Was it the woman who could have averted the bar leadership debacle?

John Bowie* At a time when bullying, harassment and their misbehaved traveling companions have occupied the minds of many in an increasingly female legal profession, it seems somewhat ironic that the Law Society’s female leadership is itself a victim of some of the same problems. problems.

The matter of Jacque Lethbridge’s resignation and Joanna Simon’s early departure as CEO doesn’t mean they aren’t two perfectly competent professionals.

But what’s interesting is that all of this happened in the first place – and why another woman wasn’t in place to most likely have avoided the cluster confusion that it all became.

We know it hasn’t been a great century so far for presidents of all stripes, but the mess that has happened at the Bar is of somewhat Trumpian proportions – not Storming the Capital type, but a capital mess. all the same.

And what is somewhat worrying is that there was almost certainly a woman who could have avoided the mess had she not been overlooked for the role of managing the day-to-day operations of the Law Society.

The Heron report on the debacle indicates that there are issues and cultural issues around the definition of respective roles within the Bar, as far as appearance is concerned.

There is no doubt that the Chairman and CEO, now resigning, are single-minded individuals with a clear mind and focus.

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However, the incumbent at the time of Joanna Simon’s appointment, longtime chief executive Mary Ollivier was, it seems, someone who had been anointed to take on the lead role by her predecessor, the former chief executive. of the Bar and the second president of the Bar in its history, Justice Christine Grice (above).

Ollivier left the Company in 2017 when Helen Morgan-Banda got the job through another “rigorous” recruitment process.

One wonders why a management position at the Bar requires such exhaustive and rigorous recruitment processes when the best option may be before us.

After all, we are talking about a regulatory body made up of smart people, not a Kremlin subcommittee on disinformation.

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In this case, that would be Mary Olliver (above).

It became clear to most NZLS onlookers that the capable Mary Ollivier was well equipped to retain or return to her role as Executive Director of the Law Society, following her appointment in early 2018 when she was appointed Executive Director acting after elevation. at the seat of the High Court of Christine Grice.

Mary Ollivier has been the Law Society’s Chief Regulatory Officer since the position was created following major changes to the regulation of lawyers in 2008.

in the mid-1990s as Director of Professional Standards and then Deputy Executive Director. She joined the New Zealand Law Society in 2008 to help implement the new Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006.

She has also held various positions, including Secretary of the Wellington Woman Lawyers Association and Chair of the Professional Partnership Network, as well as her involvement in legal regulatory issues internationally.

What better person to step into the new role – one she knew inside out.

However, the Law Society’s self-proclaimed national and international search for a replacement in the presidency of Tiana Epati did not appear to consider the former incumbent perhaps best equipped to do the job.

It would appear that one of the main motivations for appointing the indisputably capable Joanna Simon, who had successfully run DLAPiper, was that she was based in Auckland. And with most members in the Auckland region, the balance of power has swung in their favour. With unfortunate consequences.

Mary Olivier is now chief executive and commissioner at Utilities Disputes, the organization that handles complaints about electricity, gas and water companies. All areas that undoubtedly offer a living application akin to live wires and their gassy bar talk.

Why don’t we know what’s behind the NZ Law Society’s ‘workplace culture’ problem?

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