- Sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace are grossly under-reported in the legal profession.
- Anyone can make a complaint or an informal report to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner whether as a victim or a bystander/witness.
- The efforts of everyone involved the legal profession will need to be harnessed to bring about the cultural change required.
Momentum has been building since the rise of the #MeToo movement in the US film industry on the subject of sexual harassment in the workplace. The legal industry is clearly not immune from this affliction. In 2018, news broke in New Zealand about allegations of sexual harassment in one of its most prestigious law firms, Russell McVeagh. Even before this, in Australia, the Law Council’s National Attrition and Re-engagement Study (‘NARS’) Report highlighted the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. Just over a year ago, the International Bar Association published its report, Us too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession. It is fair to say the statistics for Australia were not good. Then, of course, this year Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins released her report Respect@work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (2020) which, while not solely focussed on the legal profession, again highlighted the scale of the problem.
Now, in recent months, we have seen the shocking and confronting headlines regarding former High Court Judge Dyson Heydon QC. With all this in mind, NSW Legal Services Commissioner John McKenzie shares his thoughts on the situation and what his office (‘the OLSC’), as co-regulator of the legal profession in NSW, is doing to address this challenging issue.