The New Zealand Law Society is committed to targeting and eliminating the culture of bullying and harassment which exists in some parts of the legal profession.
The New Zealand Law Society is committed to ensuring that all lawyers are treated with respect, courtesy and fairness and maintain the standards expected of the profession at all times, as stated in rule 10.1 Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008.
Bullying and harassment is likely to be a breach of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 and could result in a finding of misconduct or unsatisfactory conduct under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006.
The worst kinds of harassment — including serious sexual harassment — are likely to be misconduct.
A Lawyers Standards Committee cannot make a misconduct finding. It may decide to refer a serious complaint against a lawyer to the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal. Only the Tribunal can make a finding of misconduct.
Lawyers must report misconduct to the Law Society. Persons being harassed might also need to consider making a complaint to the police or to the Human Rights Commission.
Members of the profession can raise concerns about conduct in court by judges with the Law Society through an informal process that has been agreed with the Heads of Bench. For more information see the judicial protocol.
The process is not suitable for allegations of serious misconduct. It is for occasions when a practitioner does not want to invoke the formal complaints process available under the Judicial Conduct Commissioner and Judicial Conduct Panel Act 2004 but is concerned about a pattern of behaviour thought to be inappropriate.