employer of choice and a great place to work.
One of Tompkins Wake’s goals is to be a nationally recognised employer of choice. We recognise that in order to not only achieve but to also sustain this, our culture and the policies and initiatives that support it will be an evolving and continually improving ecosystem, bound by a framework that ensures compliance but remains flexible enough to adapt and grow with our workforce.
The publicity toward the legal sector since February 2018 has only strengthened our resolve and accelerated the work we had underway.
Recent events and scrutiny of our profession have driven a review of our policies not just to ensure compliance, but to ensure that our people know that they have access to the right support and guidance bound by a framework that defines our culture and provides a safe environment for our people to be their best.
Our culture is something we guard and protect jealously, and our Zero Harm programme extends beyond health and safety to also encompass bullying and harassment and our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). EAP is an important element in supporting our staff through the challenges of everyday personal and professional life. We want to redefine what it means to be a leading law firm by providing our people great work while allowing them to also have exceptional lives away from the office
We believe that our people’s backgrounds, cultures, experiences and skills fuel fresh thinking, new ideas, unique perspectives and insights allowing us to continually develop new and better solutions. To further reinforce our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, Tompkins Wake has signed an initial five-year commitment with Rainbow Tick and are currently starting the journey with them to ensure we understand and follow best practice as an inclusive workplace.
We’ve had Board level discussion on the recommendations contained in the Bazley report and ensured that there is a high level of understanding and awareness that the Board plays an important role in firm culture and that cascades down to all partners and leaders in the firm.
As a firm we have a very clear structure and the role of the Chief Executive, Board and partners are well defined and understood but more importantly adhered to.
Chief Executive Officer.
Like other firms, Anthony Harper is concerned by the findings of Dame Margaret Bazley’s report. We are a firm that is growing fast, and our policies and procedures have had to keep pace with this dynamic environment. The report was a salutary reminder that workplace culture requires constant monitoring and review, and a transparent and well communicated set of procedures and processes.
Using Dame Margaret’s methodology we examined our culture.
Composition of the firm
We now have 30 partners and a total team of over 130.
A significant proportion of our senior team are women. Our firm reports on gender issues and pay equity and we are a signatory to the Law Society’s Gender Equality Charter. Gender equality is an ongoing issue and we’re working with our team to ensure transparency and accountability.
In 2012, we had no female partners. By 2018 we had nine. In this time frame, we increased the partnership by 18 and 56% of these appointments were women.
Anthony Harper recruits solely on merit. Our partners and HR team collaborate throughout the process to ensure a diverse pool of outstanding talent and that unconscious bias is managed effectively.
Our summer clerk intake is relatively small but we offer real experience, with direct access to partners who work with the clerks to ensure they are immersed in the business of law. The clerks are given budgets, real matters on case files and are accountable for the quality of their work. Our senior staff also give real-time feedback and encouragement.
There are a number of policies and practices in place to promote an inclusive, fair and cooperative culture.
We try hard to foster a healthy work/life balance. Where possible we include our staff’s family in activities taking place outside of work hours, such as our client/family days at Pop-up Globe in Auckland and Summer Theatre in Christchurch.
Employee Assistance Programme: We provide access to a confidential hotline which offers help and advice to counter stress, relationship issues, grief and trauma, whether work related or personal, and support is available for any critical incident.
Working hours: We try, where possible, to match individual’s needs to our team’s requirements. Currently, 19 team members work part-time, two work as part of a job share and a number of staff have flexible start and end times.
We do not “leave our jackets on our chairs, computers on” – instead our team leave when they have finished for the day. This is not only encouraged but expected.
Harassment and Bullying policy: We do not tolerate bullying or harassment. There is a policy in place that clearly describes what this constitutes, and also lists the complaints process and respective rights and responsibilities.
We are proud of our culture. We support it by a number of modern practices, as outlined above. We never stop listening to our team, seeking regular feedback and opinions through initiatives like “Let’s do Lunch” and “Have a Chat”.
As a direct result of the circumstances giving rise to Dame Margaret’s report we sent an email to all staff, reminding them of the above policies and of the processes and facilities available to any staff who have concerns. We remain open to suggestions from staff and from our industry as we strive to continue to provide a safe and healthy working environment.
Chapman Tripp is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace and fostering a culture of wellbeing where everyone can have their say.
Over the last six months we have added new initiatives to our wellbeing strategy and shared details across the firm. Our wellbeing strategy outlines the steps we will take over the next two years to grow wellbeing at Chapman Tripp and help all our people thrive. Following the release of the Bazley report we are finding ways to talk with everyone to identify further improvements we can make.
We have refreshed and updated our anti-bullying and harassment policy and shared this across the firm. We have drafted a relationships at work policy and are seeking feedback on this currently. We are also drafting new alcohol and whistleblower policies as well as a Code of Conduct.
We are also reviewing our processes for dealing with any bullying and harassment complaints or concerns, and have trained 21 support people across all roles and levels who are a point of contact for anyone who wants to talk about any concerning behaviour including bullying and harassment.
We have reminded everyone of the other internal and external support channels available to them for any concerns they may have.
Everyone is very clear about our expectations and that there are consequences of not maintaining the standards we set.
We have been running workplace psychological health training for all our people leaders since March, giving them the skills to identify issues and help promote psychological wellbeing at work.
Our people have also had the opportunity to hear from workplace behaviour and mental health experts to learn how we can work together to ensure we have a culture that does not tolerate bullying and harassment in any form. Further preventing bullying and harassment workshops are now being run in all offices.
We have conducted alcohol awareness training across the firm, and last year introduced a no-alcohol policy in working areas.
We are running unconscious bias training to help people become aware of any biases they have and learn to be more accepting of others.
We will hold Wellbeing focus groups soon so everyone has a chance to tell us what else we can do to encourage holistic wellbeing at work.
We believe these new initiatives will make a real difference to creating an inclusive firm where everyone can thrive both inside and outside of work.
Chief Executive Partner.
The industry issues brought into the spotlight this year served as a reminder for us to continue challenging our assumptions around internal culture and attention to staff welfare.
Even best practice policies can fall flat without a solid cultural foundation, so our focus on staff welfare emphasises the need to have an inclusive and positive culture that reflects our values.
Since February 2018, we completed a review of our existing anti-bullying and harassment policies and procedures – examining them in line with best practice and current guidance on diversity, inclusion and employee wellness.
That review asked a cross-section of people across the firm if our bullying and harassment definitions and reporting procedures met their expectations. It also involved input from an external expert.
Following the review, we updated our bullying and harassment prevention policy and guide, and arranged for formal training to be carried out as a refresher for our harassment support team and with all of our partners.
We also strengthened our whistleblower service by providing an additional, third party, option for our people to confidentially raise concerns.
Based on the feedback from the review process, I feel positive that our people have a legitimate voice, and that they enjoy and are comfortable working here.
Since conducting this review we have also increased our communications to staff around these issues and raised the profile of our policies and support services.
Our long-standing policies make it absolutely clear that bullying and harassment isn’t condoned in any form and that complaints will be handled appropriately, fairly and promptly.
Continued dialogue with our people on these issues is important to keep day-to-day activity in step with our values and culture. It helps to ensure our policies are effective and supports ongoing efforts to maintain a safe and enjoyable environment for all our people.
The industry issues show that every firm needs to embrace open communication and have a genuine willingness to listen, and respond to valid concerns with positive change. We are committed to continue doing that.
Simpson Grierson Chair.
Duncan Cotterill has made a number of changes to its policies and procedures since February 2018. In this regard it has been beneficial to be part of the Large Law Firm working group on safety and wellbeing. This has been helpful in shaping and updating our policies including those dealing with bullying and harassment, alcohol and drug and relationship policies.
The firm is also widening channels for the reporting of bullying and harassment including the introducing of an employee representative committee. Duncan Cotterill recognises the obstacles to reporting by victims and is taking steps to provide safe options for reporting. We have greater and regular open staff communications and updates on what we are doing in this space, including the managing of any of our own issues and the importance of creating a safe environment.
We have improved our induction programmes for all new staff including summer clerks. We have greater awareness and training at a partner and board level and bullying and harassment is now reported separately from other health and safety issues such as accidents. There is a greater awareness around responsibility when hosting staff and clients.
The report of Dame Margaret Bazley has provided a checklist of other recommendations that our board and human resources are working through to determine what else can be done to ensure that Duncan Cotterill provides workplaces where all of our people feel safe and confident to perform at their best, free from harassment, sexual or otherwise.
The NZLS Workplace Environment Survey published earlier in the year, and the more recent Dame Margaret Bazley Report, help shine a light on behaviours, processes, attitudes and policies in the legal industry that need to be addressed and are simply unacceptable in any workplace.
While large sections of the Bazley report are specific to Russell McVeagh, our partnership has reviewed the recommendations and considered the learnings for all law firms in New Zealand, and in particular for Lane Neave.
Lane Neave’s Managing Partner and Chairman used the release of the Bazley Report as an opportunity to reinforce the firm’s zero tolerance for bullying, harassment and discrimination. This message was distributed to all staff, and the firm’s Managing Partner and Chairman have committed to discuss this further at regular team and location meetings.
As part of our rolling review of policies, all of the key people policies have been reviewed in the first half of this year and our bullying, harassment and discrimination policy now includes a process diagram for handling complaints, as recommended by the Law Society. This provides staff with a clear understanding of the measures we have in place to prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination; and how they can access help if required.
People are the heart of successful organisations, and that is particularly true of law firms. Lane Neave is, therefore, as committed as ever to being a people-centred firm and continually seeking to improve in this respect. We will always work hard to identify areas that we can focus on to enhance our firm’s culture and the wellbeing of our staff.
We believe that all law firms, along with the Law Society, now have an opportunity to work together to create lasting and positive change in our firms today and for future generations of lawyers and everyone who works in the sector.
It is our hope the increased public awareness and current attention on the legal sector results in a better understanding of just how damaging bullying, harassment and discrimination are.
We also believe it is important not to lose sight of the support that needs to be given to the employees in the legal sector, and in New Zealand workplaces in general, who have experienced bullying, harassment and discrimination in the course of their employment.
Kensington Swan is committed to having a positive working environment, free from harassment and bullying. Our focus has been on engaging with our staff and partners on these issues. That has created the opportunity for empowering conversations both with and amongst staff.
Our Board and CEO have made it clear to the business and in the media that we have no tolerance for bullying or harassment of any kind.
With other large law firms, we have engaged with the Deans of New Zealand’s law schools to ensure the safety of summer clerks and graduates as they move into the profession.
We are reviewing our policies around anti-harassment, anti-bullying, and alcohol. We are also engaging with staff and partners to ensure we all are clear about our shared values in this regard, with a view to seeing that formally reflected in any revision to our policies or practices. This engagement is being facilitated by professionals from the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network.
We have engaged the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network to provide harassment prevention and response training for all staff, starting with our partners. All partners and senior management, together with approximately 80% of staff, have taken part in these sessions.
We have added to our existing anti-harassment contacts in our offices, and provided them and our People team with additional training to ensure they are ready to provide the necessary support should that be required.
We are actively participating in the public conversation to build a better and safer legal profession. To date in this regard we have done the following:
- Hosted an event facilitated by Linda Clark and featuring a panel including Jan Logie MP, Fiona McNamara (SAPN), Superintendent Karyn Malthus, and Wellington councillor Fleur Fitzsimons.
- The CEO and a number of partners and staff have endorsed the #metoo pledge launched by Zoë Lawton.
- Partner Hayden Wilson has participated in an interview covering these issues with Noelle McCarthy and Zoë Lawton on RNZ and The Spinoff.
We and the profession have more to do. We look forward to further engagement within the business and with clients and the broader profession.
We are a people-centric business and we value our people and their careers. Our people and culture are an important point of difference and under our strategic framework (adopted in 2017), culture is the first of our five strategic priorities.
In 2017 we commissioned an external survey to better understand what else we could do to enhance our culture and to be more diverse and inclusive. The survey was conducted by an external party, where 60 of our staff (nationally) were interviewed. The results were very positive and we are satisfied that we provide a work environment where our people feel safe, included and respected. The most common terms used to describe Buddle Findlay were friendly, caring and supportive both within a working environment and socially.
Diversity and inclusion are part of our culture. We are committed to ensuring that everyone at Buddle Findlay is treated fairly, equitably and with respect. We do not discriminate nor tolerate discrimination on the basis of gender identity, ethnicity, colour, race, marital status, sexual orientation, age, family status, employment status, faith or political opinion. D&I is a standing Board item at Board meetings.
We have a number of robust HR policies and procedures which emphasise the importance of having a transparent, caring work environment that encourages staff to talk about harassment or bullying without fear.
In light of the workplace culture issues identified in the legal profession, we:
- updated our HR policies to ensure they adequately support our people and reflect the type of business we want to be;
- asked one of our employment partners to undertake a specific review of the policies and procedures and report back to the Board;
- identified some new HR policies that are being considered for implementation, eg, Code of Conduct;
- reminded our staff about how they could find the policies;
- updated certain policies such as designated support person and the people our staff can contact both internally or externally if they need to;
- set up external help lines for staff to use if they are concerned about anything;
- held a series of national fora for staff to comment specifically on safety and wellbeing at the firm and things we could do to enhance safety and wellbeing (we are currently implementing ideas raised in those fora);
- set up regular meetings with representatives from other large law firms to share information in relation to HR policies and initiatives;
- met with the New Zealand law deans and major law firm representatives to discuss what law firms are doing in response to workplace culture issues.
Set out below are the activities we at DLA Piper New Zealand have undertaken since February 2018 following the Russell McVeagh issues becoming public.
In addition to our existing global policies and initiatives to keep people safe and to provide an environment where people are accepted, included and can progress, the following activities have been undertaken in New Zealand in the six months since February 2018:
- Diversity and Inclusion Committee launched four groups: Flexible Working (Flex), Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen-X (BMX), Heritage and Identity Project (HIP) and IRIS. IRIS is DLA Piper’s global resource group for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees and allies. Each committee comprises partners and staff across the firm. Our staff actively participate in our committees. Plans and activities underway including Te Reo lessons, staff presentation ‘The Why, What, and How of LGBTI Workplace Inclusion’ facilitated by Pride In Diversity, a cross generations panel discussion, ‘Around the World Morning Tea & Competition’, and an Intercultural Calendar of events. We have also engaged with Ngā Rangahautira/Māori Law Students Association to better understand the aspirations of Māori students and to set up a mentoring programme. We support Wear It Purple Day and IDAHOT (International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia). We completed an internal D&I survey to better understand our staff views on the D&I initiatives, we had a good participation rate firm wide, 40% of our partners participated, 60% of our lawyers and 45% of the Business Services staff.
- Mitra Janes, global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, visited New Zealand in March and presented compulsory training sessions to all staff on unconscious bias.
- LAW (Leadership Alliance for Women) has arranged self defence classes for male and female staff in both offices.
- Attendance at Pride Parade with client, Auckland Council.
Health & Wellbeing
- Staff fortnightly Friday evening drinks (run from 5-7pm) must have a partner in attendance (partners are rostered to attend and do not partake in alcohol).
- Compulsory bullying, sexual harassment eLearning rolled out to all staff and included in all induction training.
- Reminders to staff on the availability of our EAP services.
Risk & Compliance
- Attendance at the Dean of the Law School meetings with the large firms to discuss policies and approaches to keep graduates safe within our environments.
- Attendance at the Large Law Firms’ forums to ensure we are providing a safe environment.
- Margaret Bazley Review. DLA Piper New Zealand reviewed the recommendations made in the ‘Independent Review of Russell McVeagh’, and is currently preparing:
- An independent audit by DLA Piper Asia Pacific risk team on the adequacy of existing policies, standards and systems and to identify gaps; and to address these through the development or revision of new policies, standards and systems.
- L&D programme for partners and senior lawyers to be expanded to include a far greater emphasis on management skills.
- Annual compulsory ethics training for all staff.
Unconscious bias training as part of induction for partners and staff at all levels.
Global Partner Conference, Paris 7 – 9 June 2018
New Zealand partners attended the global partners conference. Sessions included
- Mental health panel discussion led by affected partners.
- Diversity and inclusion global initiatives.
We have presented, at their request, on our policies and initiatives to the general counsel of clients, including Auckland Council, Fonterra Co-Operative Group Ltd, Wellington City Council and Westpac.
DLA Piper New Zealand has taken legal advice from Paul Collins, barrister, Shortland Chambers, on our legal obligations to report to NZLS any serious misconduct.
Gender Pay Gap
The HR team completed a gender pay gap analysis in July 2018. In alignment with Statistics New Zealand, we consider that median hourly earnings is the best measure for calculating the gender pay gap. Our firm wide gender pay gap is 10.7%. For legal staff only (excluding partners), the gender pay gap is 8%, while for business services it is 17.3%. On the “like-for-like” basis, gender pay varies from 3% to 10%. Differences are being currently analysed by our HR Team.
Managing Partner, New Zealand.
The recent attention on harassment and bullying in the legal profession is deeply concerning, and it is an issue that we at MinterEllisonRuddWatts have, and continue to, work hard to prevent.
Building a safe, diverse and inclusive workplace culture has been a priority for MinterEllisonRuddWatts for well over a decade. However, since February we have actively reviewed and strengthened our commitment, including a unanimous resolution from our partnership reconfirming our no tolerance for harassment stance.
We believe that while having the right policies and training in place is necessary, it’s not enough. The real measure of a workplace is its culture and how people behave.
Our work to create a people first culture underpins our vision of being New Zealand’s best law firm. We believe this vision requires us to:
- value and empower diversity; and
- collaborate effectively to realise its potential.
These principles have helped us achieve commercial success for our clients, while creating a workplace where our people can thrive and give their best with confidence. This has provided assurance in responding to the challenges currently facing the profession.
Fortifying our culture, we have long had key policies in place, for example an Empowerment, Diversity and Inclusion strategy, an anti-harassment and anti-bullying policy, alcohol and drugs policy, firm events policy, health and safety policy and a flexible working policy. We also have a code of conduct to guide our people and confirm our expectations of behaviour within our firm. They have all been recently reviewed and refreshed.
We also have programmes and initiatives to support our culture and our firm’s values including:
- an Empowerment, Diversity and Inclusion group comprising representatives from all teams within our firm.
- an annual wellbeing programme providing seminars, training and support on topics like mindfulness, stress management, nutrition, resilience, exercise, mental well-being, etc.
- our AnchorME Programme which trains staff and partners as ‘anchors’ to provide assistance to staff facing challenges at work or home, acting as a conduit between our people and the various avenues for help available within the firm or externally.
- unconscious bias and leadership training for all of our senior leaders and managers.
- anonymous staff engagement surveys with anonymised results shared with staff before addressing any themes or issues raised.
- compulsory training delivered via Safetrac (eg, anti-harassment and anti-bullying courses) which all of our people must complete when they join the firm and regular refreshers.
- effective management and delegation training for partners and lawyers.
- proactive campaigns throughout the year targeting specific issues or causes. For example, we recently delivered a ‘Shout Out/Speak Out Campaign’ to remind everyone how important it is to both recognise the positive contributions made by people and feel empowered to speak out if unacceptable behaviour is experienced or witnessed.
- our Employee Assistance Programme makes confidential counselling available to staff for free, should they require support for work or non-work related issues.
- But like all businesses, we acknowledge that we are on a journey and no-one is perfect. We have taken the recent scrutiny of our profession as an opportunity to continue the conversation with our people and further strengthen our culture. This is a journey we will continue.
Wynn Williams has always been highly focused on having a safe workplace for all its staff and protecting them against any behaviour that is not consistent with the firm’s values. It has had formal policies in place for many years.
In 2016 and 2017, in addition to formal policies, the partners undertook a strategic review focused on ensuring that the partnership continued to maintain the highest standards culturally. As part of that the review partners adopted a Partners Charter called “The Wynn Williams Way”. The Charter contains 12 basic premises that are seen as fundamental to being a Wynn Williams partner and there are consequences for not adhering to these standards. One of the commitments is that a “Wynn Williams Partner: Listens with an open mind, respects diversity, and treats all partners, staff and clients with respect and courtesy whether or not they are present”. There is also a commitment to act honestly, ethically and in a professional manner in all dealings with partners, staff, and clients.
Since February 2018 the firm has again undertaken a further review of its policies to ensure they are fit for purpose. This review ensured that any inappropriate conduct or harassment of any kind within the firm is not to be tolerated, and that there are multiple avenues to deal with any issues that do arise. Further, the review also confirms the approach adopted by the firm as to how it deals with any inappropriate client conduct to ensure that all employees feel safe and comfortable carrying out their work with persons external to the firm.
National Managing Partner.
The Board and partners have already commenced implementing the recommendations from Dame Margaret’s Review. Some of the things that we have already started work on include:
- A review of our governance structure and management practices.
- An intensive coaching and leadership programme has commenced with partners led by an independent expert who has a mandate to drive behavioural change.
- We are committed to updating a number of policies including the use of alcohol, sexual harassment and bullying policies, in line with best practice across both the corporate and public sectors. These policies will be developed in collaboration with our people, and will contribute to our work to develop a code of conduct for all employees and partners.
- Reviewing our organisational vision and values to ensure a safe and collaborative culture that is sustained in the long term.
- We will also be adopting a clear policy with respect to the actions that must be taken regarding references and continued association in the situation where a practising lawyer is the subject of a complaint and departs the firm.
- A People and Transformation Committee has been established and a joint female chair has been appointed to the Succession and Admissions Committee.
The Board and partners fully accept Dame Margaret’s findings and are committed to implementing all of her recommendations in consultation with our people. In the coming months, we will be asking staff to work with us to re-establish a great culture at Russell McVeagh and it is crucial they are part of this process. At the same time, every single one of our people practices will be reviewed over the coming months, to make sure they form the foundations of an environment in which our people feel supported to do their best work and succeed. For example, we are determined to challenge every part of our management practice to ensure our people feel comfortable and skilled to call out and constructively challenge unacceptable behaviour.
We have brought in some outside expertise to help, including HR support and specialist cultural transformation support – Dame Margaret recommended in her Review that we bring in the right expertise to assist the cultural change.
Over the next six months, we have identified three key phases for implementing the cultural change recommendations, some of the recommendations can be put in place very quickly, but others will take longer.
We have committed to having our progress independently reviewed as recommended by Dame Margaret. In addition to this, the board will provide a public update on our transformational change programme in the first quarter of 2019.
The existing policies and procedures Meredith Connell had in place covered the types of workplace culture issues that have been the subject of public discussion. While it is pleasing our policies and procedures were appropriately in place, the far more important aspect for Meredith Connell is how those policies and procedures are reflected in the firm’s culture. Culture eats policy for breakfast – and we are really proud of the positive, collegial, collaborative, and non-hierarchical workplace culture we have in our organisation. That said, there is always opportunities for improvement and obviously we will continue to work hard to identify where we can do better.