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

John Bowie* Fresh out of its various PR pronouncements and public pronouncements about the need for good behavior in the workplace, the Law Society itself has found itself in the uncomfortably hot epicenter of its own workplace issues with the resignation in June of new CEO Joanna Simon, supposedly motivated by ‘behavioural concerns’ involving new chairman Jacques Lethbridge.

The appointment of the much-loved Joanna Simon, formerly chief operating officer at DLA Piper NZ, who took up the post in July last year and left within her first year, having ‘really impressed’ the committee Company recruitment.

His resignation and all the other factors involved in events within the Bar led to a widespread ‘culture review’ within the NZLS led by Mike Heron QC.

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President Lethbridge issued a statement welcoming the review, saying her presidency was one of “fairness and transparency”, in the spirit of Arderneque’s policy.

She also strongly denied allegations of behavioral issues about her, while supporting the examination of the culture itself.

But she was clearly unhappy with the Law Society’s statement pointing the finger at her own president in what can only be considered a highly unusual event involving her own president.

No one doubts the skill of all the actors in this NZLS drama, but the main theme is somehow missed.

The Law Society has remained silent as to what precisely led to the review, despite discussions of transparency in all directions and the recently required need for mandatory declaration within 14 days of bullying, harassment, discrimination and the like in the legal workplace.

Issues of bullying and workplace culture within the profession have been the focus of the Law Society’s attention in recent years, as the burning controversy over the behavior of law firms in the workplace escalates. is being chased with all sorts of recent and unwanted headlines related to recent decisions regarding James Gardner-Hopkins’ suspension.

It is therefore disappointing to say the least to have the silence and opacity of the NZLS around the investigation into the Company’s own working culture.

Perhaps it would be more useful to address the issue in relation to those who are supposedly committed to the transparency and showmanship of the profession itself.

The Simon Resignation

Joanna Simon’s statement released on June 10 was understandably brief:

My resignation was accompanied by a letter to the Chair of the People and Abilities Committee outlining the reasons for my resignation and my concerns. Convocation has been dealing with this issue since then and has decided to undertake a review of the culture of the Bar. I don’t intend to say more.

Whatever happens and whatever the behavioral or cultural issues, the Law Society hardly needs to put itself at the center of such claims, in the hot wake of Russell McVeagh’s misbehavior issues and professional issues. general in the workplace.

Herald columnist Sasha Borissenko highlighted frustrations with the very lack of transparency that Jacque Lethbridge had promised Mark his presidency. To be fair, the problem now is one facing the Law Society as Vice President David Campbell made the generic “we cannot comment” statement, noting that New Zealanders need to have “trust and trust in the Law Society as regulators of the profession. »

Oh good? Isn’t there more than a whiff of hypocrisy and “do as I say, not as I do” in all of this?

As Borrisenko rightly points out, the situation is not the same as a complaint under the Lawyers and Conveyors Act where complaints from practitioners are received.

“On an existential level, it irritates me that human resources or communications departments bark about confidentiality and natural justice while openly saying they are ‘transparent’. It’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever seen one.

No one here talks about legal proceedings or pre-trial issues, but hiding behind skirts of confidentiality until the Heron review is over does little to prevent rumors and an unhealthy dose of dishonesty.

Taking the lead here, in the wake of the JGH and all the Society has done to clean up the legal profession, must start at home. Otherwise, the regulatory function could be removed altogether and David Campbell’s thoughts of “trust and trust” will vanish like a politician’s promise.

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