3 Mar 2018

Blog gives harrassed lawyers chance to speak out

5:30 pm on 3 March 2018

Lawyers' stories of sexual abuse at work are flooding in after a blog was set up for victims.

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Photo: Supplied

Serious allegations of sexual assault at top law firm Russell McVeagh have recently come to light.

It's alleged two senior lawyers at its Wellington office, two years ago, were involved and there were separate revelations of alcohol-fuelled sex in a boardroom in its Auckland office.

To help others in the profession voice their stories, legal researcher Zoë Lawton set up the Me Too blog for the legal industry two days ago.

She has already received hundreds of emails of support and dozens of people sharing their stories, she said.

"I hope [senior lawyers] sit down with their staff over the next few weeks and have really constructive conversations about what can be done to elimate sexual harrassment and gender discrimination in the workplace," she said.

"Because as we all know, it's gone on for far too long."

The posts on the blog - which are anonymous, including only an age range and, optionally, gender - include stories of harrassment, belittlement and unequal treatment.

"In my 2nd year I was told by a male solicitor (8 years my senior) that if I did not have sex with him, he would tell everyone that I had anyway, so I may as well just do it. He made this threat numerous times," one said.

"A client asked me to sit on his lap and call him Daddy. I reacted negatively. I was told off by male partner because 'the client always comes first'," said another.

"Themed drinks were the worst ... you soon learnt not to go back to your desk on the lower floors as that's where they went for sex," said a third.

Another post highlighted the difference in treatment of men.

"Male colleagues were given better work, and then this was used to justify their pay rises - while I was given average work that a monkey could do, and this was then used to justify not giving me a pay rise."

Some posts were from men who supported the movement, but the large majority were women.

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