Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Dame Margaret And The Silence of the Silos

Dame Margaret And The Silence of the Silos
John Bowie*


Dame Margaret Bazley must be getting tired of hauling lawyers into line. First the car boot operators playing up their game in South Auckland and elsewhere and now dealing with BigLaw's big hanging dickheads. And after dealing with the most Type-A male bastions of all, the cops with their ingrained culture of misogynism and bawdy bad-assing behaviour following the Louise Nicholas travesties, she's certainly got street cred on these matters.

And so it has proven as her report castigates the law firm sitting atop New Zealand's corporate law heap. There but for the grace of God go the rest of them. Not to mention those in corporate life, medicine, the military, education . . and most every other bigger law firm in town too. As Dame Margaret observed at her packed news conference, the lawyers elsewhere are scrambling to examine and re-write their HR policies on everything from harassment to hair appointments.

Not that Russell McVeagh necessarily drew the short straw in all this. They became the poster boys - and girls, even - of our homegrown #Metoo movement.
The debacle was not so much mismanaged as unmanaged. They sat on a ticking bomb as the counter ran down but let's not for a moment think they were the only ones who have fallen short when it comes to handling issues involving starry-eyed interns bending over backwards or forwards to please.


Of course nothing would quite satisfy the Sisterhood in this tacky reality drama. They castigate the good Dame for glossing over Russell McVeagh's transgressions and failures by paying attention to alcohol and 'work hard play hard', rather than reporting matters to the Law Society, an obligation the firm avoided.

Even if Dame Margaret had suggested compulsory castration of every male over 30 in every major law firm, there would be an argument that she had never specified the use of a blunt instrument.

The Law Society hardly emerge unscathed, either. It's late-to-the-party mea culpa doesn't sit comfortably.

Privacy Protection

The provisions of the Privacy Act are a blessing for those seeking camouflage from these matters. Protecting the victims and praising their heroism in the face of assault is wearing a little thin when one hears it pronounced about 1400 times.

If everyone was so concerned about the victims, then why was nothing done about the offenders?

And how can naming any offenders, who everyone and His Mother seem to know, in any way lead to the identification of their apparent victims?

The Rules of the Game

The Bazley report did however outline some rules that most any law firm of any size, quite apart from most other organisations, might wish to take on board. After all, the onrush of sexual abuse accusations has now become an almost daily occurrence rippling away from Russell McVeagh's media epicentre.

This week alone we've had the Navy, the Wellington City Council and others who have had their 'toxic cultures' exposed. This will be a continuum that will doubtless conclude about the time hell freezes over.

The Culture of the Silos

The operation of teams and silos in large law firms is a structural issue that no amount of cultural change will likely render any realistic change.

Lawyers working in high-stress, high paying environments reward themselves with the spas and bars and boasts of fee target successes is all in the nature of the Big Law beast. Talk about controlling booze and reckless banter at the office parties goes so far - but not much further. The problem in part for Russell McVeagh and most other large law firms is that times are a'changing but their business model is not.

The business is highly commercial. Fee levels are declining and legal services are being increasingly commoditised through the development of new technologies and increased competition. The global trend towards corporate legal services will further hammer the traditional partnership setup.

Meanwhile, the partnerships will be taking Dame Margaret's words on board. There will be a re-emphasis upon "zero tolerance" of sexual harassment (if I hear those words again I'll contribute to Harvey Weinstein's defense fund). But they will be burning the midnight updating their staff policies, their summer internships and also taking into Dame Margaret's '360 degree' appraisal of partners to make sure they measure up to more than reaching fee targets, but also have some nous on handling staff without behaving like dicks.

Good luck with all that.

*John Bowie publishes LawFuel.com and its New Zealand edition.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Use Of Existing Drugs To Reduce The Effects Of Coronavirus

So now, we’re all getting up to speed with the travel bans, the rigorous handwashing and drying, the social distancing, and the avoidance of public transport wherever possible. Right. At a wider level…so far, the public health system has ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Oil Market And Regulation Crusades

Safe to say, Vladimir Putin did not expect the response he has received amidships from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Earlier, Russia chose to walk away from the OPEC talks in Vienna that were aimed at reaching an agreement on how to reduce world oil production (and protect oil prices) in the light of the fall in demand being caused by the coronavirus. No doubt, Russia and its allies in the US shale industry probably glimpsed an opportunity to undercut OPEC and seize some of its customers. Bad move. In reply, Saudi Arabia has smashed the oil market by hugely ramping up production, signing up customers and drastically cutting the oil price in a fashion designed to knock Russia and other oil suppliers right out of contention. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On 22 Short Takes About Super Tuesday

With obvious apologies to the Simpsons….Here’s my 22 short takes on the 14 Super Tuesday primaries that combined yesterday to produce a common narrative –Bernie Sanders NOT running away with the nomination, Joe Biden coming back from the dead, and the really, really rich guy proving to be really, really bad at politics. In the months ahead, it will be fascinating to see if the real Joe Biden can live up to the idea of Joe Biden that people voted for yesterday – namely, the wise old guy who can save the country from the political extremism of the right and the left... More>>

Gordon Campbell On Shane Jones: A Liability No-One Needs To Bear

New Zealand First has needed a diversion after weeks of bad coverage over its dodgy handling of donations, but it really, really doesn’t need what Shane Jones has chosen to provide. According to Jones, New Zealand has ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Strong Man Legacies: Burying Mubarak

Reviled strongmen of one era are often the celebrated ones of others. Citizens otherwise tormented find that replacements are poor, in some cases even crueller, than the original artefact. Such strongmen also serve as ideal alibis for rehabilitation ... More>>

Caitlin Johnstone: Humanity Is Making A Very Important Choice When It Comes To Assange

The propagandists have all gone dead silent on the WikiLeaks founder they previously were smearing with relentless viciousness, because they no longer have an argument. The facts are all in, and yes, it turns out the US government is certainly and undeniably working to exploit legal loopholes to imprison a journalist for exposing its war crimes. That is happening, and there is no justifying it... More>>

Gail Duncan: Reframing Welfare Report

Michael Joseph Savage, the architect of the 1938 Social Security Act, wouldn’t recognise today’s Social Security Act as having anything to do with the kind, cooperative, caring society he envisioned 80 years ago. Instead society in 2020 has been reduced ... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Addiction To Chinese Student Fees

Last week, Australian PM Scott Morrison extended its ban on foreign visitors from or passing through from mainland China – including Chinese students - for a third week. New Zealand has dutifully followed suit, with our travel ban ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Coronavirus, And The Iowa Debacle

As Bloomberg says, the coronavirus shutdown is creating the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment. On the upside, the mortality rate with the current outbreak is lower than with SARS in 2003, but (for a number of reasons) the economic impact this time ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Dodging A Bullet Over The Transport Cost Over-Runs

As New Zealand gears up to begin its $6.8 billion programme of large scale roading projects all around the country, we should be aware of this morning’s sobering headlines from New South Wales, where the cost overruns on major transport projects ... More>>


 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog