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#MeToo and Another BigLaw Partner Goes Out the Door

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 09, 2018 4:11 PM

It's not so surprising that sexual harassment is a problem at many law firms, especially where the old boys' clubs exist.

With the #MeToo movement in full swing, it's practically a given that more high-profile cases will come out. But what's surprising is that too many lawyers seem to think the problem will go away quietly.

Like the partners at DLA Piper who hoped the latest scandal would remain confidential. If social media stands for anything, however, that's not going to happen.

"Confidential Reporting Regime"

The BigLaw firm's New Zealand office said it reported an "incident" between one of its partners and a co-worker to the local bar society. The New Zealand Law Society oversees sexual harassment claims in a "confidential reporting regime," the firm said.

But according to reports, the unnamed partner left the law firm in December -- then returned for an office party. That's when the "incident" happened.

It was not the first time. DLA Piper reported another incident last year -- apparently involving the same perpetrator.

"The firm took immediate steps in both cases to ensure the safety and well-being of the staff members involved," said managing partner Martin Wiseman.

"Avalanche" of Sexual Harassment Cases

Social media has unleashed an "avalanche" of sexual harassment cases in New Zealand, legal professionals say.

Barbara Buckett, an employment lawyer, said her firm has six new cases with "sexual connotations" against local law firms. She said they follow a pattern: Older men, younger females, alcohol and after-work events.

Zoe Lawton, a legal researcher and blogger, started a #MeToo blog after a prominent law firm was accused in a sex scandal. In one month, her blog saw 214 posts about sexual harassment in New Zealand law firms.

"I think the posts on the blog only scratch the surface of this issue -- there are far more women out there in the legal industry who have experienced sexual harassment," she said.

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