The Law Society of NSW has launched a new online portal to arm legal professionals with tools and resources to help fight sexual harassment at work.
The portal will be housed on a publicly accessible website, branded the Sexual Harassment in the Law portal, and is expected to be a key tool for victims and bystanders who are experiencing, reporting or otherwise responding to sexual harassment in legal workplaces.
It will provide links to training programs for lawyers and firms on identifying and responding to harassment, guidance on how to report it via the NSW Legal Services Commissioner, links to mental health support, and resources that shed light on sexual harassment and initiatives aimed at addressing it.
“I feel strongly about keeping the spotlight on this issue and continuing to find ways to create more open workplaces, backed by the appropriate policies, reporting processes and support, and ultimately empower victims to speak out without fear of negative repercussions,” said President of the Law Society of NSW Juliana Warner on Monday 12 July, the day of the portal’s launch.
“Everyone has the right to feel safe and supported in their workplace.”
The portal is the most recent development in a series of projects the Law Society of NSW has launched to try to eradicate sexual harassment in the legal profession. The NSW-based membership body, which represents the largest legal professional association in Australia, has in recent years authored thought-leading reports, published podcasts and hosted events designed to shine a spotlight on the issue and encourage lawyers to be part of the solution.
Much of the Law Society’s recent work has been propelled by a report the International Bar Association published in 2019, based on a survey of almost 7,000 lawyers in 135 countries. The report found as many as one in two female lawyers and one in three male lawyers had been bullied at work. One third of female respondents to the survey said they had experienced sexual harassment at work, while one in 14 men had.
President Juliana Warner has been a longstanding advocate for eliminating bullying and harassment. She was Sydney managing partner of top-tier firm Herbert Smith Freehills between 2012-2020, during which time she helped to establish the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee in 2017 and was instrumental in developing the profession’s Charter for the Advancement of Women. Under her Presidency this year, the Committee added a new provision to the Charter to prompt signatories to establish procedurally fair and transparent sexual harassment complaints processes.
“As an association that represents 43% of Australia’s solicitors, we have a responsibility to be part of the solution and ensure that victims can speak out against unacceptable behaviour in the knowledge that it will have severe consequences for the perpetrator, and not them,” said President Warner.