The Law Society of NSW has rolled out a fresh Charter for the Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession, which includes new provisions encouraged at establishing fair and transparent sexual discrimination and harassment complaints processes.
NSW Law Society president Juliana Warner officially launched the updated charter at an event celebrating International Women’s Day this week.
The charter, which was initially pushed out in the 2016 calendar year, is “designed to promote and support strategies to retain women from all backgrounds in the profession over the course of their careers, including women with disability, and encourage and promote their career progression into senior executive and management positions”.
“The Charter aims to achieve this by assisting the solicitor profession to develop cultures which promote diversity and inclusion, prevent sexual harassment and bullying, and impact positively on all practitioners in their place of work, resulting in better business outcomes for the solicitor profession and the community as a whole,” the NSW Law Society explained.
One hundred eighty organisations signed up to the charter upon its 2016 launch. BigLaw firm signatories include Allens, Ashurst, Baker McKenzie, Clayton Utz, Clyde & Co, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, King & Wood Mallesons, MinterEllison, Pinsent Masons and Allen & Overy. Ash St Legal, Carter Newell Lawyers, CBD Law, Colin Biggers & Paisley, Eakin McCaffery Cox, Gadens, Hall & Wilcox, Holding Redlich, Holman Webb Lawyers, Marque Lawyers, Salvos Legal, Sparke Helmore Lawyers, TressCox Lawyers, McCullough Robertson and Wotton + Kearney are also among the signatories.
In signing on to the charter signatories commit to demonstrating leadership by removing gender bias and discrimination in the legal workplace; driving change in the solicitor profession by developing a culture that supports the retention and promotion of women from all backgrounds; implementing recruitment and promotion strategies that include gender diversity and gender pay equity as important considerations and promoting mentoring and sponsorship of women in the solicitor profession.
Further, signatories commit to encouraging and facilitating flexible work practices to support a better balance of professional and other commitments; ensuring that sexual harassment, or any form of bullying in the workplace, is not tolerated; establishing procedurally fair, safe, accessible and transparent sexual discrimination and harassment complaints processes; and, establishing training to protect complainants from victimisation, encouraging bystanders and others to report and “call out” offensive and intimidating behaviour.
In launching the revamped 2021 charter, Ms Warner noted new provisions have been designed to prompt signatories to establish procedurally fair and transparent sexual discrimination and harassment complaints processes.
“The updated Charter is part of our ongoing work to address sexual harassment in the legal workplace and drive positive change through our policy work, advocacy and regulatory functions,” Ms Warner said.
“This version has more targeted and explicit women’s advancement policies that deal with not only the promotion of women in the workplace, but ensuring women from all backgrounds feel safe at work, have flexibility if they are parents, and are not marginalised if they raise complaints about bullying or harassment.”
Ms Warner noted that while the NSW Law Society aims to lead, encourage and provide its members with the best possible resources, “it is up to law firms and legal practices to interpret and adopt the Charter in a way that makes sense for their workplace and their area of practice”.