Top law firm Russell McVeagh has confirmed it will be commissioning an external review over the sexual harassment scandal which recently hit mainstream media.
According to a statement released today, Russell McVeagh’s board is in the process of finalising the appointment of a suitably qualified person, outside the legal community, to undertake the external review of both offices.
“Our intention is that the review will be led by a senior, independent and well regarded leader with recognised skills in culture, diversity, and inclusion,” read the statement.
“We need to understand if, how, and where we made errors so that we can apply those learnings in the future in our management practice and embed them in our culture,” it added.
The scope of the review will include all actions taken with respect to the specific incidents, current management practices and policies in relation to preventing sexual harassment and supporting those who wish to make complaints, and the organisational culture of the firm.
The reviewer will also make appropriate recommendations for change and will have full access to all material and staff. Current employees will be expected to participate in the review while former staff and summer clerks will also be invited to participate.
The move comes after “serious allegations” were made by two young women following a student law-clerk Christmas party in Wellington more than two years ago. A third incident took place in a bar and resulted in a police complaint.
The incidents involved two older male lawyers, both of whom no longer work for the company although one does continue to offer his expertise to the firm on occasion.
“The brave actions of the young women who spoke out resulted in the board and managing partners taking significant action to improve our workplace culture over the past two years and adopt a zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual harassment,” noted the statement.
“We believe the actions that we took immediately on becoming aware of these incidents were the right ones,” it continued. “Our ongoing approach to ensuring that no incidents of sexual harassment or bullying occur in our workplace is relentless and is supported by our partners and staff.”