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Women who take stands against misconduct will ‘be seen as leadership material’

The culture of silence is broken, and female lawyers who stand up for their rights and those of others will be viewed favourably in an evolving legal environment, argues a prominent NSW barrister.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 19 July 2019 Big Law
Larissa Andelman
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Speaking recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show about the need for bystander policies to combat misconduct such as bullying and sexual harassment, Women Lawyers Association of NSW president and barrister Larissa Andelman (pictured) said having such policies in place says a lot about law firms and how they see themselves and live the values they espouse.

For women in the profession, especially those coming through the ranks, those who do stand up for their rights and make it clear that they will not tolerate misconduct will “be seen as leadership material” by those in charge of the firm, she posited.

“I think law firms don’t condone that kind of practice, and they want people to notify the senior manager or the practising partner if that kind of conduct goes on,” Ms Andelman said.


“So, I would certainly not be encouraging young women to put up with it, or just leave and go somewhere else and allow that person to continue to fester and cause a problem for someone else. Its really important for all of us to be speaking out.”

The attitude in today’s legal landscape is different, Ms Andelman mused, and the mindset of young female lawyers emerging has evolved with it.

“I think the culture is substantially different in the sense that, in the past, we had this idea that if you experience sexual harassment or bullying, you just put up with it, because otherwise you wont be able to get a job somewhere else, or youll be adversely impacted, or youll be considered a troublemaker,” she reflected.

“That kind of culture of silence I think is broken now, and I think young women expect to be treated fairly and respectfully. And I dont think theyre as likely to put up with it as women from my generation did.”

As a result of shifting attitudes, it becomes even more important for senior professionals within law firms to recognise that they have “some fiduciary obligation” to ensure not only that bystander provisions are enacted but that they are enforced, she said.

“I think this is where the cultural issue does come into play, because, for example, if you see a big spill on the floor and you think, ‘Oh, thats unsafe, Id better tell someone’. Even though you could step around it, you can walk around it, you can deal with it yourself, youre not going to just allow that to remain, because youre aware that that might have a detrimental impact on others,” she explained.

“And I think we need to look at harassment and bullying and intimidation in the same way, because it doesnt only affect that individual person, but it impacts on the culture throughout the organisation. And so there is a duty to provide a safe workplace under our occupational health and safety laws.”

To listen to Jerome’s full conversation with Larissa Andelman, click below:

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