Law firms urged to affirm commitment to eliminate sexual harassment in workplace


The Law Society of NSW is calling on law firms and legal practices around the state to affirm their commitment to eliminating sexual discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace by signing up to the Law Society’s Charter for the Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession.

President of the Law Society of NSW, Juliana Warner, launched the Society’s revamped Charter for the Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession at an event to mark International Women’s Day 2021.

Originally launched in 2016, the Charter 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.

Ms Warner said the 2021 Charter includes new provisions 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.

“As a Law Society, we aim to lead; we aim to encourage; and we aim to provide our members with the best possible resources, such as the Charter, to achieve genuine change.

“But 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,” Ms Warner said.

Signatories to the Charter 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
  •  promoting mentoring and sponsorship of women in the solicitor profession
  • 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
  • establishing training to protect complainants from victimisation, encouraging bystanders and others to report and ‘call out’ offensive and intimidating behaviour.\

Ms Warner said it was important that the Charter is regularly reviewed and revised to ensure it achieves its original purpose – to create greater diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

“We had 180 sign up to the original Charter, covering a broad range of practices and organisations in the NSW legal profession, and hopefully there will be many more law firms and legal practices to follow,” Ms Warner said.

The Charter for the Advancement for Women in the Legal Profession can be downloaded here. Sign up to the Charter and view signatories here.