Russell McVeagh ties to law schools re-evaluated

The University of Otago. Photo: ODT files
The University of Otago. Photo: ODT files
Four New Zealand universities, including Otago, are considering resuming some ties to law firm Russell McVeagh in the wake of last year's sexual harassment scandal.

All six New Zealand law schools ended their relationships with the Auckland and Wellington-based firm in early 2018, following revelations law clerks experienced harassment during the summer of 2015 and 2016.

Faculty of Law dean Jessica Palmer said the law school was "considering whether to permit Russell McVeagh to recruit students for summer clerking and graduate positions on campus and via the university's recruitment office".

Prof Palmer was not available yesterday afternoon to comment further about the university's involvement with Russell McVeagh.

In previous years the finals of the Russell McVeagh Client Interviewing Competition have been held in Dunedin.

Auckland University of Technology dean of law Charles Rickett said the university would permit Russell McVeagh to "run recruitment" on the campus.

University of Waikato dean of law Wayne Rumbles said Waikato was "awaiting a meeting with Russell McVeagh to consider their culture change process before we make a decision if we will resume ties", and Victoria University of Wellington was also "working through a process to potentially resume contact" - a process that would include discussion the university's feminist law society among other groups.

A University of Auckland spokeswoman said only that the Auckland Law School did not currently have ties to the firm, and the University of Canterbury law faculty head was not available for comment.

A report from Dame Margaret Beazley into the firm found junior lawyers and other young staff were encouraged to "drink to excess", in a culture that had instances of crude, drunken and sexually inappropriate behaviour, and a Russell McVeagh partner resigned last October following an independent investigation into complaints about inappropriate comments he made while drunk.

Since the report last July came out the firm has appointed a new CEO, and has launched a programme to transform its culture.

The Society of Otago University Law Students president Teddy Rose said the group was seeking Otago students' opinions on whether to accept sponsorship from Russell McVeagh again.

Mr Rose did not respond when asked how much money Russell McVeagh contributed to Society of Otago University Law Students events, but in the past Russell McVeagh has been involved in women in law events, wellness weeks, and sports exchanges between universities.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

Comments

Do they have to? Uneasy learning experience.

 

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